The ten things you need to know on Friday 15 March 2013...
1) CAMERON'S 'APPALLING BETRAYAL'
Remember when David Cameron promised that the test for any future system of press regulation would not be whether it suited politicians or the press but "people who have been caught up and absolutely thrown to the wolves by this process"?
Yesterday, those victims of press intrusion and phone hacking, via the campaign group Hacked Off, accused the PM of an "appalling betrayal" and of caving in to Fleet Street after, in the words of the Times, "pulling the plug on all-party efforts to reach agreement on a new newspaper regulator".
The Telegraph reports:
"Nick Clegg is to form an unprecedented alliance with Labour to force through the introduction of new press laws, it has emerged.
"The Prime Minister announced that he was pulling out of crossparty talks over new press regulation amid fears that the system being backed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats represented an unacceptable threat to a free press.
"David Cameron will call a vote on Monday for MPs to decide whether to back his plan for a Royal Charter to oversee a new regulator. Labour and the Lib Dems are expected to propose a more draconian scheme.
"Yesterday, Mr Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister said: 'I was disappointed and, indeed, surprised that David Cameron has decided to walk away from the cross–party talks.'"
The Guardian reports on its front page that "Ed Miliband accused the prime minister of a historic error. He said: 'He has not just walked away from the talks – he has walked away from his own commitments to the press victims'... Cameron broke the news to Clegg and Miliband in a joint phone call just before 10am and then staged a lightning Downing Street press conference to justify his decision."
So, could the vote on Monday do permanent damage to the coalition? And how many (opportunistic?) Tory rebels will join Lib Dem and Labour MPs in voting against the prime minister? As the former deputy PM John Prescott joked on Twitter yesterday: "So Cameron has unwittingly turned Monday's Leveson vote into a confidence vote on his leadership. What could possibly go wrong?"
2) 'PUT A SOCK IN IT'
Friends of Theresa May have said the home secretary is desperate to 'stop Boris' from ascending to the Tory throne in 2015. Now, the mayor of London has hit back - in an interview with the Sun:
"While not mentioning Home Secretary Mrs May by name, BoJo fuelled the backlash against her by saying: 'If ministers are setting out their stall now, it strikes me as being very odd. They should save their breath and cool their porridge. Put a sock in it and get on and back the Prime Minister.'"
Friends of David Cameron will hope 'Bojo' takes his own advice...
3) DON'T MENTION GIDEON!
Poor George Osborne. From the Guardian:
"Voters are less likely to back the government's core economic policies when they are told they come from George Osborne... The Ipsos/Mori survey came a week before the budget, and will raise further doubts among Tory backbenchers about whether the chancellor is a political liability.
"Half of those surveyed in the poll agreed when given a summary of the coalition's argument that deficit reduction should be the priority, without any mention of Osborne's name. They were also given a summary of Labour's arguments for higher spending on growth measures.
"When Osborne and Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, were not mentioned, voters backed the austerity policies by 52% to 41%. But when Osborne and Balls were identified as authors of the relative strategies, support fell to 37% for the coalition's policy and rose to 53% for Labour's approach."
The conventional wisdom, as is so often the case, is wrong - it's pretty clear from this particular poll that mentioning Ed Balls helps, rather than hinders, the Labour position on the economy...
4) ERIC JOYCE ARRESTED - AGAIN
Uh oh. From the HuffPost UK:
"Shamed politician Eric Joyce was arrested following a late-night brawl at a bar in the House of Commons on Thursday night.
"The independent Member of Parliament for Falkirk was held after the incident at the Sports and Social Club bar.
"Last year Joyce pleaded guilty to assault after an incident in Parliament's Strangers Bar. He resigned from the Labour Party and said he would not contest the next General Election.
"On Thursday night a Metropolitan Police spokesman said: 'Police were called shortly before 10.30pm this evening to reports of a disturbance at a bar within the House of Commons. Officers attended and a man aged in his 50s was arrested in connection with this incident.'"
5) BLAME THE JEWS? DON'T BE STUPID
It looks like Lord Ahmed's political career is (rightly) over - from the Times:
"Ed Miliband led the criticism of Lord Ahmed, who was suspended by Labour after his views were revealed by The Times yesterday.
"Lord Ahmed claimed that influential Jews put pressure on the courts in response to his support for Palestinians in Gaza, comments that the Labour leader described as disgraceful.
"Mr Miliband suggested that there would be no way back for the Muslim peer. 'There's no place for anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and frankly anybody who makes those kinds of comments cannot be either a Labour lord or a Labour Member of Parliament,' he said."
I agree with the Times editorial, which points out that there is "an insidious form of anti-Semitism far too prevalent in the Islamic world. Britain has few enough Muslim politicians. As one of them, Lord Ahmed should be in the frontline of fighting this evil."
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Given it's Red Nose Day, watch this video of Comic Relief/Red Nose Day's 'funniest moments'.
6) SHAPPS: WE MIGHT LOSE
The Conservative chairman has been running his mouth to House magazine. The HuffPost UK reports:
"The Tories may not win the next general election, party chairman Grant Shapps has publicly conceded.
"Shapps said the Conservatives would have to show 'leadership and vision' if they were to stand a chance of gaining an outright majority in 2015.
"However, in a clear warning to would-be leadership challengers, he stressed that David Cameron remained more popular in the country than the party as a whole."
7) ARM THE REBELS?
It was almost inevitable that we would come to this point - from the Guardian's splash:
"France and Britain have moved a step closer to arming the opposition to the Assad regime in a radical move aimed at tipping the balance in the two-year civil war while also ignoring European policy on Syria.
"The French president, François Hollande, went into an EU summit in Brussels with a dramatic appeal for Europe to join Paris and London in lifting a European arms embargo, but the sudden policy shift was certain to run into stiff German opposition."
The Huffington Post UK asked Syrian journalist Malik Al Abdeh to make the case for arming the Syrian rebels and former British army officer Charles Shoebridge to make the case against. (I'm with Shoebridge...)
That's the splash headline on the front of the Mirror. The paper reports:
"They are already being subsidised to the tune of £2.3million a year for their posh meals and cheap booze – costing taxpayers around £60,000 a week.
"But as most hard-working Britons tighten their belts in the recession, pampered peers are being protected from losing their dining perks.
"Rather than ask them to stump up a bit more for their grub, House of Lords bosses want to slash the pay of those who serve them in their exclusive restaurants, bars and cafes.
"Waiters, cooks and check-out workers have been told they are set to lose 50% of their overtime cash so the peers’ can continue to enjoy their subsidy."
9) DISAGREE WITH US? YOU'RE SACKED
From the Telegraph splash:
"The head of the independent body responsible for military pay has been sacked by David Cameron after calling for servicemen to be given a rise to compensate for Coalition defence cuts.
"The Telegraph has learnt that Prof Alasdair Smith has lost his post as chairman of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body. Military campaigners have criticised the “vindictive” decision to end Prof Smith’s tenure.
"The decision to remove him was made weeks after he defied an order to limit pay rises for troops and told ministers that Services personnel needed more money to reflect the additional pressure put on them by redundancies and cuts."
10) BLAIR THE WAR CRIMINAL?
As the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion fast approaches, yet another poll shows the public thinks it was a disaster - from the Guardian:
"More than half the British public believe the decision to invade Iraq was wrong and more than a fifth believe Tony Blair should be tried as a war criminal, according to a poll conducted to mark the 10th anniversary of the conflict.
"A majority (56%) of the public believe the war has increased the risk of a terrorist attack on Britain. More than half, (53%), of those questioned think the invasion was wrong, while just over a quarter (27%) think it was right, according to the YouGov survey."
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From the latest Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 11
That would give Labour a majority of 114.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@Ed_Miliband David Cameron has not only walked away from the Leveson talks today, he has walked away from his promises to the victims
@HackedOffHugh Rumour in Westminster that editor of Times instructed Cameron to call off talks. And our PM did as he was told. Murdoch rules. Still.
@janemerrick23 It feels like a month since Huhne/Pryce went to jail. Obviously not for them. Long week...
900 WORDS OR MORE
Philip Collins, writing in the Times, says: "With this mess Labour should be miles ahead."
Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "Mass evictions of the most vulnerable are no way to tackle the housing benefit bill, and we must do all we can to stop them."
Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Don’t attack Britain’s oldies – they keep the economy going."
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