Mehdi's Morning Memo: The Great Political Sulk

The ten things you need to know on Tuesday 15 January 2012..


Last week, the PM and Deputy PM were renewing their vows and extolling the virtues and achievements of their coalition government. Last night, the latter's party blocked a key proposal of the former's party, prompting a Tory peer to denounce the deputy prime minister for his "great political sulk".

From the Daily Mail:

"Angry Tories rounded on Nick Clegg for staging a 'sulk' after Libs Dems last night voted down constituency boundary reform.

"The Government was defeated by 300 votes to 231 in the Lords, where Lib Dem ministers voted against their Tory Coalition partners for the first time. Reforms will now be delayed until 2018.

"Last night Tory peer Lord Dobbs said Lib Dem leader Mr Clegg had staged 'a great political sulk'.

"David Cameron has vowed to equalise constituency sizes, but the Lib Dems are furious over what they see as a betrayal after contentious plans to reform the House of Lords failed."

The Tories desperately need this policy in order to secure around 20 extra seats at the next election and the prime minister is said to be prepared to use the Parliament Act in order to overturn the Lords amendment in a Commons vote later this month. But does he have enough support in the lower house to do so? The SNP has said it now plans to join Labour and the Lib Dems in voting against the boundary changes.

Good luck, Dave!


Whatever happened to Great British Sovereignty, eh? The prime minister, it seems, doesn't even have the power to decide which day to give a speech on.. er.. repatriating powers..

Due to German objections, it'll now be on Friday, not next Tuesday, explains the Times splash:

"David Cameron will this week light a five-year fuse under Britain’s place in Europe after being forced, under pressure from Germany, to bring forward his long-awaited EU speech.

"..[A]rrangements for his EU speech slid into disarray yesterday when he was forced to change the date because of objections from Angela Merkel.

"The German Chancellor advised Mr Cameron during a telephone call on Sunday night that his preferred date of January 22 would be viewed poorly in Berlin and Paris.

"No 10 planners and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office failed to notice that next Tuesday is the 50th anniversary of the Elysée treaty, a key date in the Franco-German calendar, which is being marked by elaborate commemorations."


Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that the UK is in "danger of putting at risk the fight against terrorism and organised crime if the Conservatives win a battle within the coalition to end British involvement in a series of European Union justice measures".

Oh dear. Oh, and Nick Clegg has just been on the Today programme saying the Lib Dem position on a referendum has not changed: "We need to give the British people the reassurance that if there is a new [EU] treaty.. in the future.. then, of course, we should have a referendum at that point." He also said a premature referendum could have a "chilling" effect on the UK economy.


The French government has had strong backing from the UN Security Council overnight, for its ongoing attacks on Islamist rebels in Mali, but is urging African Union troops to take over the mission as soon as possible. The Guardian reports on its front page that " an Islamist militant leader warned the French government its intervention in Mali had opened the 'gates of hell'."

Meanwhile, the Independent splashes on a "warning" to Number 10 from the UK military's "top brass":

"Defence chiefs have warned against Britain becoming enmeshed in the mission against Islamists in Mali, pointing out that any action could be drawn-out and require significantly greater resources than have so far been deployed.

"The most senior commanders are due to make their apprehension clear at a meeting of the National Security Council with the Prime Minister today. They have the backing of the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond."

Has the military learned the lessons of Iraq and especially Afghanistan? You'd hope so. Right?


15.8m number of people living in Mali

90 percentage of population which is Muslim

53 average life expectancy

550 number of French troops deployed so far

1960 the year Mali gained independence from France


Republicans like me are always accused of exaggerating the political and constitutional power of the good ol' monarchy.

Well, check out this astonishing report in today's Guardian:

"The extent of the Queen and Prince Charles's secretive power of veto over new laws has been exposed after Downing Street lost its battle to keep information about its application secret.

"Whitehall papers prepared by Cabinet Office lawyers show that overall at least 39 bills have been subject to the most senior royals' little-known power to consent to or block new laws.

".. In one instance the Queen completely vetoed the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, a private member's bill that sought to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament.

".. Charles has been asked to consent to 20 pieces of legislation and this power of veto has been described by constitutional lawyers as a royal 'nuclear deterrent' that may help explain why ministers appear to pay close attention to the views of senior royals."



Watch this video of the funniest moments from Sunday night's Golden Globes awards ceremony.


Have ministers been attacking senior civil servants in recent weeks in order to distract attention from country's economic problems and their own political difficulties? That's the view of GOD - Gus O'Donnell - as reported in the Independent:

"In an unprecedented intervention, the recent Cabinet Secretary Lord O'Donnell accuses ministers of undermining civil service morale by blaming officials for self-inflicted difficulties..

"'There is a correlation between attacking the civil service and a Government's standing in the polls,' Lord O'Donnell told The Independent. 'The fact is that the eurozone crisis has meant the economy has not recovered as fast as everyone would have liked. But that is not the fault of the civil service.' Lord O'Donnell also warned of the dangers of rushing through new policies without sufficient thought.

"'No one could argue that this Government has been prevented (by the civil service) from pursuing radical policies,' he said. 'Just look at health, education and welfare. They are not short of radical policies. The issue is whether they are the right policies.'"



As I pointed out in yesterday's Memo, the centre-right papers have been very excited about the government's plans for a new flat-rate stat pension, which would help stay-at-home mums. Today's Independent, citing research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), pours cold water on the policy:

"According to the IFS, 'the main effect in the long run will be to reduce pensions for the vast majority of people, while increasing rights for some particular groups, most notably the self-employed.' It said this verdict applied to people born after about 1970. 'In the long run, the reform will not increase accrual for part-time workers and women who take time out to care for children. In fact, in common with everyone else, these groups would end up with a lower pension.'"


From the BBC:

"The European Court of Human Rights is due to deliver a landmark ruling in the cases of four British Christians who claim they suffered religious discrimination at work.

"They include an airline worker stopped from wearing a cross and a registrar who did not want to marry gay people.

"The four insist their right to express their religious beliefs was infringed."

Watch this space. The ruling is expected at around 9am.


Barack Obama, re-elected and reinvigorated, took the fight over the debt ceiling to the Republicans yesterday, with some pretty strong rhetoric - from the Huffington Post:

"President Barack Obama issued a strong warning to Republicans on Monday that he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling or allow Republicans to use it as a bargaining chip.

"'To even entertain the idea of the United States of America not paying our bills is irresponsible. It's absurd,' Obama said in a press conference.

".. If the country failed to meet these obligations, Obama argued, investors around the world would question the credibility of the United States.

"'We are not a deadbeat nation,' Obama said. 'So there's a very simple solution to this: Congress authorizes us to pay our bills.'"

Meanwhile, The Hill reports:

"'I'm a pretty friendly guy. I like a good party,' Obama said during his press conference Monday at the White House. He joked that, 'now that my girls are getting older, they don't want to spend that much time with me anyway, so I'll be probably calling around, looking for somebody to play cards with.'"


Sorry, what?

From the Times:

"A 12ft sculpture of a polar bear named Boris has been unveiled in Sloane Square to raise awareness of the plight of the species. It was unveiled by the Mayor of London’s father, Stanley Johnson, who is an environmental campaigner."


From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 44

Conservatives 31

Lib Dems 11

Ukip 9

That would give Labour a majority of 124.


@TomHarrisMP Thinking of writing an article about how Twitter's increasing unpleasantness and intolerance is making it less relevant.

‏@DAaronovitch I enjoy the incredulity with which Government Nick Clegg reacts to evidence of Opposition Nick Clegg. #bbcr4today

@joshgreenman We are not a deadbeat nation. We are a dubstep nation.


Rachel Sylvester, writing in the Times, warns Cameron not to morph into a "pub bore": "A tough line on Europe and shirkers may be popular, but the Prime Minister has to play the measured statesman."

Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "On the economy, Europe, tax and the NHS, the trajectory is all in favour of Ed Miliband. Now his party can start to dare."

Will Straw, writing in the Daily Telegraph, says: "A referendum would give pro-Europeans the chance to win the case for democratic reform."

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

Popular in the Community