Mehdi's Morning Memo: Fox Attack

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Fox Attack

The ten thing you need to know on Monday 11 March 2013...


10 days till the Budget - and the Tory right isn't happy. Liam Fox - who else? - will give a speech this morning at the Institute of Economic Affairs calling for - what else? - tax cuts.

From the Times splash:

"Tory splits over austerity will be laid bare today when a former Cabinet minister calls on George Osborne to abandon the ring-fence that has protected the NHS, schools and the aid budget from cuts.

"The former Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, will lay out proposals for a radical revamp of the economy based on lower taxes and a smaller state. They include a call for Capital Gains Tax to be cut temporarily to zero and a wholesale rethink about the taxation of earnings and savings.

"... In a direct challenge to the Chancellor, Dr Fox warns that Mr Osborne is making a mistake by exempting spending on the NHS, schools and the aid budget from the £10 billion worth of cuts he wants to find for 2015-16."


And it isn't just the party's fiscal policies that some Tories object to. From the Telegraph:

"David Cameron is 'running out of time' to rid the Conservatives of their 'posh, male and white' image, Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston warns.

"As pressure on the Prime Minister’s leadership intensified, Dr Wollaston called on Mr Cameron to reshuffle his Cabinet within weeks and promote more women."

I've got a suggestion for the PM: how about...errrrr... Sarah Wollaston??

Oh, and speaking of ambitious Tory women, the Guardian reports:

"Theresa May has decided to stake out political territory as a future Tory leadership candidate because she is a 'realist' who accepts that David Cameron may be unseated, allies of the home secretary have said.

"As her fellow cabinet colleague Maria Miller hailed May's 'fantastic credentials', the home secretary was said to be pleased with the reception for a speech in which she strayed way beyond her brief."


Fox, Wollaston and... Clegg, too. David Cameron has been getting it in the neck from all directions.

The deputy prime minister used his speech to the Lib Dems' spring conference in Brighton yesterday to do some major 'differentiation'.

From the Sun:

"Lib Dem chief Nick Clegg's 'shopping trolley' swipe at the Tories earned him huge cheers at his party's spring conference yesterday.

"He said he would never let the Coalition quit the European Convention on Human rights.

"He said in Brighton the Tories were 'like a broken shopping trolley. Every time you try and push them straight ahead, they veer off to the right-hand side.' He also attacked Education Secretary Michael Gove's school reforms."

Meanwhile, the FT reports:

"Nick Clegg has told David Cameron he will not back a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU in the next parliament, setting up a showdown if the two parties enter coalition talks in 2015.

"Aides to the deputy prime minister told the Financial Times Mr Clegg sees the prime minister's promise of a referendum half way through the next parliament as 'madness'."

The DC-NC Rose Garden love-in now feels so long ago. In fact, the Independent reports that the Lib Dems are now "planning a wholesale reassessment of their 2015 election strategy which will see the party pour resources into about 25 Tory-held marginal seats.

"Party strategists believe a significant number of Conservative seats - particularly in the south-west - are now vulnerable following the success of Ukip at splitting the Tory vote in the Eastleigh by-election last week."

4) 'I QUIT'

Perhaps the Lib Dem leader should check the wheels on his own trolley, rather than just bashing the Tories' - from the Guardian:

"Nick Clegg was involved in angry public exchanges with conference delegates on Saturday, and on Sunday made no reference to the defeat or resignations, in his own conference speech. But the tense atmosphere exploded again when a prominent activist, Jo Shaw, resigned from the party at the end of her conference speech, accusing Clegg of a betrayal of liberal values and employing the same shoddy realpoliitik as the Blair government.

"Earlier, the prominent human rights lawyer Dinah Rose QC also quit the party, describing Clegg's support for the justice and security bill as a betrayal of the party's guiding principles.

"... David Howarth, a reader in law at Cambridge University and former MP for the city, described the party's continued support for the bill as 'quite simply shameful'."


"Iain Duncan Smith was embroiled in a battle with the new Archbishop of Canterbury last night. The Work and Pensions Secretary told Church leaders there was ‘nothing moral’ about their opposition to flagship welfare reforms.

"He reacted with fury after the Most Rev Justin Welby led an uprising against the Government’s plans to limit benefit increases to one per cent a year for the next three years.

"Mr Duncan Smith, a devout Roman Catholic, insisted it was neither fair nor moral to trap millions of families on welfare payments which made it not worth their while seeking work."

Justin Welby, your move. In the meantime, it's worth noting, as the Guardian does, that "almost four people are chasing every job vacancy in Britain, rising to more than 20 in some parts of the country, new research has revealed.

"A study by Unison found that the worst area was the Isle of Wight, with almost 24 jobseekers per vacancy, followed by Hackney in London, with more than 20.

"There are at least five people for every vacancy in 113 local authorities, and over 10 in 26 of those, said the union."

The big question for IDS is: how does 'welfare to work' succeed in an era where there is very little work to go around?


Watch this video of a kitten jump... oh yes...


Pix of Vicky Pryce, the disgraced ex-wife of disgraced ex-cabinet minister Chris Huhne, appear on the front of the Times, the Telegraph and the Mail.

Why? Because, as the Mail reports:

"By 4pm today their very public humiliation will be complete.

"Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce have been warned by their legal teams that they both face six months in prison when they are sentenced at Southwark Crown Court for their plot to swap driving penalty points.

"Official guidelines suggest they could receive up to 14 months for perverting the course of justice, which carries a maximum penalty of life."


From the Independent:

"The credibility of Chancellor George Osborne's banking reform plans will be dealt a body blow this morning in a sharply critical report by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards that he set up.

"The Commission will repeat its demand that watchdogs be handed reserve powers to break up the entire British banking industry, dismissing government arguments against this as 'insubstantial'."

"... The report concludes: 'There is still a long way to go if the legislation now before the House of Commons is to provide legislative impetus for a transformation of the UK banking system.'"


From the Daily Mail:

"Falkland Islanders started voting yesterday in a sovereignty referendum seeking to counter Argentina’s claim over the British-ruled territory.

"Diplomatic tension between Britain and Argentina has flared more than three decades after the Falklands War.

"Falklands-born and long-term residents will cast ballots on whether they want to stay a British Overseas Territory.

"... An overwhelming 'yes’ vote is likely, prompting Argentina to dismiss the referendum as a publicity stunt.


The US political scene is so much more glamorous than ours, isn't it? From the Huffington Post:

"Ashley Judd, the 44-year-old actress and social activist, has told key advisers and political figures that she is planning to announce her candidacy for U.S. Senate [in Kentucky] this spring."

But it won't be easy for the star of 'Kiss the Girls' and 'Double Jeopardy' to topple sitting senator and Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell":

"Judd is given to cultural statements that might sound acceptably thought-provoking in Los Angeles but not necessarily so in conservative Kentucky -- such as her comment that she didn’t want to have children because there is too much suffering and poverty in the world.

"She is an ardent Obama supporter and progressive on most social issues. She recently announced the end of her marriage to her race-car driver husband, and racy pictures and video from her movie career are plentiful and easy to find on the Internet."


Humour is one of the best weapons a politician can deploy against his or her opponents. Speaking at the annual Gridiron Club dinner, President Obama "ribbed Florida Senator Marco Rubio for lunging for a water bottle during his televised Republican rebuttal to Obama's State of the Union Address earlier this year.

"Obama stopped his remarks briefly, deliberately picked up a water glass, sipped, then put it back down. 'That, Marco Rubio, is how you take a sip of water,' he said to laughter.

"Rubio is a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016."


From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 41

Conservatives 31

Lib Dems 12

Ukip 11

That would give Labour a majority of 110.


@Mike_Fabricant I don't think Huhne is particularly nice man &Clegg prob has many reasons to agree.But I take no joy in his pain this w/e as sentence awaits

@TomHarrisMP What I say: "I feel sorry for Chris Huhne." What they hear: "Chris Huhne did nothing wrong and he shouldn't be going to jail."

@StewartWood Notable that Tory strategic High Command moving away from Ld Ashcroft & focus on marginals, & embracing Lynton Crosby's focus on core votes.


Tim Montgomerie, writing in the Times, says: "The Home Secretary has the grit to be an accomplished PM but her lack of warmth will stop her reaching No 10."

Gaby Hinsliff, writing in the Guardian, says: "David Cameron may last even as he leads his MPs to their doom."

Owen Jones, writing in the Independent, says: "Cameron's days at No 10 may be numbered, but the national agenda is still set by the right."

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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