23/09/2012 09:51 BST | Updated 23/09/2012 11:53 BST

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Deja Vu, Danny?

** Lib Dem Conference Edition ** Deja Vu, Danny? ** Farage In Front ** "Till Death Do Us Part" ** The Pleb Plot Thickens ** Top Of The Pops ** Nicking Nick's Lines ** Villain Of The Day **


The Lib Dem leader has been telling Andrew Marr this morning that he stands by his much-mocked video apology and repeats his call for Ed Balls to issue an apology over the latter's alleged pre-crash "prawn cocktail" offensive in the City.

Clegg feints to the left on welfare cuts, saying his view is: "You should start at the top and work down, not start at the bottom and work up."

"We have not yet been able to persuade the Conservatives" on a mansion tax yet, admits Clegg, but "there is a very considerable chance" that the Lib Dems will be able to do so before 2015.

He claims "the top 10% are paying more, rather than less, in overall tax" thanks to the coalition. Factcheckers - get, ready, steady...GO!

Can her persuade George Osborne to squeeze the rich harder, asks Marr? "Yes," says Clegg, reiterating his opposition to further welfare cuts without reciprocal rises in wealth taxation.

He says he is going to announce new plans to allow "parents and grandparents" use their pension pots "as a kind of guarantee" to help their kids/grandkids afford a deposit to buy a home; a "pension for property" scheme.

Clegg also dismisses the Cable-text-affair saying he's had conversations in recent weeks with Ed Miliband, David Miliband, Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson before launching into another scathing attack on Labour's "grotesque" economic record and defending the coalition's "fairer tax measures".


The BBC headline reads: "Tax crackdown on rich announced by Danny Alexander". Sky News is leading on the same story. It's the splash in the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times. But what's this, from September 2011?

"Extra inspectors recruited to target wealthy tax avoiders"

And remember this Guardian headline from the Lib Dem conference in September 2010?

"Danny Alexander targets tax dodgers and promises pain will be shared"

Gotta hand it to the Lib Dems. They genuinely are committed to recycling...


This'll cheer up Lib Dem MPs and delegates in Brighton: the Observer's new Opinium poll puts UKIP (10%) in third place, two points ahead of the Lib Dems (8%). Nick Clegg's lot is trailing Nigel Farage's lot.

Then there's the poll for Lib Dem Voice of paid-up party members, seen by the Independent on Sunday, which reveals that the Lib Dem leader's personal rating has fallen below zero for the first time, to minus 2 per cent.

Still, perhaps we need a more historical perspective: new Lib Dem minister and rising star Jo Swinson reminded delegates yesterday that "a conspiracy to murder charge against the party leader" could be considered worse. Yes, Clegg isn't Jeremy Thorpe. That's something.


In a renewal of the coalition's marriage vows, Simon Hughes tells the Huffington Post that Liberal Democrats are wedded to the Tories until the bitter end

Tory MPs such as Graham Brady may have suggested in the past that the break between the two parties will come much earlier than 2015 but the Lib Dems' deputy leader says:

"My instinct is [the break] will be very late in the day, we have to be there right until the end making sure we deliver as much as possible. Therefore the logic is that we stay there in coalition till the end."

That logic, of course, could cost them dear. You can read my full interview with Hughes, on "unreconstructed" Tory backbenchers, "tempering" Hague's Euroscepticism and plans for a mansion tax, here.


It's not all Lib Dem news in the papers this morning. The new chief whip's position is looking a little precarious. Gategate rumbles on, as Andrew Mitchell continues to get a thrashing in the papers. "Thrasher's turn for a tongue-lashing," says a Sunday Times headline. The Sunday Telegraph front page headline reads:

"Chief Whip: Yes, I swore ...but I did not say 'pleb'"

The paper says the while Mitchell admits swearing he was "'100 per cent adamant' he had not used the word 'plebs' or 'morons', despite contradictory reports, although he was not calling anybody a liar."

So far there have been calls for his resignation from the Met Police Federation and the widow of PC Sharon Beshenivsky, a demand for a public apology from an unnamed cabinet minister and an admission from Downing Street sources yesterday that Mitchell is toast if it turns out he lied to the prime minister. Nick Clegg didn't sound very supportive on the Marr programme this morning. Don't worry, though, Ken Clarke has issued a vote of confidence in the chief whip. That's okay, then.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Mirror splash headline reads: "Saved by the 'plebs'". The paper says Mitchell once "rang 999 begging for help when a constituent threatened to "mutilate him with a dagger" at his MP's surgery."


Watch this video of a chameleon washing his hands in a kitchen sink.


He may be trailing Farage in the polls, but Nick Clegg is now a Top 40 superstar. "Nick Clegg Says I'm Sorry (The Autotune Remix)", the spoof of his two-and-a-half-minute YouTube apology over his party's pledge on tuition fees, went to number 39 in the iTunes chart just 12 hours after it was released.

The deputy prime minister himself referred to the spoof in a self-deprecating opening address to Lib Dem delegates at the party conference yesterday: "To those of you who have seen the video, I say this: I really am so, so sorry."


Tim Farron must have been given an advance copy of Nick Clegg's opening speech to delegates yesterday. Journalists were given embargoed copies, after all. So why did the Lib Dem president decide to nick his leader's best lines, calling for in his own intro for the Labour Party to apologise for its City policies and its "illegal" Iraq war, and forcing Clegg to then preface each of his own comments, later, with "But Tim is right..."

Watch your back, Nick.


Yep, as my colleague Ned Simons reports, they've even got their own mugs.


The biggest boo in Brighton on day one of the conference went, not to Tory backbencher Peter Bone, who the Lib Dems can't stand, but to Guardian columnist and ex-SDP-er Polly Toynbee - whose book was mentioned, in passing, by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas at a fringe event.

Her name was roundly booed by the audience of Lib Dem delegates, says my colleague Ned Simons.

Poor Polly.


"For what it is worth, I think the coalition tightened a little more than necessary in the first two years; relied a bit too much on spending cuts rather than tax rises to fill the hole; and above all has taken a myopically conservative approach to borrowing for investment." - Nick Clegg's former director of strategy, Richard Reeves, quoted in the Observer's splash.


12.20: Speech by energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey

15.05: Q&A with Nick Clegg

15.50: Debate on welfare reforms and disability support

You can also follow the HuffPost UK's Lib Dem conference live blog here.


From the Observer/Opinium poll:

Labour 42

Conservatives 30

Lib Dems 8

This would give Labour a majority of 118

From the Sindy/ComRes poll:

Labour 39

Conservatives 35

Lib Dems 10

This would give Labour a majority of 46.


@johnmullinios Reports today say how Danny Alexander plans to crack down on tax avoidance. Funny! I remember splashing that at lib dem conf last year!

@JBeattieMirror Lib Dem pledge to target wealthy tax avoiders is posturing. Real problem is corporate avoidance, which this govt is encouraging

@JuliaHB1 Am I dreaming? Is Andrew Mitchell still in his job? Really? How is that even possible?


Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Observer, says: "The Lib Dems' biggest mistake at the last election was not the tuition fees pledge, but failing to be clear with the electorate that coalition inevitably means compromise and compromise entails not being able to deliver previous promises."

John Rentoul, writing in the Independent on Sunday, says: "However illogical, a change of leadership would let the Lib Dems parcel up the unpopular baggage of being in coalition and throw it overboard."

Matthew D'Ancona, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says he doesn't believe Andrew Mitchell used the p-word: "I don’t buy it. Mitchell has a temper, and has been known to turn a colour that is best described as “Tory pink”. But it is not in him to say such a thing."

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