Mehdi's 'Sunday Lunchtime' Memo: 'A Vicious and Cowardly Attack'

The ten things you need to know on Sunday 20 January 2013...


"David Cameron has confirmed that three British nationals have been killed in Algeria, a further three are believed to be dead and a British resident has also died.

"The remaining 22 British survivors have returned to the UK and been reunited with their loved-ones, the Foreign Secretary has confirmed.

"Mr Cameron said: 'I know the whole country will want to join me in sending our sympathies and condolences to the families who have undergone an absolutely dreadful ordeal and who now face life without these very precious loved ones.'

"Speaking from Chequers, the PM echoed President Barack Obama and blamed the terrorists for the deaths, saying 'of course people will ask questions about the Algerian response to these events, but I would just say that the responsibility for these deaths lies squarely with the terrorists who launched a vicious and cowardly attack.'"

NOTE: For reasons I won't bore you with, this Memo was delayed today, hence it's 'Sunday Lunchtime', rather than 'Morning', title. Normal service will resume tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed.


Forget the horse meat, it's all about red meat when it comes to the PM and Europe.

From the Observer:

"David Cameron will deliver a 'redmeat announcement' on Britain's future in the EU, which he believes will satisfy all but a hard core of Conservative MPs, when he makes his much-delayed keynote speech on Europe in the next few days.

"Amid uncertainty over the exact timing of the jinxed address, senior government sources told the Observer that the prime minister intends to make the speech this week - possibly tomorrow - if a resolution has been found to the Algerian hostage crisis.

"'He wants to go ahead as soon as possible. There will be something in it which will pacify all but the hard core,' said the source. 'But he could deliver the same kind of speech that Margaret Thatcher gave in Bruges in 1988 and around 25 MPs would not be happy. It is not possible to please everyone.'"

Speaking on the Andrew Marr programme, foreign secretary William Hague confirmed that the PM's 'tantric' speech on Europe would take place in the coming week.

Hague told stand-in presenter Jeremy Vine that an announcement on the location and timing of the speech would happen tomorrow, and said the British public "need their say" on the UK's relationship with Brussels - suggesting that was what his boss, the prime minister, would offer. Watch this space.


Remember the letters to Graham Brady and the 1922 Committee? The ones from Tory backbenchers that could trigger a vote of no-confidence in Dave's leadership of the Conservative Party? There's now 17 of them, apparently.

From the Sunday Times:

"An increasing number of backbenchers are privately discussing the possibility of attempting to unseat the prime minister before the poll in 2015 if the party continues to trail in the polls.

"While there is no immediate threat to his position, a well-placed source said that up to 17 MPs had now written letters of 'no confidence', and there are rumours that at least one list of MPs willing to back a coup is being gathered.

"For the first time, discussions about ousting Cameron before 2015 appear to be spreading beyond the so-called 'usual suspects' — a hard core of about 20 backbenchers who are hostile to his leadership."

Oh dear.

On a side note, Nigel Farage still isn't happy with the Ukip-abusing Tory leader. This morning, on the Andrew Marr programme, Ukip leader Nigel Farage ruled out a post-2015 "deal" with a Cameron-led Conservative Party:

“I think with David Cameron as leader, that is virtually impossible to even contemplate."


Uh-oh. It's not looking so good for Sir Jeremy Heywood. From the Mail on Sunday:

"Britain’s most powerful mandarin faces public humiliation after MPs claimed his bungled investigation cost ‘plebgate’ ex-Tory Minister Andrew Mitchell his job.

"A report by a powerful Commons committee will tomorrow accuse Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood of failing to give the former Chief Whip a chance to prove he was the victim of a police conspiracy.

"A copy of an explosive report by the Commons Public Administration Select Committee, obtained by The Mail on Sunday, shows that MPs lambast Sir Jeremy’s handling of a Downing Street investigation into Mr Mitchell."


Last Sunday, this Memo noted how the two Eds had were keen to position the Labour Party behind an anti-tax-avoidance campaign; this Sunday, it's the turn of the Liberal Democrats.

"Senior Liberal Democrats are drawing up plans for a new levy on Starbucks, Amazon and other global businesses that pay low levels of tax on their British operations.

"As part of preparation for this year’s Budget negotiations, Lib Dems are looking to introduce a minimum tax charge on multinationals based on their global profits.

"Tim Farron, the party’s president, said the charge would address the 'natural outrage' many British people have felt at how little some multinationals contribute to the public finances."

I guess dealing with the 'national outrage' over tax avoidance helps the Lib Dems deal with some of the 'national outrage' over... the Lib Dems themselves.


In honour of yesterday's 'National Gun Appreciation Day' in the United States, watch this amusing video of US gun owners making idiots of themselves.


Remember how Iain Duncan Smith, saviour of the poor, claimed in a recent Today programme interview that he and his department never demonised people on benefits? Remember that?

Well, check out some of today's headlines and news reports. The Sun on Sunday ("£5bn benefiddle") says:

"Ministers will this week step up the war on benefit cheats after false claims hit a record £5.3billion.

Hit squads will be sent into welfare hot spots to target suspect claimants."

The Sunday Express quotes IDS as saying: “The welfare state has over the years become so complex and confusing that fraudsters basically have been given the green light to pick the pockets of hard working taxpayers.

Green light? Hit squads? 'Benefiddle'? I wonder how many papers IDS/the DWP briefed about illegal tax evasion, which is estimated to cost the exchequer tens of billions of pounds compared to illegal benefit fraud which costs just over £1bn (or around 0.7% of the benefits bill).


From the Observer:

"The Office for National Statistics will publish its first estimate of GDP growth for the final quarter of 2012 on Friday and many experts, including at the Bank, expect it to show that the economy contracted. A second negative quarter, from January to March, would mark the onset of Britain's third recession in five years."

The paper says the "Ernst and Young Item Club forecasting group joins those calling on the government to abandon the 2% inflation target, forcing the Bank of England to take more drastic action to lift the economy out of its slump".

No pressure then on Mark Carney, the new bank governor from Canada who takes over Sir Mervyn King in the summer...


Triple-dip or no triple-dip, wages will continue to stagnate over the next few years - and have been in decline since around 2003. Would a living wage help? Ed Miliband thinks so - from the Observer:

"The first detailed blueprint for boosting the wages of millions of low-paid private and public sector workers, while saving the Treasury billions of pounds a year, is released today by two leading thinktanks as support for the living wage grows at Westminster.

"Labour welcomed the radical ideas from the independent Resolution Foundation and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) as an "extremely valuable contribution" to the living wage debate, amid signs they could be taken up by Ed Miliband's party for inclusion in its next general election manifesto."


My former New Statesman colleague George Eaton has done a rather interesting interview with former Thatcher cabinet minister and Tory grandee Kenneth Baker - 'the most transformative education secretary in recent history' - which Michael Gove won't be too pleased with.

The top lines:

1) He describes Gove's English Baccalaureate (EBacc), which will replace GCSEs from 2015, as "a throwback", comparing it to the School Certificate he sat as a 16-year-old in 1951.

2) He says the "jury's out" on free schools and says he doesn't think "allowing them to be run for profit would necessarily change very much, quite frankly. I really don’t think it would".

3) He says "the jump [in tuition fees] to £9,000 was just too much, quite frankly".

10) OBAMA 2.0

It's time for the second term. From the BBC:

"Barack Obama is due to be officially sworn in for his second term as US president in a small ceremony at the White House.

Although the US Constitution requires the oath of office to be taken by noon on 20 January, as that falls on a Sunday the public inauguration will take place on Monday."

The president wants the Almighty on his side. From the Huffington Post:

"When President Obama rests his hand on two historic Bibles to take his second-term oath of office Monday (Jan. 21), he'll add a phrase not mentioned in the Constitution: 'So help me God.'

"... Although the phrase was used in federal courtrooms since 1789, the first proof it was used in a presidential oath of office came with Chester Arthur's inauguration in September 1881.

"Every president since, including Obama, has followed suit."

The Huffington Post has commissioned a series of special pieces on 'Obama's second-term challenges' which you can read here.


From the Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 42

Conservatives 33

Ukip 11

Lib Dems 7

That would give Labour a majority of 96.


‏@TimMontgomerie Never seen Cameron looking so tired, making his Algeria statement. Doesn't look like he's been to bed. Must have been v challenging few days

@OllyGrender Prob remains if PM does go for "in/out referendum" I know precisely where my party stands on that but his party will be chronically divided

@campbellclaret Success of Borgen (currently trending) and West Wing (which I have not seen) a sign of gap in market for essentially pro politics TV?


Liam Fox, writing in the Mail on Sunday, says: "Lethal force, not rational argument, must be our response to these violent fanatics."

Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Observer, says: "Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg's relationship is starting to thaw."

Lord Wolfson, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "I back the single market – but not at any cost."

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