18/09/2012 04:12 BST

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Labour Ahead, Ed Behind

** Labour Ahead, Ed Behind ** We Are The 47% ** Welfare Wars ** "Green On Blue" ** Labour's Education Test **


Whatever happened to the coalition's post-Olympics "bounce"? Oh wait, there wasn't one.

The Times puts the results of its new Populus poll on its front page and it'll be grist to the Tory rebels' mill. Labour now has a whopping 15-point lead over the Tories (45 to 30), which is the biggest lead any polling company has given it so far in this parliament and a 5-point increase since the last such poll for the Times in July. If there was a general election held tomorrow, that'd translate into a Labour landslide majority of 136.

But it isn't all bad news for the Tories: on a personal level, Ed Miliband continues to trail David Cameron, with 60% of voters saying they want the Conservative leader to stay in Number 10 (up 4 points since the summer). Tory rebels should take note - Cameron still outpolls his party.


If you're running for president, behind in the polls and widely derided as being privileged and out-of-touch, it's best if you don't get caught on camera dismissing the views, opinions and lifestyles of almost half of the voting public. But a potentially explosive video of Mitt Romney, speaking at a closed-door gathering of about 30 major donor earlier this year and leaked onto the internet late last night, reveals him doing just that.

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney says in one clip. "All right -- there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing...[M]y job is not to worry about those people."

That sound you hear is of Romney's aides shooting themselves in their heads...


Is George Osborne the Lib Dems' best friend or worst enemy? On the one hand, his alleged proposal to end the "automatic annual increase in benefits in line with inflation", leaked to Newsnight's Allegra Stratton, will annoy and anger Lib Dem party activists at this weekend's party conference in Brighton.

On the other, could they ask for better evidence of "differentiation" between the two coalition parties? After all, Nick Clegg has called for any further cuts to welfare - and Gideon, remember, wants £10 billion of extra cuts! - to be funded by an emergency wealth tax on the richest 10%; the Tory chancellor seems to think that the best way of getting the new money is to hit the poorest, most vulnerable members of our society. Again.


Watch a video of former presidential candidate Rick Santorum admitting that "smart people" don't vote for the Republican Party.


How's that Afghan exit strategy going? Wasn't it all about building up the Afghan military and police forces? In the wake of the latest so-called "green on blue" killings, of two British soldiers and four US troops by "rogue" Afghan policemen and soldiers, NATO generals have ordered a a halt to joint patrols and other field operations between Afghans and foreign troops unless specifically approved by a senior commander.

“We’re to the point now where we can’t trust these people,” a NATO military official told NBC News.

The Daily Mail splashes on the Afghan violence: "How many more wasted lives?" It's a powerful question to which none of our leading politicians, whether Tory, Labour or Lib Dem, seem to have an adequate answer.

On a side note, remind me again what Prince Harry is doing out in Afghanistan? If there was a breach of his base's perimeter, defence secretary Philip Hammond suggested on last night's Newsnight, Harry would be moved to a secure location. Er, what's the point of going out to serve in a war zone if you're not allowed to engage with the enemy?


35 number of NATO troops killed in "green on blue" attacks in 2011

51 number of NATO troops killed in "green on blue" attacks in 2012

430 number of British troops killed in Afghanistan since October 2001


The Michael Gove-Nick Clegg plan for a GCSE replacement was unveiled in the Commons yesterday. There were suggestions the new exam might be called a "Gove-level" or, in the words of my colleague Lucy Sheriff, a "Clove-level" (do you see what she did there?). But, no, it'll be called...the Ebacc (or "English Baccalaureate"), which sounds more like a hospital-acquired infection than a secondary school exam.

The papers are split along the usual lines - the Guardian, the Independent and the Mirror express concerns (especially over the scrapping of coursework), while the Mail and the Telegraph welcome an end to "dumbing down".

Interestingly, thanks to Clegg's intervention, students won't start studying for the Ebacc till 2015 and won't sit the first Ebacc exam until 2017 - which gives Labour enough time to scrap the new test should it win the next election (and should it, of course, make up its own mind on whether it wants GCSEs or not. Stephen Twigg seemed torn in yesterday's Commons debate.).

The delay also means that parents will see their kids continue to sit an exam, the current GCSE, considered useless and "dumbed down" by this government, for the next seven years. That'll go down well...


@davidfrum If you're not running for president of all the country, you won't be elected president of any of it.

@JohnRentoul Baccalaureate? I can't even spell it. Mad.

@bbcnickrobinson Interesting @ story re govt considering freezing benefits. I hear that IDS telling Treasury that = bad economics since poor spend not save


Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says the idea that Tory backbenchers "are saddled with some milksop centrist kowtowing to the Liberal Democrats defies the most cursory glance at the Cameron record so far".

Simon Heffer, writing in the Mail, says: "There will be a time to bid farewell to Mr Cameron — and it will be when the party can find a figure and some policies that it can unite around. That time, manifestly, is not now."

Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says Ed Miliband is "not a no-hope leader, nor a creature of the unions, nor yet the effete and divisive opponent of Mr Cameron’s dreams, however much Tory strategists might wish that it were so".

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