21/10/2012 10:15 BST | Updated 21/10/2012 10:23 BST

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Downing Street in 'Meltdown'?

** Downing Street In 'Meltdown'? ** "Retribution Is Not A Dirty Word" ** Great Train Snobbery, Part 2 ** Great Train Snobbery, Part 3 ** 100,000 Lefties Spotted in London ** Tories-Attacked-As-Toffs, Part 886 ** "Romnesia" **


The Thick Of It scriptwriters will be delighted to see the front-page headline in the Sunday Times this morning: "Tory alarm over No 10 'meltdown'". The paper's Marie Woolf reports:

"MPs from across the party called on Cameron and George Osborne, the chancellor, to shake up 'the government machine', claiming that too many Downing Street aides were 'teenagers' from privileged public school backgrounds with no knowledge of business or executive control. Several MPs said the prime minister must get a firmer grip of the policy-making machine and show his hand was 'at the tiller'.

One former minister described the situation as a 'meltdown'."

Ouch. Meanwhile, writing in the Observer, former Tory chairman Norman Tebbit says:

"This dog of a coalition government has let itself be given a bad name and now anybody can beat it. It has let itself be called a government of unfeeling toffs... The abiding sin of the government is not that some ministers are rich, but that it seems unable to manage its affairs competently."

Tebbit - surprise, surprise - wants the Tories to shift to the right.

The polls don't look good for the Cameron and co [see Public Opinion Watch below], with the opposition enjoying 8 and 9 point leads over the Conservative Party. Still, there's a sliver of good news for the latter: according to the Opinium poll in the Observer, when asked who they would trust most to run the economy, 30% said the Tories and 29% Labour.


What do you do if you're a Tory leader trailing in the polls, leading a government plagued by scandals and resignations and repeatedly accused by your base of being too weak and too liberal? Why, you give a "major speech on law and order", of course. Tomorrow, the PM will give a speech after a visit to a prison in which he'll say "retribution is not a dirty word". Oh, and he'll also coin a new slogan: "Tough But Intelligent".

"It's almost as if the government read Lord Tebbit's mind," observed civil-liberties campaigner Shami Chakrabarti, while reviewing the the Mail on Sunday on the Andrew Marr show this morning. The paper's splash headline reads: "Cameron: It's time to a mug a hoodie". (Geddit?)

From the Mail on Sunday's Simon Walters and Glen Owen:

"After a week that has left him reeling – over energy policy, George Osborne’s train ticket and Andrew Mitchell’s resignation – the Prime Minister hopes to repair the damage with the announcement of a new crackdown on crime. Measures will include:

* Fines for prison bosses who fail to stop criminals re-offending after release, in a new ‘paid by results’ system.

* Life sentences for gun-runners who supply lethal weapons to gangsters.

* An ‘element of punishment’ in community sentences, which have been dismissed as a soft option by Right-wingers.

* Possible axeing of the custom of giving all prisoners £46 cash when they are freed from jail.

* Curbs on ‘cushy’ jail regimes where prisoners can spend all day watching TV."

Ken Clarke will be delighted. Not.

"What's the alternative?" asked Chakrabarti on Marr, referring to the proposal to abolish the £46 payment to freed prisoners. "Give them nothing and send them straight out to mug a member of the public?" Oh Shami! You're such a party-pooper! This isn't about policy; it's about politics. Good luck, Dave!


Friday wasn't Gideon's first time, it seems. From the Sunday Mirror:

"Wealthy George Osborne tried his first-class train dodge FIVE months ago.

The sneaky Chancellor boarded a posh carriage even though he had only a standard-class ticket.

The blag was scuppered by an inspector who asked to see his ticket just after the train left the station.

He told the millionaire minister to fork out for an upgrade or move on.

Tory Mr Osborne reluctantly went along to join rank-and-file passengers in a standard-class coach for the journey from London to his constituency in Tatton, Cheshire."



From the Sunday Telegraph's splash:

More than 180 MPs - including a third of the shadow cabinet - are enjoying first-class train travel at the taxpayer’s expense, an investigation has revealed.

Under rules introduced in the wake of the 2009 expenses scandal, MPs are normally required to travel by standard class.

But our investigation shows that MPs are exploiting a loophole which allows them to buy first-class tickets in particular circumstances. Some have cost up to £300 - five times more than the cheapest standard fare on the same route.

Perhaps we've been too hard on poor ol' Gideon:

"[T]he Chancellor is one of 460 MPs who have not sought to claim for a first-class train seat in the past year.

However, high-profile politicians who have claimed for first-class journeys include Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, Frank Field and Alistair Darling on the Labour benches, Francis Maude from the Conservatives and Chris Huhne from the Liberal Democrats.

Patrick McLoughlin, the new Tory Transport Secretary, has claimed eight first-class tickets worth up to £147 so far this year. Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat trains minister, has been reimbursed for nine first-class fares."


Watch this spoof video of Prince Harry starring in a Disney (!) movie.


The Sunday Mirror hails yesterday's TUC-organised rally against spending cuts in central London:

"More than 100,000 protesters brought London to a standstill yesterday with a defiant message for David Cameron: "Austerity isn't working."

Around 250 coaches ferried furious people from all corners of the UK to march against the Government's savage spending cuts, which have plunged us into a double dip recession."

The right-wing papers, however, can't seem to decide whether to attack Ed Miliband for turning up at the rally - "Ed's In The Reds," proclaims the Sun on Sunday) - or for turning up and then getting booed by a section of the crowd ("Jeers For Miliband," says the Sunday Telegraph) - when he did his 'I'm not a deficit denier' bit during his speech in Hyde Park.

"With borrowing rising not falling this year, I do not promise easy times," Miliband told the protesters. "I have said whoever was in government now there would still need to be some cuts."

Tell us something we didn't know, Ed...


Alex Salmond is no stranger to populist rhetoric. The SNP leader used his speech to the party's annual conference in Perth to take a potshot at the "Lord Snooties" (whoever could he mean?) in the cabinet. From the Huffington Post:

"To cheers from the audience Salmond demanded: 'Why on earth do we allow this incompetent bunch of Lord Snooties to be in positions of authority over our country?'

He added: 'Westminster would put this first class nation in the second class carriages.'

But the SNP leader declared: 'No more second best for Scotland. It is time, it is past time, for a fresh start for our nation.'


"A month after his set-to with a policeman, Andrew Mitchell has lost not only his job but also a stone in weight," claims a report in the Sunday Times.


"If you come down with a case of Romnesia and you can't seem to remember the policies that are still on your website, or the promises you have made over the six years you've been running for president, here is the good news: Obamacare covers pre-existing conditions." - a smiling Barack Obama coins a new phrase as he mocks his Republican opponent's U-turns, contradictions and shape-shifting at a rally in Virginia on Friday. The two men square up against each other on Monday night in the third and final presidential debate - on foreign policy.


From the latest ComRes poll in the Sunday Mirror and the Independent on Sunday:

Labour 41%

Conservatives 33%

Lib Dems 10%


This would give Labour a majority of 92.

From the Opinium/Observer

Labour 40%

Conservatives 31%

UKIP 10%

Lib Dems 9%

This would give Labour a majority of 96.


@BryanAppleyard Point of Thick of It was to not politicians are all shits, but that current politicians are because of their creepy desire to be popular.

@patmcfaddenmp Stephen Twigg right to stress need for rigour in education on Marr, and to point out that rigour and nostalgia are not the same thing.

@oakeshottm How unfair of Lord Tebbit to say"this dog of a Government" in Observer. Pantomime horse, inevitably.


Liam Fox, writing in the Sun on Sunday, says: "We may be out of EU by the end of this decade."

Matthew D'Ancona, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "The sacrifice of Andrew Mitchell sets a dangerous precedent."

Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Observer, says: "Andrew Mitchell's resignation tellingly shows how unbiddable the Conservative parliamentary party has become."

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