Mehdi's Morning Memo: When's The Banker Bashing Going To Start?

The ten things you need to know on Sunday 10 February 2013...


Supposedly, we've been beastly to bankers for the past five years - that is, since they crashed the global economy through a combination of greed, avarice and rank incompetence. But the banker-bashing hasn't stopped the former 'masters of the universe' dusting themselves off with taxpayers' cash and carrying on with business (and bonuses) as usual.

Check out the splash in today's Sunday Times:

"The boss of Royal Bank of Scotland will be handed a £780,000 bonus just weeks after the bailed-out lender was fined £390m for its role in the global interest rate rigging scandal.

"... The bonanza comes at a sensitive time for the Edinburgh-based lender, which was rescued from collapse in 2008. Last week RBS agreed to pay out £390m, including £87.5m to the British financial watchdog, after admitting staff had manipulated Libor, a key benchmark interest rate. In an apparent attempt to boost their bonuses some 21 RBS traders had been involved in the manipulation."

The paper quotes the ever-quotable Lord Oakeshott, Lib Dem peer and mate of Vince Cable, as saying:

“It is wholly unacceptable that Hester should receive a bonus for 2010 when these scandals were still going on. He had been captain of the ship for two years, but the crew was still robbing the passengers.”


"Thousands more people will pay inheritance tax to fund a watered-down version of the Dilnot plan for universal state funding for elderly and social care, the government is expected to announce on Monday.

"Pensioners and disabled adults will have to pay up to £75,000 of any care bills they incur before the state steps in under the new arrangement. There will also be an increase in the means-test threshold, so that anyone with assets under £123,000 will automatically receive free care.

The Sunday Times reports, on its front page, under the headline "Stealth tax on inheritance':

"The decision comes just eight weeks after George Osborne, the chancellor, promised to increase the amount in two years’ time.

"Now he has decided it will not go up until at least 2019, leaving thousands of families £95,000 worse off than if the tax free allowance had risen."

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, dodged the question about inheritance tax and funding of social care on the Marr show this morning: "Let's wait until tomorrow's announcement..."

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, deputy PM Nick Clegg says: “We will make sure no-one is forced to sell their home to pay for care in their lifetime, and no-one sees their life savings disappear just because they developed the wrong kind of illness.”

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times reports: "The bosses of some of the companies that provide home care for the elderly are receiving millions of pounds in pay, share options and dividends despite 'scandalous' failings in care."

Everyone, say it with me: "We're all in this together."


What will the coalition look like in the wake of the Eastleigh by-election? Will it be a re-run of the fallout from the AV referendum? This time, though, it could be the Lib Dems who have the upper hand.

From the Sunday Times:

"The Conservatives have admitted they face a 'big challenge' to win the Eastleigh by-election triggered by Chris Huhne's resignation.

"Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, who visited the Hampshire constituency yesterday as the party launched its campaign, has acknowledged that the Tories will have to 'battle' to wrest the seat from the Liberal Democrats, who held it with a majority of 3,864 in the 2010 general election.

"The Lib Dem candidate is 60-year-old financial adviser Mike Thornton, who sits on the borough council. The announcement of his candidacy last night made no mention of Huhne, claiming the party's campaign would focus on bringing jobs and investment to the area."

Grayling is right to be worried - a new Survation poll in the constituency for the Mail on Sunday has put the Lib Dems three points ahead: Lib Dems, 36%; Tories, 33%; Ukip, 16%; Labour, 13%.


Last Sunday, this Memo noted how the Observer's Toby Helm had gone to war with Michael Gove after being smeared as a Labour stooge on Twitter by the @toryeducation account.

This Sunday, Helm's back for more - from the front page of the Observer:

"Michael Gove faces accusations that he may have misled parliament over claims of bullying and intimidation by key advisers at the Department for Education.

"The Observer can reveal that a senior civil servant in the education secretary's department has received a secret payoff of about £25,000 out of public funds, after a lengthy grievance procedure involving members of Gove's team, including his special adviser, Dominic Cummings, and the department's former head of communications, James Frayne.

"... On 23 January, however, Gove – who under the ministerial and special advisers' codes is responsible for the behaviour of his advisers (known as Spads) – denied knowledge of any allegations of misconduct during an appearance before the education select committee."



"The full extent of Michael Gove's plans to revolutionise education are revealed today in a secret memo showing he is considering outright privatisation of academies and free schools. All academies and free schools in England, which are the Education Secretary's personal obsession, would be free to become profit-making for the first time, and be entirely decoupled from Whitehall control.

"Leaked documents of the minutes of a meeting of top Department for Education officials on the future of funding the academies programme have alarmed teaching unions and the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg last year ruled out any expansion of the private sector in state schools."

So, can Clegg score a hat-trick against Gove, having so far succeeded in stopping the education secretary's plans to create a two-tier exam system and bring in the 'Ebacc'?


Watch this video of a cat getting its face stuck in a yogurt cup.


The PM has been making the case against Scottish independence on the Downing Street website - from the Huffington Post UK:

"The implications of the referendum next Autumn will affect not just Scotland, but England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Conservative leader said.

"He drew on Britain's Olympic glory to evoke an image of a united Britain, saying: 'Those glorious Olympics last summer reminded us just what we were capable of when we pull together: Scottish, English, Welsh, Northern Irish, all in the same boat - sometimes literally.

"'If you told many people watching those Olympics around the world that we were going to erect barriers between our people, they'd probably be baffled. Put simply: Britain works. Britain works well. Why break it?'"


You may have assumed that the multimillionaire Tory backbencher Adam Afriyie, who most people outside of the Westminster village had never heard of a few weeks ago, might want to cool all the Sunday-newspaper talk of leadership bids, plots and coups. You'd be wrong.

According to the Sunday Times, he's been "secretly consulting" with equalities expert, New Labour supporter and Mandelson ally, Trevor Phillips, on how to win the black vote:

"The MP has won the support of the former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, who believes he has been wrongly overlooked by the current leadership.

“'I like Adam and he is a friend. I was extremely surprised that he did not get ministerial office,' Phillips said.

"The support of Phillips, a key new Labour figure, is a coup for Afriyie and suggests he is widening his campaign to position himself as a future leadership candidate beyond Westminster."

And so it goes on...

8) AID

From the Observer:

"Justine Greening's decision to end British aid to India was based on placating Tory backbenchers, instead of combating poverty, according to a damning report from the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank.

"Will Straw, the associate director of the IPPR, said that the coalition's announcement in November that aid to India would be halted in 2015, was 'a tactic for winning votes at home rather than tackling poverty abroad'."

The paper quotes Max Lawson, the head of policy at Oxfam, saying that there was "no development case to be made for stopping aid to India".

"Three hundred thousand women a year die in childbirth," he said. "It's completely inexcusable that the rich in India allow that to happen – but that's just as true in Nigeria or in Angola, and no one says we shouldn't help poor people in those places."

The problem for foreign aid supporters such as myself is that India is one of the world's biggest economies and, as the right-wing press constantly reminds us, even has its own space programme. It's very, very difficult to make the case for giving foreign aid to a country able to afford rocket ships...


More tax avoidance stuff in the papers - this time, concerning a UK multinational and allegations of tax dodging abroad - from the Observer's splash:

"One of Britain's biggest multinationals, whose brands include Silver Spoon sugar, Twinings Tea and Kingsmill bread, is avoiding paying millions of pounds of tax in an African state blighted by malnutrition, a year-long investigation revealed on Sunday.

"The Zambian sugar-producing subsidiary of Associated British Foods, a FTSE100 company, contributed virtually no corporation tax to the state's exchequer between 2007 and 2012, and none at all for two of those years."


"Alastair Campbell is working in the Downing Street press office. This news caused more than one No10 aide to spill his coffee last week. They couldn't believe that Tony Blair's intensely tribal communications supremo was now spinning with the Coalition. Order was restored when it was established that although the name was correct, it wasn't that Alastair Campbell. His namesake is helping out with ethnic minority media, I'm told."


From the Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 41

Conservatives 32

Lib Dems 11

Ukip 9

That would give Labour a majority of 96.

From the Opinium/Observer fortnightly poll:

Labour 39

Conservatives 29

Ukip 14

Lib Dems 8

That would give Labour a majority of 112.


@jocarr Interesting. Michael Portillo argues Lords would be "out of its constitutional depth" if they reject gay marriage after Commons vote. #bh

‏@ianbirrell India didn't want our aid - but IPPR says we should have forced it on them. The arrogance of aid apostles...

‏@RanaKabbani54 Instead of privatizing government schools, #Gove might like to nationalize private ones. Educational equality not educational apartheid.


Janet Daley, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "The Prime Minister did the impossible on unifying the Conservative Party on Europe, then chucked the gay marriage grenade."

John Rentoul, writing in the Independent on Sunday, asks: "Is Mr Cameron out of touch, cowardly, lazy...?"

James Forsyth, writing in the Mail on Sunday, asks: "Can Nick Clegg rise from the dead in Chris Huhne's old haunt?"

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