POLITICS

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Miliband Told: Be Bold

24/03/2014 08:23 GMT | Updated 24/03/2014 08:59 GMT
Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Labour leader Ed Miliband during his speech at the Scottish Labour Party conference at the Perth Concert Hall in Perth.

Here are the five things you need to know on Monday 24 March 2014...

1) MILIBAND TOLD: BE BOLD

An alliance of Labour party "intellectuals" (as The Guardian describes it) has demanded Ed Miliband stop playing safe and not rely simply on Tory unpopularity to win the next election.

The warning from the Fabian Society, Compass and Progress think-tanks (as well as others) comes amid worrying poll numbers for the Opposition.

Over the weekend two surveys showed Labour's lead had been cut to just one point. The numbers, in the wake of George Osborne's bingo Budget, have given the Tories a bit of a spring in their step. By contrast, some Labour MPs appear to be getting a bit jittery.

Labour backbencher Simon Danczuk told the BBC's Westminster Hour last night that Miliband needed to "cut the soundbites" and "talk less to ourselves and more to the wider public". The Rochdale MP said the party should "change tack" and start talking about more than just the public sector.

Today's Memo is edited by Ned Simons as Mehdi Hasan is learning how to play bingo.

2) OBAMA IN EUROPE FOR UKRAINE SUMMIT

NATO's top military commander said on Sunday that Russia had a large force on Ukraine's eastern border and said he was worried it could pose a threat to Moldova's mainly Russian-speaking separatist Transdniestria region.

The Huffington Post reports NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, US. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, voiced concern about Moscow using a tactic of snap military exercises to prepare its forces for possible rapid incursions into a neighbouring state, as it had done in the case of Ukraine's Crimea region.

President Obama arrives in the Netherlands this morning for a meeting of the G7 convened to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Russian troops forced their way into a Ukrainian marine base in the Crimean port city of Feodosia early on Monday, overrunning one of the few symbols of resistance left after Moscow wrestled the peninsula away from Kiev, defending soldiers inside said.

In the Daily Telegraph this morning, the former head of the British Army, Lord Dannatt, said some of the government's defence cuts should be reversed in light of Russia's actions. he said the UK should make a "military statement" to Moscow by basing an extra 3,000 soldiers in Germany.

Shadow defence minister Vernon Coaker will also use a speech at the Royal United Services Institute today to set out Labour's current thinking on defence.

3) WAGE GAP WIDENING

The gap between the pay of top earners and the lowest-paid has "soared" in parts of the country, revealing huge wage inequality, new research has shown. A study by the TUC revealed that the pay gap had widened most in London and the South East, while only Wales and the South West had seen it reduce.

The union organisation said wage inequality had risen by 4.5% across the UK since 2000, and by 8.5% in London. An analysis of official figures showed that between 2000 and 2013 the pay gap between the top 10% and the bottom 10% of earners in London rose by 14%.

But then again, beer duty will be reduced by 1p as of today, so that's OK then.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...: Penguins Vs Rope. This Is Not Going To Go Well... (VIDEO)

4) CHEESED OFF

Headline of the day goes to The Daily Telegraph, which informs us about a "Tory row over cheese". According to the paper: "Conservative ministers have clashed over Government policy on cheese following plans to step up a campaign designed to make people cut down the amount of saturated fats in their diet. Environment ministers attacked their Tory colleagues in the Department of Health over a campaign urging people to stop eating as much full-fat cheese and milk."

5) FAR RIGHT GAINS IN FRANCE

The National Front of Marine Le Pen claimed victory last night after French voters punished the ruling Socialists in a first round of local elections that saw the far right come within range of capturing two or three cities, The Times reports this morning.

"The Front captured outright the northern town of Henin-Beaumont, the fief of Ms Le Pen, and it shook the political establishment with strong results in the Mediterranean belt, leading the field in Avignon and Beziers. A ny candidate who gets more than 50 per cent is declared the winner and there is no need for a second round. Ms Le Pen said: "We are seeing tonight the end of two-party politics in France. The Front has arrived as a powerful independent force in French political life. This is one of the revelations of this election."

900 WORDS OR MORE

Boris Johnson in the Daily Telegraph: the Lamborghini ride that says: power to the people

David Owen in The Guardian: A solution to Crimea could be found in Cuba

Fraser Nelson in The Spectator: what Osborne didn�t tell us about the crunch to come

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