The five things you need to know on Thursday 4 July 2013...
1) 'THE CAIRO COUP'
In 2011, it took 18 days for the crowds in Tahrir Square to force unelected dictator Hosni Mubarak to stand down from power; this week, with a little help from their friends in the military, it took just three days for the Tahrir crowds to get rid of Mohamed Morsi, the hugely unpopular but freely-elected president of post-Arab Spring Egypt.
Morsi and key members of his Muslim Brotherhood movement have been arrested and detained; TV stations have been shut down. The interim president, appointed by the army, is Supreme Court chief justice Adly Mansour.
Western governments were caught offguard: the White House would only say that it is reviewing its $1bn-plus military aid to Egypt, while our own William Hague said: "The United Kingdom does not support military intervention as a way to resolve disputes in a democratic system." He didn't, however, demand the restoration of the Morsi presidency.
Millions of supporters of Egypt's opposition may have celebrated the unpopular Islamist president's ejection from office with fireworks and parties on the streets of Cairo throughout the night but the fundamental, unavoidable fact is this: whatever Morsi's flaws, sins and shortcomings, these liberals were celebrating the removal of an elected president by unelected generals. That's is not just bizarre, but wrong. Remember: 13m people voted for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Whether we like it or not, he won fair and square; whether we like it or not, the way to get rid of unpopular leaders is through the ballot box, not the point of a gun.
As the Guardian's leader notes: "If Egypt's army had wanted to disguise the fact that what they had just done was carry out a military coup, they made a poor job of it."
It adds: "To dispose of Egypt's first democratically elected president, to disenfranchise all those who participated in the free elections for the presidency and the parliament and the referendum for the constitution is another matter entirely... which standard is more important than the one which decrees that transfers of power can only be enacted peacefully and through the ballot box? That has just been trashed."
However, the Times says: "Historians may judge that the Army had no choice. Mr Morsi's record as president has been disastrous. He has left an economy in near terminal decline and a broad swathe of the electorate angrily disenfranchised." (It then rightly concludes, though, that "democracy must be the outcome. Anything less would be a betrayal of the Arab Spring.")
This is a truly dangerous and worrying moment for post-Mubarak Egypt; the potential for violence cannot be underestimated. Not just inside Egypt, in fact, but throughout the turbulent region.
The Telegraph leader puts it best: "The Islamists will not take kindly to their government being removed by a military coup just a year after it was installed by a popular vote of more than 50 per cent – a legitimacy that no government in this country has achieved for generations.
"Moreover, the message this sends out to people who were never particularly in thrall to democracy is a bad one. Why, the Islamists will ask, should they take the ballot box seriously when their victories are overturned by force?"
2) RUPE'S RANT
From Channel 4 News:
"In public, the man at the helm of News Corporation has been brought to his knees. He told MPs that giving evidence to a Commons select committee was "the most humble day of his life" and was equally self-effacing in front of the Leveson inquiry into press ethics.
"In private... [a] recording from March earlier this year, obtained by investigative website Exaro, shows the 82-year-old as we've never seen him before - raging against the police and claiming that the inquiry into corrupt payments to public officials has been blown out of proportion.
"'I mean, it's a disgrace. Here we are, two years later, and the cops are totally incompetent,' he says.
"The head of a $30bn media empire was speaking to a room full of Sun newspaper journalists - specifically, Channel 4 News understands, those who had been arrested over claims they had paid public officials, including police officers, for information.
"...Throughout the recording, which lasts about 45 minutes, the News Corp boss repeatedly accuses the police of incompetence - of being "unbelievably slow" he says at one point... But if he is contemptuous of the police, he also shows remarkable disdain for the offence they're investigating.
"He belittles the corrupt payments issue. And for anyone convicted over it - the message is: he'll be there for them.
"'I will do everything in my power to give you total support, even if you're convicted and get six months or whatever,' he says.
"... 'It would be nice to hit back when we can,' one journalist suggests later in the meeting.
"'We will,' replies Mr Murdoch. 'We will'."
Ah, the irony. Catching out the head of NewsCorp with a SECRET recording...
3) WHO WATCHES THE WATCHERS?
Another blow for the deputy prime minister - and for anyone who believes our spooks should be held publicly accountable from time to time. From the Guardian:
"Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the chair of parliament's intelligence and security committee today defends his decision to cancel the first televised cross-examination of the chiefs of the intelligence agencies saying the committee would have been only able to ask superficial questions about the information released by Edward Snowden, the former US National Security Agency whistleblower.
"The committee was due to question the security agencies on camera today. The decision to put them under public scrutiny this week had been hailed by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, at his monthly press conference on Monday as proof that the intelligence agencies were to democratic bodies... Hours after Clegg's press conference, the ISC confirmed the session had been cancelled in the light of the Snowden allegations.
"An unrepentant Rifkind defended the decision saying: 'Our immediate priority is to do detailed work both on the intelligence aspects of the murder in Woolwich of Lee Rigby, and to examine the allegations against GCHQ arising out of the leaking of secrets by the American, Edward Snowden. To do that, seriously, requires us not just asking GCHQ and MI5 whether various allegations are true or false. We need to see any relevant reports, intercepts and other raw intelligence material. Most of this will be highly classified intelligence material.' He said he found arguments that the public hearing should go ahead very unconvincing."
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a local US TV news reporter taking hilarious revenge on members of the public who try and disrupt his live broadcasts.
4) 'WOEFULLY INADEQUATE AND UTTERLY INCOMPETENT'
Speaker John Bercow gave Philip Hammond a verbal kicking in the Commons yesterday. From the Guardian:
"Philip Hammond, the defence secretary regarded as one of the cabinet's safest pair of hands, was rebuked by the Commons speaker, John Bercow, after his officials failed to distribute a document to MPs on the closure of reserve army bases.
"Bercow accused Hammond of a 'woefully inadequate' and 'utterly incompetent' performance after the shadow defence secretary, Jim Murphy, was forced to respond to a statement with no idea about which bases would close.
"... As Hammond tried to offer an explanation, the speaker cut him off and said he could respond later.
"A few minutes later, when the document was finally distributed among MPs, the speaker said: 'The administration of this matter has been woefully inadequate and, frankly, utterly incompetent. I have not known a worse example during my tenure as speaker. I know that the secretary of state has expressed himself in his usual, rather understated, terms, but I hope he genuinely does feel some sense of embarrassment and contrition at what has been a total mishandling by his department, for which he is solely responsible – it is as simple as that.'
Hammond apologised, saying he was "embarrassed by what appears to have just occurred". So he should be...
5) I CAN'T GET U(NITE) OUT OF MY MIND
The other 'big moment' from yesterday's parliamentary proceedings was, of course, PMQs. It was a weird affair, with a Unite-obsessed performance from the prime minister. From Michael Deacon's Telegraph sketch:
"David Cameron was asked about school class sizes. He answered with an attack on Labour's closeness to the unions. He was asked about food banks. He answered with an attack on Labour's closeness to the unions.
"He was asked about the Government's Work Programme. He answered with an attack on Labour's closeness to the unions. Ten times he namechecked the Unite union, and six times its leader, Len McCluskey. 'The right honourable gentleman goes up and down the country speaking for Len McCluskey!' he bellowed at Ed Miliband."
"Evidently Mr Cameron's strategists have told him that, to boost backbench support for his leadership and to damage Labour, there is but one route to success. 'Whatever question you're asked, Prime Minister – remember! The answer is always the unions! Every time! The unions! Just tell yourself it's the 1970s, and we're at war with the unions! The unions!'
"I'd be fascinated to see him on Mastermind. John Humphrys: 'General knowledge. Who sacked the city of Rome in 455AD?'
"Mr Cameron: 'The Unite union.'
"JH: 'In Shakespeare's play, who murdered Hamlet's father?'
"DC: 'Len McCluskey.'"
"This was a remarkable session of PMQs – and, if you judge these things on volume of jeers and cheers, a crushing win for Mr Cameron. Personally I think he missed a trick by not pinning the blame for Egypt on Unite, too. Everyone knows the Middle East is in the pocket of Len McCluskey."
Meanwhile, the Times reveals:
"Notes written to help Ed Miliband rebuff an anticipated Tory onslaught over Labour's links to the Unite union have been published after being left in a Commons toilet.
"In an embarrassment for the Labour leader, the notes show his aides were expecting him to be forced to defend Tom Watson, his party's campaign chief, during Prime Minister's Questions yesterday... notes prepared by Mr Miliband's aides showed they had material ready to fire back. They were published on the Guido Fawkes political blog after being left in a Commons toilet.
"Under the heading 'Tom Watson', it states: 'I'll take Tom Watson over Andy Coulson any day.'"
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From today's Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 9
That would give Labour a majority of 92.
140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
@Kevin_Maguire Part-time democrats Obama & Cameron failing to condemn military coup against Egypt's first elected President will backfire
@Mike_Fabricant As army coups go, I am not sure we should all be condemning the coup in Egypt. It may well be for the best. Morsi was fanatical & ruthless.
@monaeltahawy #Egypt: let's remember goals of our revolution all along: social justice and dignity for all Egyptians, including those we disagree with
900 WORDS OR MORE
Zoe Williams, writing in the Guardian, says: "The welfare minister's attempt to link the rise in food banks to greed rather than poverty shows a withered meanness."
Rafael Behr, writing in the New Statesman, says:
Robert Fisk, writing in the Independent, says: "The army is built from both sides of Egypt’s divide – yet must now keep them apart."
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