26/10/2012 04:42 BST

Mehdi's Morning Memo: British Government Gets A Backbone.

** British Government Gets A Backbone ** Two Kids Only? Not For the Lib Dems ** GDP Figures: The Morning After ** Growth Figures: US Edition ** The Calculator Ban ** Poll Tax Mark 2 ** Pants On Fire **


A cracking splash on the front of the Guardian:

"Britain has rebuffed US pleas to use military bases in the UK to support the build-up of forces in the Gulf, citing secret legal advice which states that any pre-emptive strike on Iran could be in breach of international law.

The Guardian has been told that US diplomats have also lobbied for the use of British bases in Cyprus, and for permission to fly from US bases on Ascension Island in the Atlantic and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, both of which are British territories.

The US approaches are part of contingency planning over the nuclear standoff with Tehran, but British ministers have so far reacted coolly."

The paper reveals that US officials have been given legal advice drafted by the attorney general's office which makes clear that Iran does not currently represent "a clear and present threat". One source tells the Guardian that US officials "expect resistance from senior Liberal Democrats, but it's Tories as well. That has come as a bit of a surprise."

Has the UK government suddenly developed a backbone? First the halting of the McKinnon extradition. Now this.

And might we yet avoid a re-run of the Iraq debacle? Fingers crossed.


Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith's declaration yesterday that he'd like to restrict welfare payments "for those who begin to have more than, say, two children" is not government policy, it seems.

"This is just Tory kite–flying," a senior Lib Dem source tells the Telegraph. "The Liberal Democrats have not signed up to it and it is absolutely not government policy."

On Question Time last night, business secretary Vince Cable made it clear that he wasn't keen on the proposal and claimed the coalition's junior partner would block it. Then again, he said the same about the 50p tax cut.


Overreaction anyone? The Express splashes with:

"Britian roars back to life"

The paper says: "Britain is roaring out of the ­double-dip recession at last – with a little help from the Olympics."

Other papers sound a more cautious note, pointing out the one-off boost from the Olympics/Paralympics and the bounce back from the extra Diamond Jubilee bank holiday. Oh, and the fact that we haven't grown at all - zero growth! - over the past twelve months hasn't gone totally unnoticed (you may have noticed yours truly stressing this point on BBC1's Question Time last night!).

The Telegraph's Damian Reece welcomes the GDP figure - the fastest quarterly growth rate for five years - but points out:

"What's certain is that we won't get another 1pc jump in the fourth quarter. October has seen a chill in world trade, particularly from China, and the prognosis from Europe is not getting better, while America's recovery is still stuttering... one quarter's numbers could yet pale."

The FT front-page splash notes how "Ford Motor yesterday said it was cutting 1,400 British jobs with the closure of two manufacturing operations, taking some of the gloss off the end of the UK's double-dip recession.

The US carmaker said it would shut a Transit van plant in Southampton next year, consolidating production in Turkey, and end stamping and tooling operations in Dagenham, east London."

Will yesterday's 1% figure lull our policymakers into a false sense of security? Complacency? The Telegraph reports:

"Economists had been expecting the Bank of England to restart quantitative easing next month with another £50bn on top of the £375bn completed. However, the GDP data has made it less likely."

Hmm. I happen to think the risk of a 'triple-dip' recession in the next quarter is pretty high. And, even if we dodge a triple-dip, growth will continue to stay pretty flat as long as austerity continues. The lost decade continues...


The final US growth figures before next month's presidential election will be published today. Will they be as good for Obama as they were for Osborne yesterday?


Michael Gove's in the papers again, with yet another new announcement. From the i:

Would-be teachers will be barred from taking calculators into tough new maths tests they will have to pass before they can start their training.

Education Secretary Michael Gove yesterday gave the green light to make the compulsory maths and English tests harder to improve standards in the classroom.

In future, they will be expected to get the equivalent of a B grade pass at GCSE as opposed to the current C grade standard. In addition, ministers are considering offering bursaries to those who do well in the test to help them through the cost of their training.

"The evidence is clear - rigorous selection of trainee teachers is key to raising the quality of teaching," said Mr Gove.

For once, I agree with the education secretary.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph leads with David Laws' first remarks on education since returning to government as a minister in Gove's department - and Britain's teachers won't be too pleased by what he has to say.

“Teachers, colleges, careers advisers have a role and a responsibility to aim for the stars and to encourage people to believe they can reach the top in education and employment,” Laws tells the paper. “That’s not happening as much as it should do at the moment.”


Watch this video of the 'alternative' Skyfall trailer - starring Wayne Rooney as James Bond.


The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) turns its fire on the coalition's council tax reforms. From the Guardian:

"An eleventh-hour attempt by ministers to mitigate the effect of the government's council tax reforms on the poorest households carries "considerable dangers", a leading thinktank has warned.

The coalition's move to reduce council tax benefit in April will result in about 2 million low-income workers who are currently exempt facing an average bill of £250 a year. The policy has already been described as a "poll tax mark 2"by the Tory peer Lord Jenkin, who conceived the original poll tax in the 1980s."


Alex Salmond could be in trouble. From the Guardian:

"As opposition parties accused him of laying down a smokescreen, the first minister appointed a former Whitehall mandarin to conduct an independent inquiry into whether he had misled Holyrood about whether he had formal legal advice about Scotland's EU membership and so breached the ministerial code.

His deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, had earlier appeared to offer a muted apology for the controversy which erupted on Tuesday after she revealed that her government had never asked Scotland's law officers for formal advice on whether - as Salmond has repeatedly claimed - an independent Scotland would automatically join the EU without adopting the euro."


Is all well at the top of the coalition? From the Telegraph:

"Nick Clegg, who speaks five languages fluently, chose to conduct a recent meeting at the Cabinet Office with Herman Van Rompuy, the European Council president, entirely in Dutch.

Did the Deputy Prime Minister, whose mother is from the Netherlands, do so to outfox a Downing Street official whom David Cameron had allegedly sent to spy on their conversation?"


"1% GDP growth in Q3 much higher than expected. But in past 51 years, just 12 of 205 first stabs at growth figs have survived later revision" - BBC presenter Andrew Neil urges caution re the GDP figures on Twitter yesterday


From the Evening Standard/Ipsos MORI poll:

Labour 43%

Conservatives 33%

Lib Dems 9%

This would give Labour a majority of 118.


@ShippersUnbound The correct answer to standard class question is: 'Of course I have but I'm not getting into that today.' Not, look awkward and stonewall

@PeterWatt123 Labour struggling to find effective way to talk about increase in GDP.

@BorowitzReport Attention parents: if you give your children even the tiniest bit of attention now, maybe they won't grow up to be Donald Trump.


Larry Elliott, writing in the Guardian, says the "economic crisis isn't over yet. This may not even be the beginning of the end."

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Gordon Brown’s secret army could defeat the Coalition’s welfare and education reforms."

The IFS's James Brown, writing in the Independent, says: "Chances are Mr Osborne won't find the £10bn he needs from Iain Duncan Smith's changes."

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