Mehdi's Morning Memo: Less Aid More Arms

The five things you need to know on Thursday 21 February 2013...


David Cameron has indicated that he is ready to consider using money from the UK's official aid budget to fund military operations to stabilise war-torn states in the poor world. The Guardian reports: "Hundreds of millions of pounds from Britain's aid budget are expected to be diverted to peacekeeping defence operations as the government moves to build up support on the Tory benches for overseas development."

Harry, Zayn, Liam, Louis, Niall ... and Dave. WATCH: That time the prime minister was in a music video with One Direction in the name of Comic Relief. The prime minister has joined the Brit award winning boy band for their charity single helping raising money for good causes including aid programmes in Africa. Which isn't at all awkward considering it is released on the same day he said he would consider cutting the aid budget.

Today's Memo is edited by Ned Simons as Mehdi Hasan is still going strong at Brit award after parties


The Daily Telegraph reports that David Willetts has suggested people in their sixties should go back to university to retrain because they will be expected to work for longer before they get to retire.

Willets said: “There is certainly a pressure for continuing to get retrained and upskilled. Higher education has an economic benefit in that if you stay up to date with knowledge and skills you are more employable.

"Education is such a good thing it is not reserved for younger people,” he said. “There will be people of all ages who will want to study. There is great value in lifelong learning.”


George Galloway walked out of a debate with an Israeli student at Oxford university after discovering his opponent was an Israeli citizen. The Respect MP was taking part in a debate on whether 'Israel should withdraw immediately from the West Bank'.

After giving way to student Eylon Aslan-Levy Galloway then learned he was an Israeli. “I have been misled,” Galloway said, interrupting Aslan-Levy’s speech. “I don’t debate with Israelis” He then walked out of the rom.

Cherwell.org has a video of the incident here. Students respond to Galloway's comment with a mixture of disbelief and laughter.


From HuffPost: As President Obama faces a tough showdown with congressional Republicans over the looming sequestration cuts, a new poll shows the commander-in-chief with his highest approval rating in over three years.

A Bloomberg National poll released Wednesday found that 55 percent of Americans approve of Obama's performance, his highest rating in the poll since September 2009. The poll also found that 49 percent of respondents believe that the president's proposals to increase government spending in key areas are more likely to spur job creation than GOP-backed efforts to cut both spending and taxes.

Additionally, the Bloomberg poll found Republican popularity at a record low. Just 35 percent of respondents said they have a favorable view of the GOP, marking the lowest ratings for the party since the poll began three years ago. The Republican rating also marked a six point drop over the last six months.

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David Cameron has rejected calls to return the Koh-i-Noor diamond, the jewel, which sits in the Queen's crown, to India. Critics of the prime minister say the diamond was stolen from India in the days of the British Empire and should be returned. But The Sun reports Cameron has declared: "They’re not having that back.” Which may not be the best way to end a diplomatic charm offensive.


@JBeattieMirror Two stories, same day. Cameron "saves" a diamond for royals. Govt hits 420,000 disabled and carers with bedroom tax.

@DPJHodges Are we really considering reforming the entire British jury system just because the Vicky Pryce jurors were idiots.


David Aaranovitch in The Times: "Now we know why it was right to invade Iraq."

Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph: "George Osborne should stick to his job and leave politicking to others. The Chancellor has enough to do trying to save the economy from impending disaster."

Steve Richards in The Independent: "The lesson from Eastleigh is simple: the Conservative leadership has lost control of the party."

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