05/11/2012 03:32 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: "This Is America, Not A Third-World Country"

The ten things you need to know on Monday 5 November 2012...


I've long argued that the US presidential election is Barack Obama's to lose; Romney's best chance of victory is through bending (or breaking) the rules. Republicans, remember, have a long history of voter suppression (see Florida, November 2000).

The Guardian reports on how Florida Democrats have filed a lawsuit "to keep polling places open until election day as the Republicans stood accused of attempting to disenfranchise its opponents with new limits on early voting that contributed to waits of more than seven hours to cast ballots in Democratic strongholds such as Miami. The Miami-Dade elections headquarters shut it doors on Sunday to people attempting to request absentee ballots because so many people showed up. Outside, would-be voters protested, shouting: 'Let us vote'."

The paper quotes Myrna Peralta, who waited with her four-year-old grandson for almost two hours before being turned away, saying: "This is America, not a third-world country … They're not letting people vote."

Meanwhile, the Nation's Ari Berman says Ohio's Republican secretary of state Jon Husted, on Friday night, "shifted the burden of correctly filling out a provisional ballot from the poll worker to the voter" which could end up invalidating the ballots of tens of thousands of poor, Democratic voters in this key swing state.

Check out these shocking pictures of the massive lines of (predominantly black) voters, waiting to vote over the weekend outside polling stations in Ohio and Florida. Remember, this isn't South Africa, 1994, or Iraq, 2005; this is the United States in 2012.


Reports on the US election race appear on most newspaper front pages this morning. As Obama and Romney enter their final full day of campaigning, having forked out around $1bn each on their campaigns, the UK papers, like their US counterparts, agree that the contest is too close to call - though the FT splash says: "Obama's advisers confident of victory". The paper says the president "holds a small but winning edge in battleground states heading into the final, frantic day of campaigning".

The Independent's David Usborne writes:

"The possibility clearly looms, however, that Mr Obama could wake up on Wednesday having won the college - and therefore a second term - but having lost the national popular vote, the fate that befell George W Bush in 2000. He would thus return with a seriously weakened mandate to govern."

Hmm, not only do I not believe this will happen - I'm with the New York Times' Nate Silver, who says Obama has a strong chance of not just winning but winning clearly - but I don't buy the idea that such a result would automatically give Obama a "weak mandate". I mean, did Dubya's failure to win the popular vote in 2000 stop him from cutting taxes on the rich, curtailing civil-liberties or invading Iraq? Liberals should stop despairing - as the New Republic's Timothy Noah opines:

"[E]nough with the long faces. Let’s see some more smiles out there, Democrats. There are worse things than winning."


Forget the opinion polls, keep an eye on hamburger sales. From the Mirror:

"As the battle for the White House reaches its climax, one diner in Virginia has been selling Barack Obama burgers, topped with Chicago hot dog and neon green relish, and Mitt Romney burgers – New England surf and turf with a lobster and Hollandaise topping.

And if sales are anything to go by, the Democrat president and his right-wing Republican challenger are neck and neck for tomorrow’s showdown."


"David Cameron wants to flog £6billion of arms on a tour of the Gulf and Middle East that starts today," says the Mirror. "The Prime Minister hopes to secure sales of 100 Typhoon jets on the three-day trip that starts in the United Arab Emirates and also includes Saudi Arabia."

But should the British PM, who has arrived in Dubai this morning, be pushing guns and warplanes to undemocratic regimes in a turbulent region of the world? Doesn't this undermine the Arab Spring? Have Cameron and co forgotten how we armed Colonel Gaddafi right up until the uprisings kicked off?

The Guardian's Ian Black says the trip "is a conspicuous attempt to calm relations between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both vital trading partners" - especially after the Saudi ambassador to the UK attacked the foreign affairs select committee over its decision to investigate the country's human-rights abuses.

Meanwhile, the Green MP Caroline Lucas is quoted in the Mirror as saying that the PM should draw the line at using "dirty money" to boost the UK economy.


The Guardian's Nick Watt reports:

"David Cameron has acknowledged in private that he may be sitting on a further cache of emails and texts to and from Rebekah Brooks after a limited search was carried out for the Leveson inquiry.

The prime minister faced fresh embarrassment over his links with the former News International chief executive as it became clear only a handful of his communications were searched for the inquiry, set up after the phone-hacking scandal.

Cameron and his aides looked for emails and texts with News International or News Corporation employees only if there was a reference to the BSkyB bid. He checked his personal and office phone."

Labour MP Chris Bryant - who is believed to be in contact with a "mole" inside Downing Street - has accused the PM of having "a stash of embarrassing emails". Yesterday, the Mail on Sunday published a rather "embarrassing" text from Brooks to Cameron in which she admitted she had cried twice during his party conference speech: "Brilliant speech. I cried twice. Will love 'working together'."

Writing in the Mail, Peter McKay asks:

"[W]hy were the PM and Chancellor George Osborne, who recommended another former News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, to Cameron to be his Press Secretary, so enamoured of News International executives?

Pathetically, they seemed to think these Murdoch big cheeses might help them to connect with voters who were otherwise unreachable."


Watch this video clip of US comedian and talkshow host Bill Maher recap the highs and lows of this epic US presidential election campaign.


George Osborne will be delighted to read the headline in this morning's Mail: "UK economy 'will power ahead' of continental EU." The paper reports on a new study from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), which predicts "that UK output would shrink by 0.1 per cent this year, before rebounding in 2013 and 2014.

Its forecasts suggest that even Europe's strongest economies will be left behind by the resurgence, with growth of 0.8 per cent expected next year and 1.4 per cent in 2014.

This would put Britain in first place among major European nations, including Germany... and... France..."

Good news, eh? Then again, over the past couple of years, the CEBR, like the IMF, the OBR and the Bank of England, has had to downgrade previous (and over-optimistic) growth forecasts for the UK economy. Let's see how long this one lasts...


Meanwhile, Ed Miliband and his team will be pleased with the headline in this morning's Sun: "Ed's low pay blitz."

The paper reports:

"Bosses who fail to pay a living wage of at least £7.20 an hour would be named and shamed by a Labour Government.

Opposition leader Ed Miliband issued the threat as he linked up with brother David to push for more voluntary pay boosts.

Another backer, London's Tory Mayor Boris Johnson, will unveil the new living wage figure for the capital today — currently £8.30 an hour.

Labour and Tory campaigners argue the legal minimum wage of £6.19 does not provide a decent standard of living."

The Sun quotes Miliband as saying: "You go out, slog your guts out, you deserve a decent wage if the company can afford it."

The Labour leader will be visiting councils in Islington, north London, later this morning, to explain the party's thinking on low pay and a living wage. Brother David, sadly, won't be joining him...


From the Daily Mail:

"The Government is to be sued for more than £200,000 in damages by the country’s biggest grower of native trees over the delays in handling the outbreak of ash dieback disease.

Robert Crowder, chairman and owner of Crowders Nurseries in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, has had to destroy 50,000 ash trees and is blaming three months of dithering and delay by officials for his losses.

He is furious that plant health officials who identified about 15 infected trees at his nursery in June issued an emergency order that prevented him from touching or removing the trees.

It meant the disease spread like wildfire."


From the Independent:

"Nick Clegg today signals that the Liberal Democrats will make reducing childcare costs the key objective of their remaining two and half years in Government.

In a letter to party supporters the Deputy Prime Minister said the Government was examining measures to reduce the burden of childcare on working mothers adding he was 'determined to make sure we do more'.

... After bruising rows over House of Lords Reform and boundary changes over the summer the Lib Dems are keen to change to focus onto more consumer friendly policies which they can highlight at the next election."


From the Times:

"Steve Hilton, the Prime Minister's close friend and strategy guru, is unlikely to return to David Cameron's side, according to friends.

Mr Hilton, who left No 10 this year for a year's sabbatical in California, initially said that he would be back.

His absence will deprive the Prime Minister of a restless presence and blue-sky thinker who played a pivotal role in Mr Cameron's drive to modernise the Tory party but who grew frustrated by the constraints of Whitehall."

The paper says Hilton, the son of Hungarian immigrants, is considering opening an Hungarian restaurant in London. Bizarre...


"Well, I'm very confident... that two days out from Election Day the president is going to be re-elected on Tuesday night." - White House senior adviser David Plouffe, speaking on MSNBC's Meet The Press yesterday.


From the Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 42%

Conservatives 35%

Lib Dems 9%

This would give Labour a majority of 88.


@DJSkelton This is pretty rotten dog whistle politics - Paul Ryan says that Obama win would compromise "Judeo-Christian values"

@AriBerman Florida is still Florida and Ohio is still Ohio and the voting problems this election are feeling a lot like 2000 & 2004

@JohnSlinger Q: how many (especially BBC) journalists does it take to shrewdly analyse a US election from ALL angles. A: Not this many!


Jackie Ashley, writing in the Guardian, says: "After last week's political opportunism, Ed Miliband has to ensure his party counters the nation's growing anti-EU sentiment."

Tim Montgomerie, writing in the Times, says "Vote Mitt": "Washington’s gridlock is bad for the global economy. Obama has proved that he can’t reach across party lines."

Simon Heffer, writing in the Daily Mail, says: "If only we had a REAL choice like America: It has two entirely different visions of the future while our parties have become too similar."

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