Here are the five things you need to know on Wednesday 11 June 2014...
1) THE GREAT PASSPORT BACKLOG
From the Guardian:
"The Passport Office's claims that there is no backlog of travel documents in its offices was challenged on Tuesday night after photographs showed that hundreds of files, full of applications, have been stacked in a passport office room that is usually used for meetings. The photographs, which were leaked to the Guardian, were taken in a second-floor conference room at the office's Liverpool branch on Tuesday, a source said. The room seems to have been hurriedly converted to store boxes of files. Staff say this is the first time that this room has been used to store files of applications, and it has forced them to hold meetings in a stationery cupboard. Paul Pugh, the interim chief executive of the Passport Office, has maintained that there is no backlog of passports."
The Mail adds: "Families hit by the passport crisis are being asked to pay £55 extra a person to save their summer holidays. With passport staff struggling to clear a backlog of half a million applications, holidaymakers and business travellers face losing costly trips abroad."
Poor ol' Theresa May isn't having the greatest of weeks - so it's ironic that today is the day the Guardian's John Harris pens his profile of the home secretary - 'She's not a bloke and she didn't go to Eton' - and asks whether she will be the next Tory leader.
2) GUESS WHO WANTS A REFERENDUM?
My colleague Ned Simons had an interesting exchange with Speaker John Bercow at an event in London last night - from the Huffington Post UK:
"Britain's membership of the European Union will be 'fundamentally insecure' without an in/out referendum, the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has said. Bercow said he would not comment on when such a referendum should be held, but said the fact no one under the age of 57 had had a say in whether the UK should remain part of the EU was unfair. He told The Huffington Post following a speech on digital democracy on Tuesday evening: 'I do happen to think that there is quite a strong argument, actually, for there to be a referendum at some suitable point on British membership of the EU, because it seems to me, otherwise, our membership is fundamentally insecure.' He added: 'There is a lot to be said for resolving the issue one way or another.' Bercow's comments could prove controversial as by convention the Speaker is supposed to remain politically neutral. The issue of whether there should be a referendum is likely to be a key part of the next general election campaign."
3) HANGING OUT WITH THE DUP
With up to 40 Tory MPs totally opposed to another coalition with the Lib Dems in the next parliament, David Cameron, it seems, has a secret Plan B in the case of another hung parliament in May 2015 - from the Daily Mail:
"Senior Tories are secretly preparing the ground for a potential power-sharing deal with unionist MPs from Northern Ireland in the event of another hung parliament after next year’s general election. David Cameron and George Osborne have ordered ministers to say nothing in public to indicate they believe their party is contemplating anything other than outright victory. But privately, many fear the Conservatives are likely to struggle to assemble a majority, though they are increasingly confident that they can remain the largest party. If they again fall short of the 326 MPs needed for an outright win, senior Tories suggest the Democratic Unionist MPs from Northern Ireland could hold the balance of power. Currently, the party has eight MPs, making it the fourth largest party in Westminster."
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a 20-month toddler scaling an indoor rock climbing wall without ropes.
4) 'MINISTER FOR SELF-DEFENCE'
That's the headline in the Sun:
"Bruising female defence minister Anna Soubry turned have-a-go-hero when she broke up a street fight between THREE men. The tough Tory - who has been be likened to Margaret Thatcher - came to the help of two sandwich shop workers who were brawling with a drunk. She then blocked the violent boozer as he tried to get back in the Pret A Manger and hit them. The no-nonsense veterans minister, 57 — who has been compared with Margaret Thatcher — said: 'I shouted at the drunk guy, 'Stop it, stop it now'. They often listen to women because they don't expect it. It was only afterwards that I thought perhaps that wasn't the brightest thing to do.'"
5) PARTY TIME FOR THE TEA PARTY
Forget Ukip - across the pond, the Tea Party has claimed its biggest scalp ever - from the Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel in the US:
"House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) lost his seat in Congress Tuesday in a shocking upset to Dave Brat, a college professor backed by the tea party. With nearly all of the votes counted, Brat had 56 percent of the vote to Cantor's 44 percent... Cantor had been expected to easily win reelection to an eighth term in Virginia's 7th Congressional District over Brat. Cantor raised about $5.4 million, compared with Brat's $200,000. And as the second-most powerful Republican in the House, Cantor's victory seemed secure. The main question seemed to be how big his margin would be over Brat. No sitting House majority leader has lost since 1899."
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From today's Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 8
That would give Labour a majority of 18.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Mary Riddell, writing in the Daily Telegraph, says: "Labour must 'dare to lose’ and champion parish pump politics."
Daniel Finkelstein, writing in the Times, says EU presidential wannabe Jean Claude Juncker is "the embodiment of outdated ideas".
James Bloodworth, writing in the Independent, says: "It's time to bust some myths about benefit fraud and tax evasion."
Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (firstname.lastname@example.org), Ned Simons (email@example.com) or Asa Bennett (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons, @asabenn and @huffpostukpol