Mehdi's Morning Memo: Mansion Mischief

The ten thing you need to know on Tuesday 12 March 2013...


“Playing parliamentary silly buggers” is how one Lib Dem MP described the Labour motion on the mansion tax to us, as Nick Clegg and David Cameron agreed a government amendment that both coalition parties could sign up to. The deal, which makes it clear the Lib Dems support a new levy on homes over £2m while the Tories do not, saves the PM and DPM the awkwardness of a coalition split over the issue.

Labour had mischievously tabled today’s debate in an attempt to either divide the coalition, or force Lib Dem MPs to vote against their own policy. Both of which would be a good laugh for Ed Miliband and Ed Balls. Expect Opposition MPs to have a lot of fun at the Lib Dems expense during this afternoon’s Commons debate. Or rather, more so than usual.

Today's Memo is edited by Ned Simons as Mehdi Hasan is in Rome helping to choose the new Pope.


Chris Huhne meanwhile is swapping his mansion for the other sort of big house today, after being sentenced to eight months in jail. “Well, I certainly lied and lied again,” the former energy secretary told Channel 4 News. "I think my political career is very clearly over but I think that I have other things to offer, doing other things, and I will.”

It’s not all bad for Huhne, his former colleague on the Lib Dem benches, Lembit Opik, has offered to visit him in prison – perhaps seeking a captive audience for his stand-up routine. Surely Huhne has suffered enough?

3) WHO ARE THE 0.2%?

A total of 1,513 votes were cast in the Falklands referendum, with 98.8% of the islanders declaring themselves in favour of remaining British. Just three votes, or 0.2% of the ballot, voted against. There will no doubt be a witch-hunt to find out who the hell those three people were.

William Hague welcomed the utterly unsurprising vote, saying: “We have always been clear that we believe in the rights of the Falklands people to determine their own futures and to decide on the path they wish to take. It is only right that, in the twenty-first century, these rights are respected.

“All countries should accept the results of this referendum and support the Falkland Islanders as they continue to develop their home and their economy. I wish them every success in doing so.”

This morning David Cameron said Argentina should "should take careful note of this result". No word on which way all the penguins voted.


WASHINGTON - Under the splash headline ‘Austerity Now’ (that pun is so 2010 guys, we’ve used it at least five times, keep up) our American colleagues report that former Republican vice-presidential candidate and chairman of the House Budget Committee Chairman, Paul Ryan, said on Monday he can balance the US federal budget in 10 years without raising taxes any further by achieving $4.6 trillion in additional government spending cuts.


David Cameron will be at the liaison committee at 4pm this afternoon for 90 (it will seem longer) minutes. The format of the sessions, where the chairman of the different Commons select committees each get to question the prime minister means they are about as forensic as yesterday’s PM Direct event where Cameron had to resort to asking himself questions as none were forthcoming from the audience.

Pity the poor aides and journalists who get stuck in camera shot behind the prime minister and have to avoid nodding off live on Sky News (for as long as the broadcasters can bare to cover it that is).


A Guardian/ICM poll has found that public “overwhelmingly believes a hard line on Europe, immigration and traditional families would make the party more appealing”.

According to the paper by a majority of 67%-25%, voters say, "the Conservatives would be more appealing if they took a tougher line with Europe". Some 75%-21% believe the same about the party taking a "a tougher line on immigration. And voters judge by 69%-24% that the Tories' appeal could be boosted by keeping "themselves on the side of traditional families" – in what will be read as a rejection of gay marriage.

The findings will be seized upon by Tory MPs who believe the key to electoral success in 2015 is to abandon Cameron’s modernising agenda and move to the right to take-on Ukip.

7) TAXI!

The Evening Standard reports that Lutfur Rahman, the mayor of Tower Hamlets in East London, has charged a series of mysteriously expensive taxi journeys to the public. One trip is said to have cost £71 despite the cab only travelling a distance of 400 metres. Another cost £121 when the same journey taken on the capital’s Docklands Light Railway would have cost just £2.10.


Irish premier Enda Kenny has become the latest European leader to urge Britain to remain within the European Union. The Taoiseach, in London for a series of engagements including talks with Cameron, insisted Britain has much to gain from its membership.

"We see the British relationship with the EU as being a two-way relationship - Britain benefits from its membership of the EU, and the EU is better off with Britain as a leading member making a valued contribution," Kenny said.


From the BBC: "Cardinals gathered in Rome to elect a new pope will begin voting later on Tuesday, with no clear frontrunner in sight. The 115 cardinal-electors will attend a special Mass in the morning before processing into the Sistine Chapel to begin their deliberations in the afternoon. They will vote four times daily until two-thirds can agree on a candidate."


WASHINGTON - A new medal that would honor drone pilots and cyber warriors and outrank battlefield combat medals such as the Purple Heart and Bronze Star is facing backlash from veterans organizations and members of Congress, with a bipartisan group of 22 senators pressing the Pentagon to change the designation. As HuffPost reports, the backlash to the medal centers around the fact that it will take precedence over traditional several combat awards, which require that the recipient risk his or her life in order to receive them.


@Queen_UK Queen of the Falklands. By popular consent. #YourQueenLovesYou #DontCryForOneArgentina

@Mike_Fabricant At the request of a Minister in charge of the legislation last night, I have changed my photo back to the pony.


Steve Richards in The Independent: "Labour and the Tories both think they'll lose 2015 and they can't both be right."

Benedict Brogan in the Daily Telegraph:"If Cameron wants his troops to rally, he must act like a general."

Mehdi Hasan in The Huffington Post UK: "Get Rid Of Dave? How Exactly Would That Help the Tories?"

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