POLITICS

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Dave Blinks

31/01/2014 08:38 GMT | Updated 31/01/2014 08:59 GMT
AFP via Getty Images
British Prime Minister David Cameron pauses as he delivers a speech on higher education funding in central London, on December 8, 2010 England. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF / POOL (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Here are the five things you need to know on Friday 31 January 2014...

1) DAVE BLINKS

Yesterday, Dave Cameron looked his backbench rebels in the eye and... blinked. It was pretty embarrassing. The headline on the front of the Guardian says it all: "Tory immigration rebels deal blow to No 10's authority". The paper reports:

"David Cameron suffered a blow to his authority on Thursday when Downing Street was forced to rely on the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats to uphold Britain's commitments under the European convention on human rights. A move by Tory rebels to curb the ability of foreign criminals to resist deportation on the grounds of their right to a family life was defeated after Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg instructed their MPs to vote against the proposal. Downing Street instructed Conservative MPs to abstain rather than vote against even though Theresa May, the home secretary, told the Commons that the amendment would put Britain in breach of its obligations under the convention."

It was a bizarre afternoon - as shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper put it: "I can think of no precedent for government ministers abstaining on an amendment that they oppose because they are scared of their backbenchers. The home secretary told the house the measure was illegal and would make it harder to deport foreign criminals instead of easier. Yet she then refused to vote against it."

Cameron once again is left looking weak and on the run from his backbenchers; the Tories as a whole look divided and disunited over Europe - again. Meanwhile, the leaders of both Labour and Ukip rub their hands with glee.

2) LOSERS, LOSERS AND MORE LOSERS

More bad news for the coalition. My HuffPost colleague Asa Bennett reports:

"Living standards are unlikely to have recovered to their pre-crash levels by the time of next year's general election, a leading economic think tank has warned. While the fall in household incomes has now probably come to a halt, living standards are still 'dramatically' down on what they were before the global financial crisis hit in 2008, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said. In its latest analysis, the IFS said families on low incomes could turn out to be the biggest losers of the recession years, with the prospect of fresh cuts to benefits and tax credits adding to the squeeze on living standards for the least well off."

Asa adds: "Overall, the IFS found the fall in living standards had been broadly the same across the income range, with those at the top suffering the biggest squeeze in incomes while those at the bottom were hit hardest by rising prices."

The 'cost of living crisis' identified by Labour ain't going away anytime soon...

3) ONE MEMBER, ONE VOTE

The Independent claims an exclusive as its splash - political editor Andy Grice writes:

"Labour MPs are to lose their one-third share of the vote when their party chooses its leader under sweeping reforms to be pushed through by Ed Miliband. The move will be seen as an attempt to placate the trade unions, who will also lose their 33 per cent slice of the electoral college... Mr Miliband wants to shift to a pure “one member, one vote” system – a change his allies hailed as more radical than Tony Blair’s party reforms, under which Labour ditched its Clause IV commitment to public ownership."

However, Grice adds that "to ensure that a future Labour leader still enjoys the confidence of a significant section of the Parliamentary Labour Party, candidates for the leadership will need to win nominations from about 25 per cent of Labour MPs – double the current 12.5 per cent threshold... If a 25 per cent hurdle had been in place in 2010, only two of the five candidates would have made the shortlist – Ed Miliband and his brother, David."

Do voters really care about any of this internal party reform stuff, though? Is Miliband picking a fight with his union backers over an issue that won't win him a single extra seat come May 2015, in order to appease his critics in the Tory press?

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

As it's Groundhog Day this Sunday, and the film is 21 years old, watch this video of the 21 funniest moments from the Bill Murray movie.

4) GUESS WHO'S BACKING EGYPT'S GENERALS?

Also on the Independent front page are four striking images of Tony Blair, pontificating on Sky News Arabia. What's the story? Well, the self-proclaimed humanitarian interventionist and Quartet-appointed 'Middle East peace envoy' has given his backing to the military government in Egypt, saying: "This is what I say to my colleagues in the west. The fact is, the Muslim Brotherhood tried to take the country away from its basic values of hope and progress. The army have intervened, at the will of the people, but in order to take the country to the next stage of its development, which should be democratic, we should be supporting the new government in doing that."

Yet, as my HuffPost collague Tom Moseley reports: "Although the Morsi government was heavy criticised and branded authoritarian, its replacement has been blamed for a violent crackdown on Morsi supporters and curbs on free speech... A brutal crackdown on Morsi supporters followed [the military coup], including the shooting of protesters in a sit-in at a Cairo mosque."

Hundreds of Egyptians have been killed; thousands of have been detained and tortured, including foreign journalists. The Muslim Brotherhood, which won both the parliamentary and presidential elections in Egypt, have been banned and driven underground. How Blair - once a friend of old Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak and now a friend of new Egyptian strongman Abdel Fatah al-Sisi - can continue to portray himself as a liberal interventionist and supporter of democracy and human rights is beyond me...

5) 'THE BIGGEST ERROR IN MODERN HISTORY'

From the Times:

"Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the trenches, hostilities have resumed over the First World War. The historian Niall Ferguson raised his head above the parapet yesterday with a claim that Britain’s entry into the war was “the biggest error in modern history”. In the wake of a brief battle between Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, and his Labour counterpart, Tristram Hunt, over the portrayal of the way that the war had been fought, Professor Ferguson's remarks provoked criticism from some of his fellow historians."

Forget fellow historians - how do you think his pal Gove will feel? The latter has been claiming that those who do down the British war effort are all leftie peacenik appeasers. Ferguson's latest intervention kinda undermines that argument. Oops.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 42

Conservatives 32

Ukip 12

Lib Dems 8

That would give Labour a majority of 116.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Philip Collins, writing in the Times, says: "Empty Dave won’t be offering us any ideas."

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "The Tories’ loop of vengeance could sink their election hopes."

Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "Giving 16-year-olds the vote can be Labour's Great Reform Act."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol