05/02/2013 03:32 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Gay Wedding Day

The ten things you need to know on Tuesday 5 February 2013...


Tory MPs opposed to gay marriage, speak now or forever hold your peace. Although what is more likely to happen is: Speak later on today, probably lose the vote, and then carry on chatting about how awful it is for a bit longer.

MPs will vote on gay marriage later today. The coalition will get its Bill passed second reading given it has the support of Labour. But David Cameron will be keen to convince at least half of his 303 MPs to follow him through the ‘aye’ lobby. Winning a vote despite, rather than because, of your own party is never a good look for a prime minister.

Maria Miller sat down with HuffPost UK yesterday ahead of today’s vote and denied reports pressure was being put on MPs to vote in favour of her Bill. The culture secretary also insisted she would not be backing down in the face of fierce opposition from within her own party. Miller, who pointed to the abolition of the slave trade as proof of her party’s progressive tradition, said it was not good enough to deny people the right to marry simply because they are gay. "Marriage is an important part of our society, it’s a vital way that people can publically state their relationships and I don’t think it’s for the state to stand in the way of that happening simply based on someone’s sexuality,” she said.

The Daily Mail reports this morning that Iain Duncan Smith, who famously backed Section 28 while Tory leader in 2003, will vote with Cameron in favour of gay marriage.

And William Hague, Theresa May and George Osborne have written a joint letter to the Daily Telegraph urging their colleagues to support same-sex marriage. The “big guns”, as the paper describes them, argue, “attitudes to gay people have changed”.

During the vote eyes will be on their cabinet colleagues, including environment secretary Owen Paterson and Welsh secretary David Jones, who are known to have concerns about gay marriage.

Speaking of Paterson. He does appear to have a habit of appointing ministerial aides who then shortly afterwards resign the post after rebelling against the government. His current PPS, David Burrowes, has told the Spectator that he intends to vote against the timetable of the bill, which is whipped, as well as the substantive intent of the legislation, which is not. This could lead to the leading anti-gay marriage MP losing his job.

Today’s Memo is edited by Ned Simons as Mehdi Hasan can’t be dragged away from YouTube clips of Beyonce’s Sunday night Super Bowel performance.


A failed marriage is at the centre of today’s other big story. Yesterday former Lib Dem cabinet minister Chris Huhne shocked Westminster by pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice after asking his wife to accept speeding points on his behalf.

Tragically the evidence revealed as series of text messages between Huhne and his son, revealing the teenager’s anger at his father: "We all know that you were driving and you put pressure on mum. Accept it or face the consequences. You've told me that was the case. Or will this be another lie?"

Huhne will resign his seat in the Commons, trigging a by-election in his Eastleigh seat. The south coast constituency is a Lib Dem-Tory marginal and will be the first proper electoral fight between the coalition partners since 2010. The Daily Mail reports Cameron has told Tory campaign headquarters to “go for the kill” in the battle for the seat.


If Huhne’s son is annoyed at him, then the former energy secretary’s one time cabinet colleague, Andrew Mitchell, is equally angry with The Sun.

In an interview with Channel 4’s Despatches last night, Mitchell revealed he intended to sue the paper for libel over its report that claimed he called police officers outside No.10 “plebs” during the now infamous argument at the gates.

Mitchell is also clearly a bit miffed at the prime minster for wanting to make the scandal go away. "I think Downing Street wanted this to go away. They really wanted me to lie low and let them get on with running the country but I couldn't do that - I couldn't wake up every morning for the rest of my life knowing that I had been stitched up," he Mitchell.


Joe Biden is in town today to meet Cameron and Nick Clegg. He flew into Stanstead, lucky him, last night and will attend a meeting of the National Security Council later today. He is also likely to raise the issue of the European Union and Britain's place in it.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR: Here is a gallery of photos showing Biden looking cool in aviators and fist bumping people.


At 4pm the Liaison committee will grill, or rather gently warm, Nick Clegg on various areas of government policy. Usually the committee, made up of the select committee chairs, only convenes to question the prime minister. So parliamentary geeks, including your editor, are super excited and naturally assume this will be carried live on BBC and Sky. Although it does clash on TV with Antique’s Road Show – so you watch that, we’ll watch Clegg for you.


Let’s have jump jets. Wait, no lets have carrier jets. OK. No let’s have jump jets.

The Ministry of Defence was strongly criticised by MPs today over the "flawed" decision to switch fighter aircraft for the Royal Navy's new carriers - costing an extra £100m.

It was announced in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review that the Government would adopt the carrier variant of the US-built F35 Joint Strike Fighter rather than the "jump jet" version chosen by the previous Labour government.

Ministers argued that the carrier variant was a more capable aircraft and that it would increase "interoperability" with other navies - even though it meant mothballing one of the two carriers on grounds of affordability.

However last May, defence secretary Philip Hammond announced the MoD was reverting to the jump jet version amid fears the costs of fitting the necessary catapults and arrestor gear - "cats and traps" - were spiralling out of control.


From the BBC: The Scottish government has drawn up a detailed paper outlining the possible transition to independence.

Under the plans, based on a "yes" vote in a 2014 referendum, independence day for Scotland would be in March 2016. The first elections to an independent parliament would follow in May.


The U.S. counterterrorism practice known as extraordinary rendition, in which suspects were quietly moved to secret prisons abroad and often tortured, involved the participation of more than 50 nations, according to a new report to be released Tuesday by the Open Society Foundations.

The OSF report, which offers the first wholesale public accounting of the top-secret program, puts the number of governments that either hosted CIA "black sites," interrogated or tortured prisoners sent by the U.S., or otherwise collaborated in the program at 54. The report also identifies by name 136 prisoners who were at some point subjected to extraordinary rendition.

The number of nations and the names of those detained provide a stark tally of a program that was expanded widely -- critics say recklessly -- by the George W. Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and has been heavily condemned in the years since.


A report Monday night on the nature of the administration's drone program has the potential to dramatically revamp the debate over President Barack Obama's foreign policy and the confirmation process for his incoming cabinet.

The report, by Michael Isikoff of NBC News, reveals that the Obama administration believes that high-level administration officials -- not just the president -- may order the killing of “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or an associated force even without evidence they are actively plotting against the U.S.

“A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination,” states the Justice Department white paper quoted by Isikoff.


Cabinet ministers should be given the power formally to appoint their most senior civil servants to help end a culture of amateurism in Whitehall, according to an independent think tank.

Insiders, including ministers and key officials, have painted a bleak picture of the inner workings of government telling of a system that lacks expertise and deals with "appalling" members of staff by promoting them out.

They told Reform that the two biggest issues hampering success were the "relentless" rotation of officials and an unwillingness to challenge bad performance or reward the good.


@ChrisBryantMP Changing the law changes attitudes. Even MPs who voted against civil partnerships will vote for Same Sex Marriage today.

@janemerrick23 Today is a very good day to bury bad views #gaymarriage #equalmarriage

@jameschappers Angela Eagle just owned Charles Moore. Good courteous debate, though - don't expect it'll be same in Commons later #today


Rachel Sylvester in The Times: "Chris Huhne’s fall was personal, not political. But in today’s Westminster pressure cooker that counts for nothing."

Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph: "Could Chris Huhne take Nick Clegg or David Cameron with him?"

Steve Richards in the Independent: "Gay marriage: no one can stop this social revolution now."

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