POLITICS

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Cameron Insists Benefit Cuts Bring 'Hope'

19/02/2014 08:28 GMT | Updated 19/02/2014 08:59 GMT
Ben Stansall/PA Wire
Prime Minister David Cameron addresses the media during a press conference in 10 Downing Street, London, where he promised that "money is no object" in providing relief to communities affected by floods, as he warned that the country faces "a long haul" to recover from the devastation of recent weeks. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 11, 2014. Fresh from a two-day tour of inundated communities in South-West England and the Thames Valley, the Prime Minister announced he was cancelling a planned trip to the Middle East to take personal charge of the relief operation. With 16 severe flood warnings, 133 flood warnings and 225 flood alerts still in force, he told a Downing Street news conference that the situation could deteriorate further. See PA story WEATHER Floods. Photo credit should read: Ben Stansall/PA Wire

Here are the five things you need to know on Wednesday 19 February 2014...

1) DAVE'S 'MORAL MISSION'

David Cameron has revealed the coalition's cuts to benefits are in fact part of a "moral" mission. He said today: "Our long-term economic plan for Britain is not just about doing what we can afford, it is also about doing what is right. Nowhere is that more true than in welfare.For me the moral case for welfare reform is every bit as important as making the numbers add up."

In an article in the Daily Telegraph today, the prime minister said the welfare reforms were "about giving new purpose, new opportunity, new hope" as well as "responsibility" to people who had "previously been written off with no chance".

Cameron's column is a direct response to the Archbishop of Westminster, who yesterday said the benefit cuts have left many in "hunger and destitution".

His choice of words has already caused a bit of a ruckus. And he has been accused of making the "completely wrong" claim that the "number of workless households doubled in boom years".

Today's Memo is edited by Ned Simons as HuffPost UK has adopted some of the recommendations on how to improve prime minister's questions. As a result Mehdi Hasan has been sin-binned.

2) UKIP DISTANCES ITSELF FROM ANOTHER COUNCILLOR

Ukip has been forced to distance itself from local councillor Peter Lagoda over "disturbing" remarks he made during an impromptu visit to a fire station in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

Lagoda, who was suspended by Ukip last year after being charged with benefit fraud, admitted to the Huffington Post UK that while in "private conversation" with the firefighters about his family, he described his north African sister as a "w*g" and his relatives living in Germany as "Mongols" who had children with "slanty eyes".

3) PMQS HAS A 'SAVAGE UNDERTONE'

John Bercow has put a few Tory MPs noses out of joint with his demand they shut up a bit during prime minister's questions. Alec Shelbrooke tweeted yesterday: "Bercow needs to look in the mirror. Betty never had the need to resort to whining. His biased approach is why he's lost control of PMQ's." Several others are also similarly unimpressed.

The spat was prompted by the Speaker revealing he has written to the party leaders to ask them to control their MPs. Lib Dem Tessa Munt told Newsnight last night that PMQs was a "complete charade" and "completely stupid". She also said on a more serious note there was a "savage undertone" to some of the heckling that took place.

But Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg said the sessions were important to test the resilience of Britain's leaders. "We are challenging ideas and in the heat of debate some ideas and individuals fail. Thats very important, we want a leader who is tough enough to cope with a few people braying at him."

Rees-Mogg also noted that the public do actually watch PMQs, unlike his "long and worthy speeches". We watch them Jacob. Always.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR: WATCH: Nothing On Earth Is Better Than This Armadillo Gathering Leaves To Billie Jean

4) ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER BENEFIT 'CRACKDOWN'

European immigrants will face a tougher test to access a range of benefits in the UK from March 1, Iain Duncan Smith has announced. The Work and Pensions Secretary set out plans requiring European Economic Area (EEA) migrants to demonstrate they have earned around £150 a week for three months in order to qualify for "worker" status, which opens the door to more generous benefit entitlements. The Department for Work and Pensions said current European Union case law meant the "worker" category was too broad and potentially open to some who did very little work.

5) KIEV PROTEST CAMP BURNS

Thousands of riot police moved against the Maidan, the main protest camp in Kiev on Tuesday, attacking demonstrators with water canons and stun grenades, and setting fire to thousands of tents. Eighteen people have reportedly died in the fighting, a figure that includes several members of the Ukrainian police, while hundreds have been left injured as the clashes over the nation’s future turned into what increasingly resembles outright war. The pictures are shocking.

900 WORDS OR MORE

David Cameron in the Daily Telegraph: Why the Archbishop of Westminster is wrong about welfare

Oliver Wright in The Independent: Inside Whitehall: What Downing Street doesn't want you to know

Ian Birrell in The Guardian: Who will replace David Cameron as Tory leader? Maybe a man you don't expect

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