13/11/2012 03:29 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Abu's Out

The ten things you need to know on Tuesday 13 November...


"Laughing in our faces," screams the headline on the front of the Mirror, referring to the decision of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) to free extremist cleric Abu Qatada on bail, after it ruled that his deportation to Jordan would violate his right to a fair trial. ("Abu Hiss," incidentally, is the Sun's splash.)

"Qatada allowed to roam free... and it will cost us £5m a year," says the Telegraph headline, noting how he'll be allowed to "roam free for eight hours a day". The paper says the SIAC ruling "is a humiliating blow for [Theresa] May, who personally travelled to Jordan to obtain assurances that Qatada would face a fair trial".

The home secretary has said she will appeal the ruling; deputy prime minister Nick Clegg told ITV1's Daybreak this morning that the government was "determined to deport him".

The King of Jordan visits the UK next week - his country has a long history of using torture against detainees and then using the evidence obtained from that torture in court. On the Today programme this morning, a Jordanian minister told John Humphrys that "our human rights records are extremely positive" and disputed Human Rights Watch's numerous criticisms of Jordan's interrogation methods. Hmm. I'm not sure how the Home Secretary can trust "assurances" about refraining from using torture evidence from a regime which refuses to acknowledge that it tortures prisoners in the first place.

The Times leader, however, is headlined: "Time to go home." It says that "Abu Qatada is making the law look like an ass".

The legal battle involving Abu Qatada has been going on for a decade and cost the British taxpayer millions of pounds but the simple question is this: if he's so dangerous, and so close to the late Osama Bin Laden, why not charge him, try him and lock him up here? Why send him far, far away, where he'll be out of sight, out of mind?


The 'crisis at the BBC' rumbles on - MPs in the Commons yesterday queued up to attack BBC Trust chair Chris Patten's decision to pay outgoing DG George Entwistle a year's salary (£450,000). Will Entwistle be forced to end up paying some of the money back?

"BBC boss was paid double to go quietly," says the Telegraph splash. The Times adds this bit of colour:

"The vice-chairman of the trust, Diane Coyle, agreed the payout with [Lord Patten] over the telephone as she watched Strictly Come Dancing."

How appropriate! The Telegraph report says:

"Details of how Mr Entwistle’s payout was agreed emerged as an internal review by Ken MacQuarrie, the director of BBC Scotland, found that the BBC Newsnight report was rushed out in just five days, during which there was “widespread confusion” about who was responsible for signing it off."

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports:

"Two BBC executives involved with the Newsnight broadcast that wrongly linked a 'senior Conservative' – widely understood to be Lord McAlpine – to child abuse allegations face the prospect of disciplinary action, after a BBC internal inquiry concluded that there had been 'unacceptable' editorial failings involved in the broadcast.

BBC sources said that Liz Gibbons, the programme's acting editor, and Adrian Van Klaveran, the supervising executive seconded from his job running Radio 5 Live, are expected to face a disciplinary process that could result in them being sacked or exonerated.

A summary of a BBC report, written by Ken MacQuarrie the broadcaster's Scotland director, examining the circumstances around Newsnight's error of mistaken identity – which is likely to see the corporation on the receiving end of legal action from McAlpine – said 'basic editorial checks were not completed'."


The BBC Trust has begun its search for a new director-general. The Times splash says the corporation is looking "outside to salvage its reputation". The paper reports:

"Lord Patten of Barnes, chairman of the BBC Trust, is understood to want a new Director-General who is not a BBC lifer like George Entwistle, who resigned on Saturday after 54 days in the job.

Sources said that the chairman was considering making a direct approach to a number of individuals who did not apply for the job rather than advertise it again. Alternatively, he may reconsider the four non-BBC figures who applied for the role earlier this year.

One name being talked up inside the corporation is Tony Hall, chief executive of the Royal Opera House and former director of news at the BBC, who did not apply this year but who is highly regarded inside and outside the organisation."

As I mentioned in yesterday's Memo, another leading 'outside' candidate is believed to be Ed Richards, the chief executive of media regulator Ofcom, who came very close to getting the job last time round.


Is this more evidence of Ed Miliband's 'responsible capitalism' thesis? From the Guardian:

"The City watchdog, the Financial Services Authority, is investigating claims by a whistleblower that Britain's £300bn wholesale gas market has been "regularly" manipulated by some of the big power companies, exploiting weaknesses that echo the recent Libor scandal.

Separately, the energy regulator Ofgem has been warned by a company responsible for setting so-called benchmark prices, ICIS Heren, that it had seen evidence of suspect trading on 28 September, a key date as it marks the end of the gas financial year and can have an important influence on future prices.

The whistleblower, who worked for ICIS Heren, raised the alarm after identifying what he believed to be attempts to distort the prices reported by the company. These benchmark prices are critically important because many wholesale gas contracts are based on them and small changes in the price can cost or save companies millions.

The revelations come at a highly charged time for Britain's energy sector, with many of the big six suppliers under public fire for alleged profiteering on household energy bills and mis-selling on the doorstep."


Nick Clegg will try and woo hard-working families today with a big speech on parental leave in Putney, south-west London.

From the Sun:

"Mums and dads will be able to share a year's maternity leave for the first time, Nick Clegg will announce today.

The Deputy PM will say the new system of "flexible parental leave" is to start from 2015.

It means women can go back to work whenever they feel ready and their partner can take time off from that point.

The only rule is that no more than 12 months can be taken in total, with only nine months at guaranteed pay."

The Mail, however, reports that Clegg "has been forced to drop plans to give fathers six weeks of paid paternity leave, following opposition from Tories and business.

In a speech today, the Lib Dem leader will admit he has lost a Coalition battle to add an extra month to the fortnight granted now."

The Resolution Foundation's James Plunkett will be blogging on this issue for the HuffPost UK later today.


To tie in with Abu Qatada's release, watch this clip from the Chris Morris movie, Four Lions, in which a terrorist tries to hide his beard as he buys bottles of liquid peroxide. Sidesplittingly hilarious...


From the BBC:

"Labour's bid to delay an increase in fuel duty of 3p a litre planned for January has been defeated in the Commons by a government majority of 48.

Labour, which wanted to delay it until at least April saying 'it would be wrong' for it to take effect sooner, was defeated by 282 votes to 234."

The Guardian says the "Treasury gave a powerful hint that the government could defer a planned 3p increase in fuel duty.

... Sajid Javid, the economic secretary to the Treasury, won over Tory rebels when he said the government was 'determined' to help struggling households. The chancellor could make an announcement in next month's autumn statement."


The Petraeus plot thickens - from the Huffington Post:

"In a new twist to the Gen. David Petraeus sex scandal, the Pentagon said Tuesday that the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, is under investigation for alleged "inappropriate communications" with a woman who is said to have received threatening emails from Paula Broadwell, the woman with whom Petraeus had an extramarital affair."

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that "the former CIA chief David Petraeus was yesterday said to be devastated by the collapse of his career following an extramarital affair, as those around his former lover warned that more details regarding the relationship were yet to emerge. 'He sees this as a failure, and this is a man who has never failed at anything,' CNN quoted an unnamed friend of Petraeus as saying."

I'm still chortling at the New York Post's 'Spy Who Shagged Me' Austin-Powers-themed splash on Sunday...

On a side note, the Washington Post says President Obama is going to make Senator John Kerry, the former Democratic presidential candidate, his new defence secretary - despite Kerry coveting the job of Secretary of State which will now "almost certainly go to Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations".


That was the question posed to Ed Miliband yesterday by a voter in Wolverhampton who said she thought he was "fit". Take that, John Humphreys!

Find out the Labour leader's answer to her question in this Mirror story.


From my HuffPost colleague Charlie Thomas:

"A debate spanning almost three hours into how international companies pay income tax in the UK resulted in little progress as MPs struggled to land many blows on Google, Amazon and Starbucks executives.

Despite a highly engaging, and at times amusing debate, the truth remained that all of the companies present complied with existing tax legislation, and were unmoved by the politicians' pleas that the lack of income tax paid in the UK was immoral.

Of the three representatives present at the hearing, Amazon's director of public policy Andrew Cecil looked the most uncomfortable, failing to answer several of the questions put to him by the committee.

Chaired by Margaret Hodge MP, the committee was astounded - and prompted to scoff audibly - when Cecil refused to detail how many of its European wide sales originated in the UK, telling MPs: 'We have never broken out the figures on a country or a website basis.'

Hodge retaliated with: 'It's insulting to say you don't know what's happening in each territory - your entire activity is here but you only pay a tiny amount of tax.'"


From the Sun:

"Jungle Tory MP Nadine Dorries blew her first Bushtucker Trial yesterday — along with fellow blonde Helen Flanagan.

'Mad Nad' quit screaming in horror after being buried in a coffin under maggots, 3,000 cockroaches and 5,000 crickets.

And her I'm A Celebrity torment will continue on tonight's instalment when she has to eat camel toe, lamb's testicle and ostrich anus in another task."


“Totally disappointed, man. I’m the guy who has egg all over his face, but instead of egg, it’s a big Romney/Ryan tattoo. It’s there for life.” - Indiana resident and Romney supporter Eric Hartsburg regrets the 5-by-2-inch tattoo of Mitt Romney's campaign logo that he had done on his face last week. Check out the picture here.


From the latest Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 39

Conservatives 35

Lib Dems 10

This would give Labour a majority of 46.


@georgegalloway It may be time to break up BBC. Too big too biased too lacking in competence

@adilray Abu Qatada needs to be punished. He needs to be flogged in public, take blame for his misfits and his future ruined.Give him the BBC DG job.

‏@JackieAshley Times suggests Tony Hall for DG. Now there's a grown up.


Tessa Jowell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "The BBC can weather this storm if we eradicate its culture of moral smugness."

Steve Richards, writing in the Independent, says: "It's inexcusable that Entwistle didn't know something was up with the Newsnight programme, but why didn't any of the BBC's horde of managers give him a nudge?"

Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "When programmes like The Archers are silent on government policy, it's no wonder the public feels so disengaged."

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