POLITICS

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Is Alex Salmond Scotland's Kim Jong Il?

05/06/2014 08:32 BST | Updated 05/06/2014 08:59 BST
Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert via Getty Images
RUTHERGLEN, SCOTLAND - MAY 27: The Scottish Cabinet led by First Minister Alex Salmond hold a Question and Answer session with the public in Fernhill Community Centre, the fifth in a series of meetings outside of Edinburgh following publication of Scotland's Future, the Governments's white paper book on Scottish Independence in November last year, on May 27, 2014 in Rutherglen, Scotland. A vote on whether or not Scotland should be independent from the United Kingdom will take place on 18th September 2014. (Photo by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty Images)

Here are the five things you need to know on Thursday 5 June 2014...

1) IS ALEX SALMOND SCOTLAND'S KIM JONG IL?

It's getting rather personal, north of the border. In fact, there's rather nice scoop from my former colleagues at the New Statesman - from the Sun:

"Better Together boss Alistair Darling has accused Alex Salmond of acting like former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il. The ex-Chancellor slammed the First Minister's claim that the BBC was to blame for Ukip winning votes in Scotland. Mr Darling told the New Statesman magazine: "He said that people voted Ukip in Scotland because English TV was being beamed into Scotland. 'This was a North Korean response. This is something that Kim Jong-il would say.' Mr Darling claimed that indy critics face a 'culture of intimidation'."

The SNP are demanding an apology from Darling. Well, of course they are.

2) THERESA VS MICHAEL, ROUND 2

Dave is trying to sort out a growing row between two of his key cabinet colleagues - Michael Gove and Theresa May. Turns out Gove owned up to being the source in yesterday's Times who slammed the Home Office's handling of the counter-extremism brief while May's spad, Fiona Cunningham, may have been behind the anti-Gove tweet sent out from the Home Office account at 12.24am yesterday. The Guardian's Nick Watt has the details:

"A furious David Cameron has ordered all the facts to be laid before him after a row between Theresa May and Michael Gove over the government's strategy in tackling Islamist extremism burst into the open, overshadowing the final Queen's speech before the general election... Cameron, who left London shortly after the Queen's speech for the G7 summit in Brussels, has asked for a full briefing on all the contacts between May and Gove to be placed on his desk by the time he returns home later this week, amid a feeling at senior levels that there was fault on both sides... The admission by Gove that he was the source for the Times story was seen as important in Whitehall, where it had initially been assumed that the education secretary had deliberately decided to launch a strike against May on the eve of the Queen's speech. Gove told Cameron that he had simply answered questions from the Times editorial board in an open manner... The prime minister made clear to Gove that he was deeply disappointed that the row had overshadowed the Queen's speech. But eyebrows in Whitehall were also raised at the response from the home secretary's office... One senior Tory said the home secretary was irritated that Gove writes to the prime minister when he struggles to win the argument in cabinet committees. The MP said: 'It would be wrong to say that Theresa is at the end of her tether. She always keeps going. It is cold fury rather than losing her temper.'"

How much is this row about the Tory leadership, rather than Islamist extremism? The Guardian report adds:

"Supporters of a potential leadership bid by George Osborne, the chancellor, whose numbers include Gove, believe the home secretary is stamping her mark on the party. 'This is Theresa laying out her standard,' one minister said. 'People admire Theresa but there aren't really any May-ites prepared to go into the trenches with her. In contrast George has legions of supporters whose numbers are increasing as the economy improves. Michael is so close to George they are joined at the hip.'"

The Daily Mail sums it all up in a single headline: "Ministers at war".

3) RECALL OR NOT TO RECALL?

Zac Goldsmith isn't happy with the Queen's Speech. As my HuffPost colleague Ned Simons reports:

"New legislation that would allow voters to kick their MP out of parliament mid-term has been attacked as a 'stitch up' by one of the staunchest supporters of so-called 'recall' laws. On Wednesday David Cameron and Nick Clegg used the Queen's Speech to announce a Recall of MPs Bill would be introduced before the 2015 general election, after years of delays and internal coalition wrangling... However Tory MP Zac Goldsmith said the Bill was a 'breathtakingly cynical attempt to convey an impression of democratic reform' without actually empowering voters in any real sense... He said the legislation actually handed more power to the establishment, as the decision as to whether a MP was guilty of 'serious wrongdoing' and would face being kicked out was in the hands of a committee of MPs, not voters themselves... Goldsmith said the argument against allowing voters to recall their MP whenever they likes was the same as the argument used to prevent women being given the vote."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Bruce Springsteen's 'Born In The USA' was released 30 years ago this week - so let's all watch this video of the classic Ben Stiller sketch/parody again.

4) LIBS AND LABS SITTING IN A TREE...

From the BBC:

"Key allies of party leaders Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have met to discuss what the two parties have in common, BBC Newsnight has learned. The Labour peer Lord Adonis, and Lord Wood, one of Ed Miliband's closest advisers, met Jonny Oates, Clegg's chief of staff and Neil Sherlock, a prominent Liberal Democrat and donor. The men met for dinner in April. Members of the group deny the meeting constituted any kind of formal talks about a potential coalition government. But others believe the meeting is significant as it suggests the two parties are considering how they might prepare for potential coalition in the event of a hung parliament at the 2015 general election."

Vince Cable is believed to be the man behind much of these links and talks - is there a limit to just how much trouble the business secretary can cause for Nick Clegg?

5) SHOCK! HORROR! ASSAD WINS

Forget the Newark by-election, where voting begins today, check out the election (yes, election!) in war-torn Syria. Free and fair aren't exactly the words most would use to describe the whole process.

From the FT:

"Bashar al-­Assad, Syria's president, won a third term in office with 88.7 of votes yesterday, securing what his supporters see as a popular mandate to fight the three­ year revolt against his rule... Opposition figures have called the poll a "blood election", refusing to participate or endorse a vote in the midst of a three-yea­old civil war that has killed more than 160,000 people and forced another 9m to flee their homes. They say the election was rigged. 'I declare the victory of Dr Bashar Bashar Hafez al-­ Assad as president of the Syrian Arab Republic with an absolute majority of votes,' said Mohammed al-­ Laham, the speaker of parliament."

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From today's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 37

Conservatives 32

Ukip 13

Lib Dems 7

That would give Labour a majority of 58.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Sue Cameron, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Has Theresa May the mettle to follow the Iron Lady?"

Tim Montgomerie, writing in the Times, says: "The Conservative manifesto will talk tough on public finances, woo Ukip voters and seek to reassure the low-paid."

Seumas Milne, writing in the Guardian, says: "Newark shows how Labour can take the sting out of Ukip."

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