05/03/2013 03:09 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Coalition Vs The Judges

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


So let me get this straight: the home secretary Theresa May wants us to pull out of the European court of human rights and thereby empower Britain's own supreme court. But the president of the supreme court thinks its a barmy idea based on "slanted" media coverage - from the Guardian splash:

"Britain will have to withdraw from the United Nations as well as the European court of human rights if it wants to deport terrorist suspects to states that carry out torture, the country's most senior judge has warned.

"In his first interview since becoming president of the supreme court, Lord Neuberger launched a sustained attack on 'slanted' coverage and 'one-sided' portrayals that misrepresent the way the human rights court operates.

The UK's supreme court is 'not subservient' but works 'in a dialogue' with the judges in Strasbourg, he insisted. Pulling out of the Council of Europe body – which the home secretary, Theresa May, and the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, both contemplate – would 'certainly send an unfortunate number of messages', Neuberger added."

Neuberger has allies inside government. My colleague Ned Simons reports on how "Ken Clarke has rubbished justice secretary Chris Grayling's suggestion a future Tory government would withdraw Britain from the European Court of Human Rights, arguing it is necessary to protect people from a 'tabloid lynch mob'.

"The minister without portfolio, who served as justice secretary himself until last September's reshuffle, said the UK 'obviously' needed to remain part of the European convention on human rights."

Oh, by the way, the BBC reports on another warning from Neuberger to the coalition:

"Britain's most senior judge says he fears cuts to legal aid could undermine the rule of law.

"From April, legal aid in England and Wales will be restricted in a range of civil cases, in attempts to cut costs.

"The president of the UK Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, said people may feel they can no longer access justice - and 'take the law into their own hands'."

Go Neuberger!


Yesterday's Memo mentioned the revolt against departmental spending cuts from the cabinet's 'NUM' (National Union of Ministers). Today's Independent picks up the story in its front page splash:

"David Cameron is to order cabinet ministers to end their 'cuts Nimbyism' as they threaten to derail George Osborne's demands for another £10bn of spending reductions.

"The Prime Minister is to rebuff Conservative ministers who are pushing for more cuts to the welfare budget in an attempt to protect their own departments from the Chancellor's axe. He will point out that £3.6bn has already been shaved off the benefits bill in 2015-16 and argue that it is time for other ministers to keep the Government's deficit-reduction strategy on track.

"Mr Cameron's edict is a setback for ministers who are proposing more welfare cuts, including Philip Hammond (Defence), Theresa May (Home Office), Chris Grayling (Justice) and Eric Pickles (Communities)."

The Guardian reports that "the schools budget may be offered up for further cuts as the Tories intensify pressure on the Liberal Democrats to accept reductions to the £166bn welfare budget in a crucial spending round for the immediate post general election period that is due to be announced this summer".


From the Guardian:

"People in the UK enjoy fewer years of good health before they die than the citizens of most comparable European countries as well as Australia and Canada, a major report shows.

"The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said Britain's performance was 'shocking' compared with that of other countries, and called for action to turn it around by local health commissioners, who are about to take up their new responsibilities.

"The UK ranked 12th out of 19 countries of similar affluence in 2010 in terms of healthy life expectancy at birth, according to a detailed analysis from the Global Burden of Disease data collected by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle... published in the Lancet medical journal."

The Times splashes on news that "tens of thousands of people die needlessly every year because of 'shocking underperformance' by health services, Jeremy Hunt will say today.

"The Health Secretary will issue a warning that England’s failure to match the best in Europe means that 30,000 people a year die too early."


From the Daily Mail's front page:

"The controversial bill to increase the use of secret courts was forced through the House of Commons by the Government last night.

"In what critics called 'a dark day for British justice', the Liberal Democrat leadership ordered their MPs to back their Tory coalition partners.

"The Daily Mail has campaigned against the Justice and Security Bill, which will allow secret hearings across the civil justice system. Defendants or claimants will not be allowed to attend, know or challenge the case against them in changes that overturn the ancient principle of open justice in our courts."

The Telegraph reports: "Kenneth Clarke has admitted that ministers have no idea how many court cases will be heard in secret as MPs passed laws to allow them."

Er, ok. The opposition had tabled a series of amendments but as the Mirror reports:

"Ed Miliband's decision to oppose the secret courts Bill backfired last night after his own brother and a string of former Labour ministers refused to support him.

"Former Foreign Secretary David Miliband abstained and former Home Secretary Jack Straw and former Home Office ministers Paul Goggins and George Howarth voted with the Government."


Tory MP Theresa Coffey may have a solution to the Tories' problem with women (Labour has a 12-point lead over the Conservatives with female voters) - from the Sun:

"David Cameron needs to go on a training course — to help stop his sexist outbursts, a female Tory MP claimed yesterday.

Therese Coffey said she would be recommending the Prime Minister for the “unconscious bias” lessons to help prevent him promoting a new 'mini-me' generation to his front bench.

"And local party bosses could be forced to go on workshops to boost the number of female Tory hopefuls at the next election.

"Ms Coffey said that although some dismissed the training as 'mumbo jumbo', top firms such as Price-Waterhouse Coopers, Microsoft and Google were all converts.

"She said: 'I’ll be recommending it to our Prime Minister for the Conservative Party.'"


Watch this video of a six-year-old breakdancing champion.


He's the leader of the LIBERAL Democrats, remember? From the Guardian:

"Nick Clegg will on Wednesday chair a home affairs cabinet committee to examine wide-ranging plans to deter EU migrants, including Romanians and Bulgarians, from coming to Britain by slashing access across the spectrum of benefits without breaching EU discrimination laws. The drive has been given an added urgency by the Ukip surge in the Eastleigh byelection.

"Labour's Frank Field, one of the MPs pressing for a crackdown, claimed Eastleigh had produced a change of heart, but ministers argue there is still a thicket of EU regulations on free movement of workers that they have been studying since the autumn."

The paper adds:

"Kenneth Clarke, the former justice secretary, urged his party not to lurch to the right following the Eastleigh result last week, saying it would be folly to try to match Ukip: 'If you imitate Ukip you make then more prominent and then you drive more moderate people to stick with the Liberal Democrats. I cannot think of a more certain way to lose the general election than to go for a lurch to the right.'"


The rise and rise of Ukip, eh? From the Sun:

"David Cameron will shout down Tory backbenchers demanding tax cuts — as a poll reveals the massive challenge the party faces from UKIP.

"An exclusive YouGov survey for The Sun shows 38 per cent of all Brits would now 'consider' voting for the anti-EU party.

Buoyant from its near-win in the Eastleigh by-election, Nigel Farage’s party also got its highest ever poll rating of 12 per cent."

They key word in that piece being 'consider'...

(See 'Public Opinion Watch' below, incidentally, for further details on the Sun/YouGov poll.)


As the Independent reports, "Almost every day for the past month, Sir David Nicholson, the head of the NHS, has woken up to new and lurid accusations against him in the media... His refusal to resign in the wake of the Francis Report into the failings at Stafford has even earned him a rather unpleasant label in the Daily Mail: The Man with No Shame."

But, says the paper:

"Today, as Nicholson himself gives evidence to MPs, he has won backing from some surprising quarters.

"Former Health Secretaries - including two who presided over the Department of Health at the time when patients were dying at Stafford Hospital - have come out in support of Nicholson. They insist that he is not responsible for what happened at Stafford and that he must not be hounded from office.

"They are backed by the Chair of the Royal College of GPs - who, although a ferocious critic of the Government's health reforms - says that Nicholson is the right man to be at the helm of the NHS."

Will it help him win over his critics? I doubt it. The four former health secretaries, incidentally, are Patricia Hewitt, Alan Milburn, Alan Johnson and Andy Burnham (the current shadow health secretary).


From the BBC:

"Kenyans are awaiting results in their country's presidential election, after millions cast their votes on Monday.

"With about a third of polling stations reporting, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta held an early lead over his main rival, PM Raila Odinga.

"The head of the electoral commission emphasised these were provisional figures and urged Kenyans to wait patiently for the final outcome.

"In 2007, more than 1,000 people were killed in post-election violence.

"... Violence has also marred the current election, with at least 19 people killed."

Oh, and it's worth noting that Kenyatta faces charges at the International Criminal Court for allegedly orchestrating ethnic violence against his rivals back in 2007...


Another twist in the (re)trial of Vicky Pryce - from the Independent:

"Vicky Pryce's brother appeared as a witness like a 'rabbit out of the hat' to back up the prominent economist's story at her second trial that she was bullied into taking speeding points for her ex-husband Chris Huhne, a court heard yesterday.

"George Courmouzis, a sports marketing expert based in Greece, did not give evidence at his sister's first trial, which ended with a jury failing to reach a verdict, even though he was in the UK for periods of the case, Southwark Crown Court was told. Mr Courmouzis said he had not been asked.

"... Mr Courmouzis told the jury of seven men and five women that his sister told him she felt she had no option but to take the points so Huhne, then an MEP, could avoid a driving ban while he campaigned for his first Westminster seat. His sister told him that Huhne had been watching over her at the time that she signed the form, naming herself as the driver, he said in court."

I don't know about you but I can't wait for the TV movie... who would play Huhne, I wonder?


From today's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 40

Conservatives 31

Lib Dems 12

Ukip 12

That would give Labour a majority of 96.


@DavidAllenGreen Sitting judges, of course, get no financial benefit from legal aid. So concerns from top judge of all are significant

@OwenJones84 The Centre for Social Justice - an Orwellian name for a hard right-wing think tank if ever I've heard one #newsnight

@davidschneider Obviously we can't show them here but the French magazine "Closer" have some amazing long lens shots of the Queen's bedpan.


Rachel Sylvester, writing in the Times, says: "Tories must see the conservative in Cameron."

George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian, says: "With threats and bribes, Gove forces schools to accept his phoney 'freedom'."

Steve Richards, writing in the Independent, says: "As Osborne reels, why is Balls feeling the heat?"

(My own piece on Balls - "Have the Balls bashers gone mad?" - is here.)

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