Politics

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Come 2015, It'll Be 'Time For A Change'

The ten things you need to know on 30 April 2013...

1) COME 2015, IT'LL BE 'TIME FOR A CHANGE'

The right-wing media echo chamber keeps telling us that the public have accepted the Tory economic narrative and backed austerity.

Really? From the Independent:

"A majority of the public believes the Government's economic plan has failed and that it will be 'time for a change' in 2015, according to a Com-Res survey for The Independent.

"In a boost for Labour, more people support Ed Miliband's 'time for a change' message than the Conservatives' likely pitch at the next general election - that they should be allowed to 'finish the job' of reviving Britain's economic fortunes. This is expected to be the crucial battle between the two biggest parties at the 2015 election.

But it's not all good news for the opposition - the Indy also reports:

"[T]here is better news for the Conservatives in the party ratings. They have cut Labour's 10-point lead to six points since the last ComRes survey for this newspaper a month ago."

2) 'MILISHAMBLES'

The Labour leader should probably stick to reading the Indy this morning - the rest of the papers gleefully stick the knife in after his 'car crash' interview on BBC Radio 4 yesterday lunchtime.

The Mail's headline is: "'Shambolic' Miliband ducks debt question ten times."

The paper reports:

"Ed Miliband pitched Labour into disarray on the economy and welfare yesterday when he was unable to answer basic questions about his party's policies.

"The Labour leader's performance in a radio interview was described as 'a car crash' and 'a Milishambles'.

"Mr Miliband refused on ten occasions to admit that his party would increase government debt, despite outlining plans that would require more than £28billion of borrowing.

"He then revealed that Labour's policy review would investigate whether to axe universal benefits for pensioners such as the winter fuel allowance and free bus and television licences.

"His aides were later forced to insist that they would stay."

He also gaffed, too - the Sun reports:

"Blundering Ed Miliband yesterday said Britain's problems are so bad NO ONE can solve them... In a Radio 4 interview in which he repeatedly lost his temper, he said: 'Are our problems so deep nobody can actually make a difference to them? My emphatic answer to that is yes.'"

Times sketchwriter Ann Treneman writes: "Certainly his interview on World at One with Martha Kearney yesterday was like watching someone back up their car into oncoming traffic on the M40... Perhaps the worst bad bit (there were so many to choose from) was when he said: "But you don't understand, Martha ..." And she's not the only one, Ed."

For the past three years, senior aides to the Labour leader have been telling me that their man is having media training and help with broadcast interviews. He clearly needs much more of it...

3) SWITCH OFF THE TELLY

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling continues his populist campaign to 'toughen' up conditions in (already overcrowded) prisons - and the right-wing papers are lapping it up.

The Mail splashes on: "End of a cushy life in prison."

The Telegraph's front page headline is: "Prisoners stripped of right to watch TV."

The paper reports:

"Prisoners will no longer automatically receive perks such as televisions, the freedom to wear their own clothes and shorter working hours, the Justice Secretary will announce today.

"In a move designed to end the perception that prisoners' conditions are too comfortable, Chris Grayling will order that all criminals will have to earn perks and privileges, rather than them only being removed from inmates who behave poorly.

"... Mr Grayling said last night: "For too long, there has been an expectation that privileges are an automatic right, given simply as a reward for staying out of trouble. This cannot continue."

The Guardian, however, reports: "The change in the prison service's 'incentives and earned privileges' scheme will mean that prison governors lose much of their discretion over which perks and privileges are available to reward good behaviour."

So far, the coalition has gone after welfare claimants, migrants and, now, prisoners. Who's next?

4) MINISTERS VS THE NHS

Today's the deadline for coalition ministers to identify spending cuts in their respective departments from 2015 onwards. It looks like some of them - the so-called National Union of Ministers NUM) - are ganging together to try and nick some cash off the ringfenced health budget. Will Jeremy Hunt have the requisite cunning and backbone to fend them off?

From the FT's splash:

"Cabinet ministers will today mount a collective attack on the 'ringfence' protecting the NHS from budget cuts, as the search for £11.5bn of election-year savings reaches a critical stage. Philip Hammond, defence secretary, Vince Cable, business secretary, Chris Grayling, justice secretary, and Eric Pickles, local government secretary, are among those insisting the NHS must share the pain.

"The ministers want to reclassify work done by their departments as 'health spending' - thus shifting hundreds of millions of pounds of spending on to the budget of Jeremy Hunt's health department.

"The net effect would be to make cuts to existing NHS services, which David Cameron has promised to protect."

5) 'UGLY FACE OF UKIP'

That's the splash headline on the front of the Mirror, accompanied by a photo of "UKIP local election hopeful Alex Wood... giving a sick Nazi salute."

The paper reports:

"The 22-year-old candidate for Blackmore Vale, Somerset, put the image on Facebook - in another blow for leader Nigel Farage.

"A UKIP source said last night: 'Alex is a braggart and a fool.'"

Ukip seems bent on proving Kenneth Clarke - who described the party as a collection of "clowns" and "racists" - right.

Yesterday, my colleague Jessica Elgot profiled some of the party's most controversial and offensive candidates.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this amusing video of Daniel Day Lewis playing Barack Obama. Well, kinda...

6) CAMERON'S CRONIES?

From the Times:

"David Cameron faced renewed accusations of cronyism last night after handing a Downing Street job to an old friend.

"Chris Lockwood, a journalist at The Economist, has a place in the Prime Minister's revamped No 10 policy unit.

"... Mr Cameron and his wife, Samantha, went on holiday with Mr Lockwood to an Italian villa in 1993. Mr Lockwood was also one of six journalists Mr Cameron listed as close personal friends during his appearance before the Leveson inquiry into media ethics.

"One anonymous Tory MP said it was another 'outrageous' sign that Mr Cameron 'did not understand how it looked' to have so many old friends around him. It comes just days after he appointed Jo Johnson, a fellow Old Etonian and Oxford graduate, to head the new policy unit."

Still, at least Lockwood isn't another Old Etonian. He (like Nick Clegg) went to St Paul's.

7) GITMO HUNGER STRIKE

Remember how Barack Obama promised to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison camp upon coming to office in January 2009 Well, it's still open for business and the site of major human-rights abuses. The 'residents' aren't happy.

From the BBC:

"The US has reinforced medical staff at Guantanamo Bay to try to handle a spreading hunger strike by prisoners at the detention facility.

"About 40 nurses and other specialists arrived at the weekend, camp spokesman Lt Col Samuel House said.

"He said that 100 of 166 detainees were now on hunger strike, with 21 of them being force-fed through a tube.

"The inmates are protesting against their indefinite detention. Most are being held without charge."

One of the detainees who is on hunger strike is British resident and father-of-four Shaker Aamer, who has been held without charge, and allegedly tortured, at Gitmo for more than a decade.

8) 'GHOST MONEY'

Hey America, how's that fight against corruption in Afghanistan going? From the Times:

"Hamid Karzai, the Afghan leader, has admitted taking bags of cash from CIA operatives in Kabul for a presidential slush fund over which the US had no control.

"The money, part of a long tradition of the American intelligence agency trying to buy influence around the world, has been ferried from the CIA's headquarters at the Ariana Hotel in Kabul to the presidential palace in suitcases and backpacks. On at least one occasion, it was carried in plastic shopping bags.

"Separately, Khalil Roman, President Karzai's former chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, described the payments as 'ghost money' in an interview with The New York Times. 'It came in secret, and left in secret," he was quoted as saying.'"

9) GOODBYE FIONA...

Fiona Millar, partner of Alastair Campbell and relentless critic of Michael Gove's school reforms, has decided not to stand for parliament - from yesterday's Evening Standard:

"Education campaigner Fiona Millar today revealed she is pulling out of a battle to represent Labour in Glenda Jackson's seat at the 2015 election.

"She told the Evening Standard she would instead focus all her energy on campaigning against Michael Gove's school reforms. She also felt Ed Miliband's education policies were too 'vague' at present and wanted to stay outside 'the party machine'.

"Her decision blows wide open the looming selection contest for one of London's most coveted Labour target seats, Hampstead & Kilburn."

"Most observers assumed Ms Millar, a local mother of three who worked at Downing Street for Cherie Blair, would be unbeatable if she stood."

10) ...AND HELLO KAREN

From the Guardian:

"As vice-chairman of West Ham United and sidekick to Lord Sugar on BBC1's The Apprentice, Karren Brady has become one of the most recognisable businesswomen in the country.

"Now she is hoping to succeed Sugar, the one-time business tsar to the former Labour government, by following him into politics. 'Anything I did in politics would centre around getting people into work,' Brady, who has spoken at the Tory party conference, said in a Radio Times interview published on Tuesday, ahead of the return of The Apprentice to BBC1 for its ninth series next week... Brady recently told Piers Morgan on his ITV chatshow that she would like to go into politics. But asked in the interview whether the Tories had approached her, Brady said: 'No. I don't think they watch Piers Morgan. But I would like to know what some of the problems are to help them find the solutions. It's very easy to let politics pass you by and think you can't make a difference. If everyone had the same attitude, things would never change.'"

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From today's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 39

Conservatives 30

Ukip 14

Lib Dems 11

That would give Labour a majority of 96.

Labour 38

Conservatives 32

Ukip 13

Lib Dems 9

That would give Labour a majority of 76.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@SadiqKhan Scant sign of a rehabilitation revolution on this Govts watch with cuts to prison officers & increased overcrowding

@DPMcBride Finally heard Ed M's WATO i/v. Before the content, there are 2 basic rules broken: never pre-record WATO; never do a big i/v down-the-line.

@UkipTips Surprise your UKIP friends by singing 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' and not being arrested. Say the word 'blackboard' for added shock value

900 WORDS OR MORE

Janan Ganesh, writing in the FT, says: "Economic growth will not decide the next election."

Peter Kellner, writing in the Times, says: "Ed Miliband doesn’t sound like the next PM."

Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "Labour's golden policy key? Build, build and build more."

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