Mehdi's Morning Memo: Dave's Red Line


The ten things you need to know on Wednesday 15 May...


Today, the Commons speaker John Bercow will make a decision on whether or not to call a vote on the Tory eurosceptics' amendment to the Queen's speech (remember, the one which expresses 'regret' at the lack of a EU referendum bill?). Most of the original Conservative rebels are expected to still vote for this amendment - despite their party's publication of a draft bill last night guaranteeing a referendum on EU membership.

Everytime a Tory leader - be it Major, Hague, Cameron, whoever - makes a concession to his party's EU-obsessed, swivel-eyed wing, the eurosceptics pocket the concession, wait a very short period of time and then come back demanding more. The concessions are never enough. They've made it pretty clear that they won't be satisfied until we're out of the EU. Now. Or better yet: yesterday!

The Tories' draft bill would legally enshrine a referendum on the question: "Should Britain remain a member of the European Union?" - and the current party leader is now drawing a line in the sand: this far, no further. At least, that's what he and his aides want us to believe.

From the Times:

"David Cameron ruled out further concessions to Conservative rebels on Europe last night as his surprise embrace of an immediate referendum Bill threatened to fracture the party.

"Eurosceptics demanded that Mr Cameron go further and, if necessary, bring down the coalition to write his promised referendum into law. But Tory MPs in marginal seats criticised their colleagues for sounding 'like a broken record' on Europe and putting off voters.

"... Senior Tory sources said that there would be no more concessions to the party's Eurosceptics. 'We've got Obama and this Bill,' they said, referring to the support for Mr Cameron's strategy that President Obama gave after White House talks on Monday.

"'It's like building a dam,' the sources said. 'This is our red line — we're not going to give them any more ground.'"

The Guardian quotes Nicholas Soames, Tory backbencher and grandson of Churchill, who went on the BBC yesterday to complain of "his Eurosceptic colleagues behaving as if they were in a pub argument: 'So thin appears to be the trust that not even the prime minister's word is accepted by members of his own party.' The sceptics, he added, had insatiable demands. 'You concede a yard and immediately ... they want more. I think it is a lunatic way of proceeding.'"

Indeed it is. Let's see how red the red line stays...


It isn't just Cameron who's under fire over Europe; Tories - both on the front and backbenches - are targeting Lib Dem leader and arch-Europhile Nick Clegg.

From the Guardian:

"The dispute about Europe intensified yesterday as the Conservative party co-chairman Grant Shapps challenged Nick Clegg to show courage and back a draft in/out EU referendum bill, accusing the Liberal Democrats of 'complete disdain' for the views of the British people.

"Tory officials pointed to what they described as the hypocrisy of Clegg's abandoned promise in 2010 for a referendum on Europe.

"With Clegg standing in for David Cameron at prime minister's questions today, the deputy prime minister is expecting to be harried by Tory backbenchers challenging him to support the draft bill."

The Telegraph quotes senior Lib Dems describing the Conservative moves as "ridiculous posturing". A source close to Clegg told the paper: "We won't give up any government time to internal Conservative Party politics."


On Sunday, Michael Gove was claiming that Nick Clegg had changed his position on the government's childcare reforms under pressure from left-wing Lib Dems and external pressure groups.

Now, the Telegraph reports that the deputy PM "has been accused of betrayal after leaked letters emerged showing that last year he backed child care plans that he is now trying to block.

"Ministers have accused the Deputy Prime Minister of threatening a plan that could bring down child care costs by relaxing rules on the number of children that childminders and nursery staff can care for.

"... Tory sources said the letters, obtained by the BBC, show that Mr Clegg had 'backtracked for purely political reasons'. Liz Truss, the education minister, said the Government would press ahead with the proposals."


First Jon Cruddas was promising paid leave for fathers to attend antenatal classes; now Diane Abbott is taking on the 'crisis of masculinity'. From the Guardian:

"Britain is facing a 'crisis of masculinity', with rapid economic change warping male identity and encouraging machismo and misogyny, the Labour MP Diane Abbott will claim tomorrow. The shadow public health minister will say that unemployment and the economic downturn risks creating a generation of disaffected young men, fuelling homophobia, machismo and misogyny. She will also say men are failing to discuss the problems they face. 'It's all become a bit like the film Fight Club - the first rule of being a man in modern Britain is that you're not allowed to talk about it,' she will say in a speech to the thinktank Demos.

"The government must put the aim of full employment at its heart if these problems are to be solved, she believes. Abbott's words signal a move by Labour to capture the political battleground of the family from the Tories."


Theresa May continues her campaign to look tough on crime, win over the police and play to the Tory 'hang 'em/flog 'em' brigade.

"Theresa May, the Home Secretary, says police killers should face minimum whole-life jail terms under proposals to be unveiled in front of thousands of rank-and-file police officers on Wednesday.

"The current starting point for anyone convicted of the murder of a police officer in the line of duty is 30 years.

"But the Government is to propose that this should be increased to a life sentence without parole, Theresa May will tell the Police Federation annual conference."

Personally, I'd like to see life mean life for all cold-blooded killers; I've never quite understood why cop killers should be seen as a special category of criminals.


Watch this vertigo-inducing video taken from the One World Trade Center spire as it was lifted onto the top of the skyscraper.


So, do we still want to arm those Syrian rebels? From the Huffington Post UK:

"Gruesome footage that has appeared online seems to show a [rebel commander] cutting open a dead body and removing organs.

"He then appears to take a bite out of the heart, before saying: 'I swear to God we will eat your hearts and your livers, you soldiers of Bashar (President Assad) the dog.' There was a sectarian element to the atrocity, with the figure encouraging similar attacks on other Alawites - the minority ruling group in Syria."

With friends like these...


Guess what? Austerity doesn't just lead to slow growth but greater inequality. Who knew, eh?

From the Guardian:

"The OECD has warned that Britain faces rising levels of inequality by pursuing austerity polices that are widening the gulf between rich and poor.

"In a report examining the developed world's response to the global slowdown, the thinktank warns that the 'financial crisis is squeezing income and putting pressure on inequality and poverty' across the board.

"It says that income inequality in the UK 'remained pretty steady' between 1995 and 2007 but jumped during the first three years of the recession.

"'The concern is inequality will rise much more once the full impact of public spending cuts is felt,' said Michael Förster, senior analyst at the OECD social policy division."

Meanwhile, UK austerians will ignore the OECD research and instead point with glee at the fact that France, the second-biggest economy in the eurozone, has today fallen into recession, after contracting by 0.2% in the first quarter of the year.


Do you want to know how badly the Labour Party needs trade union cash? From the Times:

"Labour is facing a new financial crisis after it emerged that the party depends on a massive overdraft from the troubled Co-operative Bank.

"The party relies on a £3.9 million lifeline from the ailing lender, which could be cut as part of the overhaul or sale of the bank.

"The party has been kept afloat by a series of overdrafts on unusually generous terms from the bank, which has strong links to the party dating back to 1927."


From the Independent:

"Six months after his triumphant reelection, 'second term-itis' has struck President Obama, beset by simultaneous scandals that could scotch his already slender hopes of driving major new legislation through Congress... the administration is suddenly on the defensive on three fronts: its handling of the aftermath of the Benghazi attack last September, the targeting by US tax authorities of conservative political groups, and now the seizure by the Justice Department of phone records for reporters at the Associated Press, in its pursuit of a leak about a failed al-Qa'ida plot last year.

"... The IRS affair however may have the greatest ramifications, and certainly strikes the darkest historical chords. With its examination of the tax-exempt status of Tea Partyaligned and other right-wing political groups, the IRS has brought back memories of the Nixon White House and its use of the tax authorities to hound political opponents - except that this time the roles are reversed, with conservatives the target. In Monday's press conference with David Cameron, Mr Obama described the IRS' behaviour... as 'outrageous'."


Is this the best story of the day?

From the Sun:

"Star Wars fanatics could soon be Skywalking up the aisle — to legally marry as Jedis.

"Backbenchers will use the proposed shake-up in gay marriage laws to push for humanist ceremonies to be made legal in England.

"This could allow pagans, spiritualists and followers of the Jedi 'faith' to be allowed to wed."


From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 40

Conservatives 30

Ukip 15

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 110.


@tom_watson Surprised not "very, very, very, very" RT @BBCNormanS: Grant Shapps says "we are very,very relaxed" about tmrrw's EU referendum vote

@Mike_Fabricant The interesting test now will be whether Labour try actively to block the EU Referendum Bill.........

@ChukaUmunna The PM is in the farcical position of going around the US promoting an EU/US trade agreement whilst having quickened our exit from the EU


Dominic Sandbrook, writing in the Daily Mail, says: "Floundering in a European mire of his own making, I fear Dave's turning into John Major."

Seumas Milne, writing in the Guardian, says: "A Tory-led exit from Europe would unleash a carnival of reaction."

Daniel Finkelstein, writing in the Times, says: "Politicians will be pressed to say which of their promises are non-negotiable in the event of another coalition."

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