Mehdi's Morning Memo: Cameron's 'Combishambles'

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Cameron's 'Combishambles'

** Cameron's 'Combishambles' ** Heroic Hayes ** The MP, the aide and the "dirty tricks" cop" ** Report: Regulators Were Rubbish ** MP Expenses - They're Baaaaaack ** Theresa Takes "The Easy Way Out" ** The ÂŁ15 Billion Printing Error ** Too Many Tweets Make A...? ** The EU's War On Jam Jars **


Forget a week - 24 hours is a long time in British politics. From the Daily Mail:

"David Cameron was accused yesterday of making up policy on the hoof as his bold attempt to reform the energy market spectacularly backfired.

After a day of confusion, the Prime Minister insisted he would press ahead with forcing power companies to move customers to the lowest available tariff.

Mr Cameron had surprised energy firms on Wednesday - and even some senior colleagues - by declaring his intention to change the law.

But yesterday Labour said the policy appeared to 'unravel by the minute' as Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey pointedly failed to back it.

The row was being tagged 'Combishambles' on Twitter after the socalled 'Omnishambles' which engulfed the Coalition after the Budget.

Tory Energy Minister John Hayes was unable to explain how the idea would work when he was dragged to the Commons. He appeared to admit he had not known Mr Cameron planned to make the announcement."

This morning, energy regulator Ofgem has unveiled its own proposals for simpler tariffs which involves forcing suppliers to tell customers about the cheapest gas and electricity tariffs they have on offer. Great timing, eh?

For once the Daily Mail leader speaks for both left and right when it says: "If, after a year of shambolic Budget U-turns and policy disasters, David Cameron wishes to restore the government’s reputation for competence, he is going a peculiar way about it."

The Times is also scathing: "This incident reinforces concerns that the Prime Minister has too little respect for detail and is running an operation that makes policy on the hoof."

And the Guardian lead editorial adds: "Mr Cameron has made the most awful hash of things. To call his energy announcements this week a dog's breakfast would be to insult the doubtless fine folk at Pedigree Chum."



Meanwhile, Tory energy minister John Hayes' Commons performance attracted the attention of the sketchwriters - as well as the speaker, John Bercow, who compared him to Demosthenes.

Quentin Letts, in the Mail, notes:

"Mere vowel and consonant struggle to catch the full magnificence of Mr Hayes.

We need something more vivid: Elgarian chords, strokes of John Singer Sargent's oil-dipped brush, an aromatic sniff of swan roasting in its royal juices.

Only then might a stranger start to savour the extraordinary Parliamentary device - the curlicued, orotund wonder - that is Minister Hayes.

...'Alacrity and the defence of the common good - the heart of all I do,' he said at one point, practically clutching his right breast and removing a tear from his eye. 'Clarity is the prerequisite of certainty, certainty is the prerequisite of confidence and confidence is the prerequisite of investment,' he said, quite unscripted."

The Times' Ann Treneman writes:

"Labour accused him of 'linguistic acrobatics'. Mr Hayes loved that. 'I add acrobatic skills to the many qualities been ascribed to me by this House!' It was a masterclass in gobbledegook.

'More!' shouted MPs as a modest Mr Hayes bowed out."


The papers are all over George Galloway's astonishing accusation that a senior counter-terrorism officer of sleeping with his female assistant, in his home, as part of a "dirty tricks" campaign against him. "Galloway fury at spying sex cop," is the Sun's headline.

From the HuffPost UK:

"Galloway claims an officer with the Special Operations branch SO15 slept with his assistant, including at the MP's Streatham home without his consent or knowledge, sent emails from his office and harassed Galloway on Facebook.

Galloway has since sacked the female aide, who he believes to be an "agent" for the officer inside the Respect party."

But the Guardian's Galloway correspondent Helen Pidd has secured an interview with the sacked aide, Aisha Ali-Khan, who accuses the Respect MP of hacking into her personal emails and says...

... she is married to Afiz Khan, whom Galloway correctly identified as a detective inspector in the Met's counter-terrorism unit, SO15.

She says the two wed in a Muslim ceremony in 2009 and have had an on-off, hush-hush relationship ever since. She is furious that their relationship is being presented as somehow illicit.

... Ali-Khan believes she has been 'thrown to the wolves' because she was disliked by certain male figures in Bradford's Respect party who wanted her out, and because Galloway wanted to deflect attention from a story about his personal life which he believed was about to hit the papers."

As is so often the case in stories involving Gorgeous George, the plot thickens...


Hey, guess what? Our financial regulator was asleep on the job in the months running up to the financial crash in 2008. Bet you didn't know that, right?

From the Times:

"Regulators were wrong to claim that they could not have blocked the calamitous acquisition of ABN Amro by Royal Bank of Scotland [in late 2007], MPs say today in a hard-hitting criticism of the Financial Services Authority.

... The failure to put in place adequate supervision and the failure to subject the ABN deal to analysis amounted to a "serious indictment" of the FSA senior management, the Treasury Select Committee said.

The Mail notes: "ABN Amro was saddled with billions of pounds of toxic assets which crippled the once hugely profitable RBS."

The big question is: will this latest report from MPs cripple FSA chair Adair Turner's bid to become the next governor of the Bank of England? Treasury select committee chair Andrew Tyrie MP had some positive words to say about Turner on the Today programme this morning.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the 27 EU countries have agreed overnight in Brussels that the European Central Bank (ECB) will take over as the single European Union banking supervisor "next year".


The Telegraph's splash this morning feels like something from 2009: "27 MPs let one home and claim for another".

The paper reports:

"Research by this newspaper using official parliamentary records shows that the 27 MPs who are renting London homes while claiming rental income for other flats include Liam Fox, the former defence secretary, Chris Bryant, the shadow immigration minister, and former defence ministers Peter Luff and Nick Harvey, as well as David Amess, a Tory MP."


Watch this video of a baby elephant (yes, a BABY elephant!) being rescued from inside a well in Kenya (the rescue, btw, occurs at 3mins55secs in).


Home Secretary Theresa May has been lauded by the left and the right in recent days, after her decision to halt the extradition of computer hacker Gary McKinnon to the United States; some Tory-leaning papers have touted her as a future party leader. But, writing in the Daily Telegraph this morning, her Labour predecessor, Alan Johnson, says it was an "appalling decison" and claims that the Home Secretary told the Americans in July that there were “ramifications for national security” if she stopped the extradition on the grounds of McKinnon’s health - as terror suspects might then use the same argument to avoid being sent to the US for trial. (The Telegraph suggests the warning was contained in a letter from the home secretary to Eric Holder, the US attorney general.)

Johnson adds: “The US was entitled not just to request McKinnon’s extradition, but to expect it. And Theresa May has not reached a brave decision – she’s taken the easy way out."


Uh-oh. "Blunder that cost Google ÂŁ15bn in 8 minutes," says the Mail on its front page this morning, referring to the billions of pounds that were wiped off the value of the internet giant yesterday after it accidentally revealed a drop in profits.

Google's stock plunged more than 9%, and trading in its shares was suspended, when investors were given an sneak peek at an earnings statement that revealed the company's third-quarter earnings had dropped 20 per cent

According to the FT:

"Google blamed RR Donnelley, its financial printer, for the unfinalised release. "[They] informed us that they had filed our draft 8K earnings statement without authorisation," Google said in a statement."


From my colleague Charlie Lindlar:

"What was it David Cameron said about too many tweets? The PM was hounded (again) on Thursday after tagging a tweet on NHS spending with the rabidly anti-cuts hashtag, #welovethenhs.

On Thursday afternoon Cameron posted what seemed to be an innocuous tweet on two relative successes for the Coalition government, crime rates and NHS spending:

@David_Cameron Two great signs of govt successes today - crime down again and proof NHS spending is rising #welovethenhs

Cameron used the tweet to congratulate himself and his government on the wins, ending the tweet with the hashtag which, unfortunately for him, is populated by anti-cuts folk."

Here are some of the (printable!) tweets posted by Cameron's critics in response to his use of that NHS hashtag:

@EmmaK67 David Cameron using the #welovethenhs hashtag is like Darth Vader saying #welovealderaan He knows full well he's going to destroy it

@itsDanBull Wow, David Cameron has started using the #welovethenhs hash tag. His PR men really, really dropped the ball there...

@Alwaysbe Cameron uses #welovethenhs hashtag. That's love in the sense of 'I love you so much I don't want anyone else to have you so must kill you'?


"That this House condemns the EU health and safety regulation that will prevent the reuse of jam jars for preserves, chutney and jam; and calls on the Government to inform the EU that such rules are totally unacceptable and will not be adhered to."


"I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections." Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, speaking in a conference call with small-business owners back in June. Basically: 'Vote for Obama or your job's gone.' Nice. Thanks Mittens. Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that Romney's eldest son Tagg (Tagg??) said yesterday "that he wanted to punch Barack Obama for questioning his father's integrity during their badtempered presidential debate this week." What a nice bunch of people these Romneys are...


From the latest Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 42%

Conservatives 34%

Lib Dems 10%

This would give Labour a majority of 92.


@ShippersUnbound This energy shambles is classic Cameron, running his mouth without command of the detail. Thank God he had John Hayes to clear it all up!

@DenisMacShane Good to see my term "Brexit" for Britain exiting EU now getting FT endorsement. Assumption in Europe Britain will be out if Cons stay in gov

@hopisen Griffin's aim is to use 'martyr for straights' status to get fascists to ignore splits & money.. Abusing a gay couple to line his pockets..


Martin Wolf, writing in the FT, says the "the UK does not have to accept stagnation" and says it is "possible - indeed, highly desirable - to take advantage of the negligible cost of borrowing to raise public investment. It must be possible to identify and implement projects that will deliver higher than zero real returns in a congested country with such poor infrastructure."

Shami Chakrabarti, writing in the Guardian, says: "Theresa May is to be congratulated for halting McKinnon's extradition, but she must legislate to prevent future injustice."

Mark Lynas, writing in the Independent, says: "Osborne should watch out – the environmental Taliban are everywhere. We have the Chancellor surrounded and firmly on the defensive."

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


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