26/03/2013 08:20 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Cyprus Crisis

The ten things you need to know on Tuesday 26 March 2013...


Cypriot banks will remain closed until Thursday, the Financial Times reports this morning, as President Nicos Anastasiades acknowledged that the country had come “a breath away from economic collapse” before its last-minute bailout. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, president of the eurogroup, caused quite a stir yesterday when he said the bailout, which will see private investors rather than taxpayers stump up the cash to rescue the banks, could be a model for any future Eurozone bank rescue.

His comments led many to wonder why anyone would hold more than €100,000 in a eurozone bank if it was at risk of being raided to prop up the institution should it run into trouble. As The Guardian puts it today, the remarks confirmed that “European politicians could not organise a booze-up in a brewery” and Dijsselbloem quickly backtracked, saying Cyprus was a special case.

Today's Memo is edited by Ned Simons as Mehdi Hasan is training to become a search and rescue pilot while considering a bid for the East Coast main line.


The House of Lords agreed to amendments bringing in the new royal charter regime for press regulation without a vote last night – because when all sides agree an actual vote just gets in the way – much to the dismay of many in the press, as well as some politicians.

Speaking during the debate the executive director of the Telegraph Media Group Lord Black of Brentwood, who is also chairman of the Press Standards Board of Finance, savaged the cross-party plan as "wrong in principle and fundamentally flawed" as well as "almost certainly contrary to European law".

"Everything about these proposed new clauses is wrong. They were cobbled together late at night over pizza, with no thought for the legal and constitutional issues involved. They exhibit no understanding of the digital world into which all publishers are moving,” he said.


Why the obsession with Boris and his leadership ambitions? It was fun during the Olympic summer as nothing else was going on and he got stuck on a zip-wire and made fun of Mitt Romney. But now there is loads of other stuff going on. Ben Brogan of the Daily Telegraph explains in his much-circulated (and it’s not even 9am yet) column that it is all to do with the death of Dave.

Brogan writes: “He has been Conservative leader for seven and a half years; prime minister for nearly three. Yet an aura of end days hangs over him. His party operates as if he is already a lame duck. A verdict on the Cameron years is setting like concrete around his feet. His premiership is marked by disappointments, changes of direction, a falling out with his MPs and his party, and an overarching sense of promise unfulfilled.”


A majority of the British public support the United Kingdom government aiding the United States target and kill known terrorists with drone strikes, a survey published today shows. However their backing for the controversial practice drops significantly if they are told civilians would be injured or killed in the attacks.

Tory MP for Gillingham and Rainham, Rehman Chishti, told The Huffington Post UK that while drones have the potential to target insurgents without putting our armed forces into harm's way, the poll showed the UK needed to ensure that they are "being deployed proportionately and safeguards are in place to prevent civilian casualties".

"There is currently a cloud of secrecy over the policy, rules and procedures for drone strikes and the government needs to explain what they are," he said.


The East Coast main line is expected to be back in private hands in less than two years under rail franchise plans announced by the government today.

The Press Association reports that the line - a key London to Scotland route - has been run under the control of the Department for Transport since November 2009 after transport company National Express pulled out. Today, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced the start of a bidding competition for the East Coast franchise with an expected start of service by the new operator in February 2015.

A new 13-year franchise for the West Coast had been awarded to transport company FirstGroup which won a bidding war with the incumbent firm, Virgin Trains. But the bidding had to be scrapped after serious mistakes by Department for Transport civil servants in the bidding process.


Ahead of the United States Supreme Court's consideration of the (anti-gay marriage) Defense of Marriage Act on Wednesday, a number of U.S. senators are publicly denouncing the law and coming out in favor of same-sex marriage. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) added his name Monday to the growing list of Democrats who support gay marriage, less than 24 hours after Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) made public her reversal on the issue.

In their first-ever review of same-sex marriage laws, the nine justices on the country's highest court are hearing arguments on Tuesday and Wednesday on one of the most politically charged dilemmas of the day. The paired cases will be heard at a time when opinion polls show surging approval for gay unions and when prominent individuals and groups, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, have been announcing support for same-sex marriage on a nearly daily basis.

BECAUSE YOU READ THIS FAR: 'Arm All Teachers With Flapjacks,' Say Campaigners


A week on from the Budget, The Guardian reports that Britain could be heading for an unprecedented triple-dip recession due to the severe weather gripping much of country.

“Just days after the chancellor predicted that the UK would narrowly avoid a second successive quarter of negative growth – the official definition of recession – experts warned that the combination of heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures might be a crucial factor in whether the economy expanded in the first three months of 2013,” the paper reports.

Robert Chote, chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility, may be asked about this when he answers questions from MPs on the Treasury committee at 10am. Then at 2pm it’s George Osborne’s turn to face the committee's frosty glare. It was at this session last year that Labour MP John Mann famously skewered the chancellor over when the last time he had eaten a pasty was. “Hope George Osborne is well or I might need to ask at the Treasury Committee: ‘George are you looking a bit pasty today?’ Mann said on Monday evening.


By the time David Cameron delivered his speech on immigration at lunchtime yesterday the media narrative had already moved on to what a Horlicks he had made of the whole thing. While the prime minister announced a crackdown on immigrants claiming benefits, many people were pointing out that this wasn’t exactly a huge problem in the first place. Sarah Mulley from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) said that the UK was "not a soft touch" and that EU migrants are half as likely to claim out of work benefits as British nationals are.

"Migrants in general and European migrants pay more in to the system than they take out, that's largely because they are young people who are working," she told HuffPost UK.

Downing Street perhaps suffered from having briefed out the substance of the speech in advance rendering its actual delivery rather redundant.

Immigration will be back on the agenda today at 3pm when Rob Whiteman, the chief executive of the UK Border Agency and Simon Hayes, the in-coming director, international directorate, of the UKBA give evidence to the home affairs committee. Given the past problems the agency has experienced and the focus all three parties are putting on immigration and how bad it is, expect them to have a rough ride.


Ministers have little idea how their plans to curb housing benefit will affect claimants and may struggle to achieve promised savings, MPs warned today.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had made no attempt to assess what impact the changes would have on homelessness, rent levels and arrears. It said the projected savings of £6.2 billion by 2014-15 had failed to take into account the administrative costs of implementing the changes or the knock-on costs for other services if homelessness does rise.

It was unclear whether the £390 million set aside by the DWP would be sufficient to enable local authorities to manage the impact of changes while paying the benefit direct to claimants rather than to landlords was liable to lead to more arrears and evictions.

Committee chairman Margaret Hodge said: "Even small reductions in housing benefit can have a severe impact on the finances of the poorest people. At the time of our hearing, far too many of those who stand to be directly affected were worryingly unaware of the reforms and what they will mean for their finances.”


Eddie Izzard has told The Sun that he plans to give up comedy in order to run for mayor of London. “I’m going to chuck in comedy in six years to go into politics. I’ve proved I can be determined and do things in a different way. And you need comedy in politics. There are lots of decisions to be made and people get bored talking about things that are only slightly different,” he said.

Let’s hope his campaign to run the capital goes better than his advocacy of the Alternative Vote or membership of the euro…


@YouGov CON 30%, LAB 41%, LD 13%, UKIP 11%

@SophyRidgeSky Twitter tells me there appears to be some sort of sporting event going on...

@jreedmp In the Commons today, I opened a door for a lady in a wheelchair, only for James Gray MP to walk through ahead of her. Quality, eh?


Ben Brogan in the Daily Telegraph: "Pity our poor PM – the Tories are now in a post-Dave state of mind."

Damian McBride on his blog: "There are many Labour types who look at the superb calibre of its own 2010 intake, and think the same thing. Well, what are their chances?"

Polly Toynbee in The Guardian: "Labour needs to recapture the spirit and nerve of 1945."

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