Mehdi's Morning Memo: Mili's Mansion Gamble

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Mili's Mansion Gamble

The five things you need to know on Friday 15 February 2013...


If you're Ed Miliband, trailing on the economy in the polls and attacked for being a policy-free zone, what do you do? How do manage, as the Labour leader did yesterday, to unite the Telegraph's Dan Hodges, the Independent's Owen Jones and ConHome's Tim Montgomerie behind you? Why, you give a major speech on the economy in which you, in the words of the Guardian, "undo one of Gordon Brown's greatest mistakes by announcing that Labour intends to reintroduce a 10p tax band funded by a new mansion tax on properties valued at more than £2m".

The paper's political editor Patrick Wintour writes:

"Brown abolished the 10p rate in 2007, prompting a revolt of Labour MPs and the low-paid. On Thursday Miliband described it as a mistake and the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, said the abolition meant 'people understandably thought Labour was no longer on the side of the hard-working people we have always sought to help'."

And the paper's leader argues:

"Mr Miliband has begun to write something specific on what for too long has been Labour's fiscal blank page. For that alone, he deserves credit for a good day's work."

Lefty Lib Dems, such as the business secretary Vince Cable who first pitched the idea of a mansion tax in opposition, wil look with envy at Mili's mansion tax proposal.

Not everyone's happy - the Times calls the move a "sleight of hand". The Institute for Fiscal Studies calls it "a remarkable failure to learn from history".

Writing for the Huffington Post UK, Tory backbencher Robert Halfon MP, who has led the campaign for the restoration of the 10p tax rate, dismissed Miliband's proposal as "a PR wheeze written on the back of an envelope".

The Sun agrees with Halfon:

"[W]hy won't [Miliband] wholeheartedly commit his party to it — rather than describing it as an 'ambition?' Perhaps because it's a cynical stunt hurriedly thrown together to woo wavering voters at next week's Eastleigh by-election."

"Nevertheless," the paper adds, "The Sun welcomes Ed's idea of a 10p rate."

And, ultimately, you might say, from Labour's perspective, that's all that matters...

Note: For various technical reasons, today's Memo contains only five, not ten, things you need to know. Apologies.


'Compassionate' Cameron seems like a distant memory; now we have a populist PM who sounds like a Daily Mail leader writer.

From the Times splash:

"David Cameron was challenged by Brussels last night over his increasing efforts to impose tougher curbs on immigrants.

"The Prime Minister thrust the issue to the forefront of the Eastleigh byelection yesterday, saying that Britain must do more to deter immigrants by cutting their access to benefits and services.

"There's a lot more to do to make sure that we are not a soft touch," Mr Cameron told voters on his first campaign visit to the constituency in Hampshire.

"It was too easy for migrants from overseas 'to come here and take advantage of us', he added."

But the paper quotes EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding as saying: "There are one million British citizens living in other member states. Do you think those member states can discriminate against them because they are British citizens? You treat them the same as you treat national citizens."

Hear, hear!


It isn't just EU migrants who are in the PM's crosshairs - from the Telegraph splash:

"As Asda withdrew four beef products following the discovery of horse DNA in bolognese sauce, David Cameron was said to be increasingly angered at the way consumers had been 'misled' about what they were buying.

"The Prime Minister believes that senior executives of major stores should have given media interviews to explain why horse meat had got on to British plates and what checks were made with suppliers."

"A senior No 10 source said on Thursday: 'It is not acceptable for retailers to remain silent while their customers have been misled. The supermarkets need to justify their action and reassure the public.'

"The comments came as the food industry prepared to reveal the results of 1,000 tests carried out on products stocked by 13 retailers. They are expected to show that the horse meat scandal is more widespread than previously thought."


Watch this video of a ginger cat attacking a large potato.


From the Times:

"More than a fifth of local authorities are set to defy the Government’s policy to freeze council tax from April. George Osborne had hoped that town halls would accept subsidies to stave off any council tax rises for a third year. But at least 81 councils in England and Wales — nearly three times as many as last year — have announced that they intend to put up taxes from April."

Meanwhile, the BBC reports:

"Government attempts to stimulate the economy have been criticised as 'expensive experiments' by an influential group of MPs.

"The Public Accounts Committee said the Treasury could not say what the effect of the Bank of England's quantitative easing programme had been.

"A flagship lending scheme had also 'failed' the MPs said."


Shock! Horror! A lack of money is a central factor in child poverty, say a group of experts. Are you listening, IDS?

From the Guardian:

"The government's desire to alter the official definition of child poverty risks deliberately downplaying the importance of money just as a series of government policies will reduce the incomes of poor families, a group of senior academics warn in a letter to the Guardian today... The letter, signed by some of the country's leading academics in this field, agrees [with the government] that in addition to the current measures used to count the number of children living in poverty, it would be 'helpful to track what is happening to the factors that lead to poverty and the barriers to children's life chances'.

"But they warn: 'It does not make sense to combine all of these into a single measure. To do so would open up the government to the accusation that it aims to dilute the importance of income in monitoring the extent of 'poverty' at precisely the time that many of its policies will be reducing the real incomes of poor families.'

"Professor Jonathan Bradshaw, the lead consultant on the UK's contribution to Unicef's Child Well-Being report, said he believed that the government was 'trying to move the goalposts' at a time when child poverty was increasing rapidly."


Today's the tenth anniversary of the march against the Iraq war - for all the Huffington Post UK's special coverage of the march and the conflict, click here. For my latest column, 'On Iraq, the Hawks Were Wrong About Everything', click here.

The Guardian, meanwhile, has a poll showing:

"A majority of voters, 55%, agree with suggestions that 'the London marchers were right', because 'a war sold on a false prospectus delivered little but bloodshed'. That is almost twice the 28% who believe the marchers were wrong, on the basis that the war's achievement in 'toppling the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein' eventually made the world a better place."


From the latest Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 42

Conservatives 31

Lib Dems 11

Ukip 10

That would give Labour a majority of 114.

From yesterday's Evening Standard/Ipsos MORI poll:

Labour 42

Conservatives 30

Ukip 9

Lib Dems 7

That would give Labour a majority of 112.


@steverichards14 Ed M has signalled distance from Brown era while using a Brown ploy- a popular tax rise and tax cut to symbolise fairness. Clever politics.

@schofieldkevinWhen Gordon Brown scrapped the 10p tax rate in 2008, @Ed_Miliband said: "Overall these changes make the tax system fairer."

@mrjohnofarrell: Fear I have already turned into political robot. Valentines card to wife just said 'Vote Labour in #Eastleigh for a One Nation alternative'.'


Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "Ed Miliband is a man with the makings of a brave and visionary leader."

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Slavery, not horse meat, is the real scandal on our doorstep."

Liz Truss, writing in the Independent, says: "The curriculum we are introducing captures British history in all it's multi-layered, omni-racial glory."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan ( or Ned Simons ( You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

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