22/10/2012 04:35 BST | Updated 22/10/2012 04:37 BST

Mehdi's Morning Memo: 'Rashomon' Comes To Westminster

** 'Rashomon' Comes To Westminster ** Cameron's 'Comfort Zone' ** Tough But Not So Intelligent ** Newsnight v Panorama ** Housing Benefit: The Inconvenient Truth ** Blair Stokes Up Apathy ** Ding Ding Ding! Obama v Romney, Round 3 ** Jordan Under Attack? ** Angela Calls Dave's Bluff * The PM's Biggest Fan. Not **


If you had assumed Andrew Mitchell's resignation from the cabinet on Friday evening meant it was time to draw a line under 'Plebgate' you might want to think again. Yesterday, the education secretary Michael Gove came up with the must amusing and eyebrow-raising comment on the whole affair, as he backed the former chief whip's pleb-less but f**k-filled version of events.

Asked on BBC Radio 5 Live whether he believed 'Thrasher', Gove replied: "Yes I do." He continued:

"There's a Japanese film, I think it's called Rashomon, in which different participants who see the same event all have different recollections of it. I wasn't there. I trust Andrew, and I'm always inclined to give him the benefit of any doubt."

Er, ok. The Telegraph notes that "Rashomon, tells the story of a murdered Samurai through the eyes of his wife, a bandit and a woodcutter. Coincidentally the stories are told at a gate."

Gove later said he believed Mitchell "should have stayed on" and claimed David Cameron felt the same way.

"The Prime Minister wanted him to stay on, and I felt that he should have stayed on, but Andrew made the judgement."

Yesterday's Observer revealed that it was a "youth revolt" from several members of the 2010 intake of Tory MPs which finally forced Mitchell to go late last week.


As the Observer's Andrew Rawnsley pointed out yesterday, one of the biggest ironies of Plebgate is that it has ended up increasing "the number of titled Old Etonians sitting around the cabinet table" - Sir George Young, the new chief whip, went to the same, much-mocked school as the PM.

Today's Mail quotes Brian Binley, secretary of the backbench 1922 Committee, describing Cameron's decision to bring back the Old Etonian 'bicycling baronot' to replace Mitchell as a "comfort-zone appointment".

He adds: "I'm afraid it points to very poor man-management - David is the sort of guy who wants people around him who he is comfortable with rather than people who will challenge him."

The Telegraph front page reports on an interview that the PM's deputy chief of staff, Oliver Dowden, granted to US television in which he admitted that "most of his time is spent on "day–to–day crisis management", amid growing Conservative unease that Downing Street is losing control." Uh-oh!

Meanwhile, the Mirror's Kevin Maguire gleefully reports that "Tory sharks are circling after smelling the blood of an injured David Cameron in the water. The devalued Premier's own position is under threat as a rebellious Conservative Party descends into bitter civil war."


Over the weekend, Tory backbencher Nadine Dorries compared the Conservative-led coalition to the John Major government of the mid-1990s. Well, on that basis, some might argue that today is Dave's 'back to basics' moment: the PM plans to try and seize back the political initiative at lunchtime with his first "major speech" on law and order (after - yes, you guessed it - a visit to a prison!) which was billed in the Mail on Sunday yesterday as his "mug a hoodie" speech. Forget "compassionate Conservative" Cameron; this is "lock 'em up" Dave.

From the Independent:

David Cameron will today seek to steady Conservative nerves by promising a 'tough but intelligent' approach to criminal justice as he tries to repair the damage caused by the Andrew Mitchell affair.

... In his first major speech on the issue since becoming Prime Minister, he will say that criminals must face 'retribution' but will also announce that all except the most high-risk prisoners will be offered rehabilitation by the end of 2015."

Labour have accused the PM of "empty rhetoric" but there's a bigger problem for Cameron. The Guardian points out that there will be "no additional money" for Cameron's criminal-justice plans:

"Aides... admitted there would be no additional money to pay for either more prisoners – who each cost the state on average £40,000 a year – or for extending rehabilitation to more offenders, as the prime minister will promise. Instead, in a move likely to dismay all sides, Cameron was spelling out what was billed as 'more long-term vision stuff', they said."


The BBC's two biggest current-affairs shows go up against each other tonight, at half-past-ten. Panorama's 'Jimmy Savile - What The BBC Knew' goes after it's rival's decision to drop an investigation into Savile's history of alleged child abuse and features explosive interviews with two Newsnight employees. The story is on the front of the Telegraph, Mail, Guardian, Independent and the i. You wouldn't want to be working in the BBC Press Office this morning, would you?

Peter Rippon, the editor of Newsnight, has insisted that the programme's investigation into Savile was dropped for “editorial reasons”. But, as the Guardian splash points out, Panorama has obtained an email from Newsnight reporter Liz MacKean to a friend, on 30 November of last year, in which she reveals: "PR [Peter Rippon] says if the bosses aren't happy ... [he] can't go to the wall on this one." MacKean tells Panorama she was "very unhappy" that her story on Savile didn't run.

Last night, an early edition of the Daily Mail wrongly reported on its front page that Rippon had resigned. However, it might just be a matter of time. For me, the biggest question is: what's Jeremy Paxman going to say about all this on tonight's show? Awk-ward...

On a more serious note, and as the right-wing papers line up to attack Aunty, dare I point out that we shouldn't lose sight of some bigger issues here: 1) it was 'Sir' Jimmy Savile, not the BBC as a whole, who is alleged to have sexually abused young children, and 2) the British media, and the country as whole, would be a far, far poorer place without the Beeb. Nonetheless, if there is any evidence of a cover-up, then heads must roll at the corporation.

Note: George Entwhistle, the new BBC director-general, appears before the Culture Select Committee tomorrow.


Hey, IDS, remember all that nonsense you told us about "scroungers" and "dependency"? Check out the new report on housing benefit from the National Housing Federation. From the Times:

"The number of working families in receipt of housing benefit has risen by 86 per cent in the past three years because of soaring private rents and a shortage of new homes, it is claimed today."


Voters in all parts of England and Wales outside London will elect a person to oversee each police force - a 'police and crime commissioner' on 15 November. But we're not quite sure how many. Apathy is a big problem, reports the FT. Turnout is predicted to be less than 20%.

The BBC says the Electoral Commission is today sending leaflets about next month's elections to 21 million households.

Perhaps they should send more than one to the home of Sir Ian Blair, the former Met commissioner. From the Mirror:

"Former Met Police boss Sir Ian Blair yesterday called on voters to boycott next month's crime commissioner elections.

He told Sky News: 'It's a strange issue to come forward at such a difficult time for the country.'"


Watch a clip of Barack Obama being mocked by Jon Stewart, face to face, during the president's appearance on the Daily Show last week.


"Obama and Romney neck and neck as contest enters its final fortnight," says the headline on the front of the Guardian, above a picture of Mitt and Ann Romney. The GOP candidate, who has surprised many of his critics on both left and right with combative and energetic performances in the first two presidential debates, goes up against Obama for the third and final time tonight, in Boca Raton, Florida. The debate is on foreign policy and comes, as the Guardian reports, with the national polls tightening:

"A new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows that after trailing Obama all year, Romney is now tied with him on 47% of the likely vote. The last WSJ/NBC poll, taken before the first presidential debate in which Romney dominated the president, had Obama ahead by 49% to 46%."

Of course, national polls don't tell the whole story. Obama remains (narrowly) ahead of Romney in the key swing states, such as Ohio. The New York Times' Nate Silver says Obama still has a 68% chance of winning; the Huffington Post's electoral-college projection currently gives Obama 277 electoral votes (compared to Romney's 206). I continue to be of the view that, regardless of the outcome of tonight's debate, Obama is going to win a second term.


1) The number of times Obama mentions the killing of Osama Bin Laden. It's far and away the highlight of his CV.

2) The number of times Romney plucks up the courage to mention Benghazi again. It didn't work out so well for him last week.


If Romney wants to point out to Obama tonight that Bin Laden may be dead and buried (see point 1 above) but al-Qaeda isn't, he need look no further than the Kingdom of Jordan. From the Telegraph:

"Jordan claimed to have thwarted one of the largest terror attacks ever planned in the Middle East after foiling an al-Qaeda plot to kill diplomats and detonate a series of bombs in Amman."


"Merkel to warn UK on Europe budget veto," says the FT splash this morning. The paper reports:

"Germany is planning to warn Britain that it will seek to cancel next month's European budget summit if David Cameron, prime minister, insists that he will veto any deal other than a total freeze on spending.

Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, does not believe there is any point in holding the budget summit to agree on a seven-year framework for EU spending if Britain intends to veto any deal, say people close to the negotiations.

Ms Merkel is trying hard to persuade Mr Cameron to back a German compromise that would cap EU spending at 1 per cent of European gross domestic product."

It continues:

"Although EU officials realise Mr Cameron will be treated as a hero at home for blocking the budget, they are strongly warning Britain that the diplomatic fallout from any veto could be seriously damaging, not least because it will come less than a month before a December summit on building a banking union."


From the Metro:

"Dappy has issued a warning to David Cameron that he wants to track him down and rough him up.

The former N-Dubz rapper is not a happy chappy over university fees.

'When I see Cameron I should grab him by his neck, and raise him up like a uni fee,' the 25-year-old rants on the intro to his new album, Bad Intentions."

Watch your back, Dave...


"I'm not going to talk about private conversations. Andrew has now resigned. I think that's an end of the issue." - Home secretary Theresa May, speaking on the BBC's Sunday Politics, refuses to deny reports that she pushed for the ex-chief whip to fall on his sword over 'Plebgate'.


From yesterday's 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.


@EllieCumbo Cameron's 'new' crime initiative is identical to what Ken was doing before the reshuffle. Only the rhetoric differs. Incredible cynicism.

@davidhepworth BBC currently making a drama out of a crisis. Bet they eventually make a drama out of the drama.

@damongreenITV I won't be satisfied until there's been a Jeremy Vine phone-in about a Newsround inquiry into the Panorama report on the Newsnight segment


Jackie Ashley, writing in the Guardian, says: "Coalition troubles don't mean improving Labour fortunes: the economy and the eurozone still offer Cameron a chance."

Tim Montgomerie, writing in the Daily Mail, comments on the government's travails and says: "The real problem isn't class... it's just incompetence."

John Prescott, writing in the Times, sets out: "Why I want to be a new police commissioner."

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