17/09/2012 08:23 BST

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Hello, Big Spender

** Hello, Big Spender ** Calling Graham Brady ** Gove Levels ** Not-So-Universal-Credit ** Elections Are Beauty Contests **


The FT splash will make for grim reading in the Treasury. Despite two-and-a-half years of non-stop hyperbole (THE MONEY'S RUN OUT! WE'RE TURNING INTO GREECE! WE'RE BANKRUPT!) from George Osborne and the Austerians, it turns out that that a growing number of Britons are...deficit deniers.

"Increase in support for more public spending," says the splash headline, referring to a British Social Attitudes survey revealing that the proportion of the population backing a rise in government spending - "even if it means higher taxes," notes the FT - increased from 31% to 36% between 2010 and 2011. Over the past decade, that number had been falling, not rising.

While the report says it is "too early to lay claim to a new trend", it does point out that it is "just possible this shift marks the start of a reaction against the coalition's spending cuts and a growing acceptance of the claims ...made by Labour that the government has been cutting 'too far and too fast'." Uh-oh!

(It isn't all bad news for the Chancellor, though: the research, as the Telegraph notes, shows clear support for big cuts in welfare spending. Go get 'em, George!)


36% Proportion of public that wants higher public spending, even if it means higher taxes (up from 31% in 2010)

51% Proportion of public that would like to see immigration levels reduce a lot (up from 39% in 1995).

58% Proportion of public satisifed with the NHS (down from an all-time high of 70% in 2010)

59% Proportion of public that thinks the government should be mainly responsible for ensuring unemployed people have enough to live on (down from 88% in 2010)


Another weekend, another set of rumours re the Tory leadership. A week ago, Zac Goldsmith MP was about to give up his seat to Boris Johnson and Bob Stewart MP was being asked to be a "stalking horse". Could it get any weirder? This weekend, we had the Sunday Times reporting how "one [rebel] scenario could see a caretaker leader installed to take the [Tory] party through the next general election".

The Observer noted that there was also "an idea being put around that a unity candidate might run and [1922 committee chair Sir Graham] Brady's name is being mentioned. Such ideas provoke wildly mixed reactions. 'I like old Graham,' said one senior Tory. 'But that is mad. He's a real plodder.'"

Meanwhile, Sir John Major, a victim of leadership plots, and Dr Liam Fox, a potential plotter, used Sunday-morning TV interviews to warn against "regicide" and call for "unity". Yes, that'll work...


As I noted in in yesterday's memo, Michael Gove and Nick Clegg have kissed and made up over exam reform. As revealed in the Mail on Sunday, come 2015, GCSEs will be replaced by a new, tougher, O-level style exam ("Gove level"?) overseen by a single exam board - a reform that the duo will outline in detail later today (the Mail story prompted them to move forward their joint appearance by a day).

The Guardian notes how Clegg managed to secure "two major concessions": 1) "There will be no two-tier system and the new exams will be sat by most pupils" and 2) "Pupils will start to be taught for the new exams in autumn 2015, a year later than expected". Parents whose children had their GCSE exams marked down over the summer might not be so impressed that Gove, with Clegg's help, is ploughing ahead with this, without first sorting out the summer exams mess.

But, as James Forsyth argued yesterday, "[t]he state of the Michael Gove/Nick Clegg relationship is one of the best guides to how things truly are inside Government." Now we know why David Laws was sent to the DfE...


Check out the full-length trailer for Steven Spielberg's new biopic of Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln.


Pressure is building on Iain Duncan Smith's flagship welfare policy, the "universal credit", which will replace six benefits and is supposed to boost incentives to work.

Yesterday's Sunday Times page two lead was devoted to the fact that cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood - "the civil servant effectively running Britain," in the words of the Spectator - is known to be "sceptical" about universal credit and has given a "go slow" signal to Treasury civil servants. The Observer reported on how IDS's own advisers have warned him that elements of his reforms are "unfair and unworkable".

Today, ahead of IDS's appearance before the Work and Pensions select committee at 4:30pm, Labour's Liam Byrne says that "universal credit might be fine in theory but it’s about to seriously backfire in practice". And, as the Guardian reports, later this week the Social Market Foundation will publish a new report ("Sink or Swim? The impact of the universal credit") that warns "that universal credit will push significant numbers of households into debt and suggests that instead of boosting individuals' financial resilience, it will worsen their financial circumstances".

Perhaps IDS should have taken that job at the Department of Justice...


More deaths, more bloodshed, more chaos, more treachery. Plus ca change.


That's the verdict of a new report from academics at the universities of Exeter and Iowa.

From the Telegraph:

"Dr Caitlin Milazzo, a lecturer in politics at Exeter, said choosing attractive candidates could give a party the 'edge'.

'While our findings certainly do not indicate that unattractive candidates are unelectable, they do suggest that an attractiveness "advantage” may come into play.'

...Dr Milazzo found that attractiveness correlated to victory in slightly over half the results overall.

But in marginal seats – where a swing of five per cent or less could secure victory – it was much higher at 72 per cent."

The title of the report is "Pretty Faces, Marginal Races". Boom, boom!


Hey Adam Smith International, how's all that foreign aid spending working out for you?


Sorry, no pix here. Move along...


Hilariously and bizarrely, the Today programme this morning invited on Tony Blair, one of the biggest provokers of global Muslim anger over the past decade, to discuss...ahem...the root causes of global Muslim anger.


From yesterday's YouGov/Sunday Times poll:

Labour 44

Conservatives 34

Lib Dems 9


That 10-point lead would give Labour a majority of 118.


@paulmasonnews Can we call the "new O level" an "O Level"? Then change all bus numbers back to way they were in 1974. Also mandatory mullets for schoolboys

@debmattinson This year's Social Attitudes Survey makes depressing reading. Satisfaction with the NHS drops for first time in a decade - down 12%

@marycreagh_mp Govt #badgercull will cost more than it saves, put a huge strain on the police, and won't work.


Tim Montgomerie, writing in the Times, says that while Cameron "knows that Labour weakness will not be enough to keep him inside No 10, it’s still true that he cannot believe his luck whenever his mind turns to the calibre of Her Majesty’s Opposition".

John Kampfner, writing in the Guardian, says: "In one area the Lib Dems show the way. They are ruthless about getting rid of their leaders... But the supposedly cuddly party of the centre enjoys its coups."

Larry Summers, writing in the Financial Times, says: "Britain must change the pace of fiscal consolidation to stand a chance of avoiding a lost decade."

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