POLITICS

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Cameron Cools On Coalition

25/02/2014 08:10 GMT | Updated 25/02/2014 08:59 GMT
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Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visit the Wandsworth Day Nursery in London, Tuesday March 19, 2013. Britain's government is expected to create a better childcare system for parents. (AP Photo/Jeremy Selwyn, Pool)

Here are the five things you need to know on Tuesday 25 February 2014...

1) CAMERON COOLS ON COALITION

One of the most consistent criticisms of the prime minister from his own backbenchers is that he is too comfortable with coalition; that he enjoys his marriage of moderation with the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg. Well, those right-wing Tories will be pleased with this morning's Telegraph splash:

"David Cameron is preparing to fight the next general election on a clear promise to the British people not to form a second coalition government even if he falls short of a Commons majority, The Daily Telegraph has learnt. The Prime Minister wants to make a commitment in the Conservative Party election manifesto not to sign a second power–sharing deal with a smaller party in the event of a hung parliament next May, it is understood. Instead, a Conservative party that won the most seats but lacked a Commons majority would attempt to rule as a minority government, a course that would almost certainly lead to its early collapse and a quick second election.. 'He's very clear, he doesn't want another Coalition," a source close to Mr Cameron has told The Daily Telegraph. 'A promise in the manifesto not to do any deals after the election would make that very clear to voters and ensure they know exactly what the choice is at the election.'"

Dave may be on to something here: two out of three voters, according to Ipsos Mori, think a second hung parliament would be bad for Britain. Nevertheless, we've been here before, haven't we? Remember, the Tories anti-coalition, anti-Lib Dem 'Hung Parliament Party' party election broadcast in 2010?

Also - given the fact that the electoral system is stacked against him, and that his party continues to trail in the polls, Cameron's best chance of being PM after 2015 is in coalition with Clegg. So is he shooting himself in the foot with this pledge?

2) HARRIET HITS BACK

For the past few days, the Daily Mail has been splashing on its front page, again and again, with very provocative stories linking senior Labour figures, including Harriet Harman and her husband Jack Dromey, during their period as officials with the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), with a pro-paedophile campaign group.

The Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) was affiliated to the NCCL until the early 1980s - Harman served as legal officer at the NCCL from 1978 to 1982.

Yesterday, Labour's deputy leader hit back - putting out a statement and appearing on Newsnight to dismiss the Mail allegations as "smears". Ed Miliband, never one to miss out on a fight with the Daily Mail, also came out in support of Harman. From the BBC website:

"Ms Harman told BBC Two's Newsnight: 'It is not the case that my work, when I was at NCCL, was influenced by PIE, was apologising for paedophilia or colluding with paedophilia. That is an unfair inference and a smear. My work has always been, when I was at NCCL and when I have been in politics and ministerial office, to protect children, especially from child abuse.' She added that the Daily Mail's behaviour was hypocritical. 'It is ironic that they're accusing me of supporting indecency in relation to children when they themselves are not above producing photographs of very young girls, titivating photographs in bikinis, so, you know, I stand by what I was doing at NCCL and I stand by what I was doing all the way through.'

And the Mail's splash headline this morning? "Labour's Harman and Dromey finally break their silence over links to paedophile group BUT STILL THEY WON'T SAY SORRY." Surprise, surprise...

3) BONE DENIES BENEFIT FRAUD CLAIMS

Tory backbencher Peter Bone MP is well-known for quoting his wife in Commons debates and at PMQs - but he's on the front of today's Times in relation to his wife's mother and allegations of... wait for it... benefit fraud:

"A Conservative MP who demands a 'zero-tolerance' approach to criminals is under police investigation over an alleged £100,000 benefits fraud linked to his mother-in-law’s finances. Peter Bone, the Eurosceptic MP for Wellingborough, has been questioned under caution by detectives as part of a year-long inquiry into whether the elderly woman’s assets were deliberately concealed during her time in a care home, The Times can reveal. Documents were seized when the MP’s constituency home was raided by police last year."

Bone denies the allegations and has said he has "done nothing wrong". There is no suggestion that his mother-in-law has acted improperly.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this ad for German grocery store Edeka which is just bizarre.

4) ONE NATION? NO THANKS

From the Sun:

"A shadow Labour minister has become the latest to join an MPs' revolt over Ed Miliband's 'One Nation' slogan. Stella Creasy said she does not use it in her Walthamstow constituency as voters would 'quickly put you in your place' if they heard it. Mr Miliband first unveiled the phrase — originally used by former Tory PM Benjamin Disraeli — at Labour's 2012 party conference. Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, has also blasted his leader's use of the slogan. He said: 'It's not a General Election-winning strapline is it?'"

5) THE SCHOOL HOLIDAY CONUNDRUM

Should parents be allowed to take their kids on holiday abroad during term time, in order to avoid inflated air fares during official school holidays? Or should schools alter their term dates to allow pupils to go on holiday at different times? That's one of the education secretary's preferred solution - as is cutting the costs of flying. From the Guardian:

"Air passenger duty should be suspended during the summer to cut the cost of family holidays, ministers were told, as the education secretary, Michael Gove, insisted parents should not take their children out of school during term time. Gove made his point as MPs debated relaxing the rules on term-time holidays in the wake of an e-petition signed by 170,000 people condemning exploitative holiday companies... Gove said: 'There's no need to sacrifice your child's education in order to secure a cheaper holiday. Schools now have the freedom to change their term dates in order to allow students and families the opportunity to go on holiday at different times.'"

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 38

Conservatives 33

Ukip 13

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 58.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@PeterBoneMP The Times allegation: We have done nothing wrong. The claims made are without foundation. A full statement will be issued in due course.

@GloriaDePieroMP Standing with my friend + colleague @harrietharman in the face of these disgusting smears

@ShippersUnbound Does Stella Creasy want to be prime minsister? She tells Total Politics: 'There's nothing wrong with being ambitious.' Applause for honesty

900 WORDS OR MORE

Steve Richards, writing in the Independent, says: "The Government is more anti-EU than at any time in the last 20 years. So why are Eurosceptics still so gloomy?"

Rachel Sylvester, writing in the Times, says: "Mrs Merkel can’t give Cameron what he needs."

Janan Ganesh, writing in the FT, says: "Cameron overestimates Merkel's vim for EU reform."

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