Mehdi's Morning Memo: Cameron, Crosby And The Ciggies


The five things you need to know on Sunday 14 July 2013...


David Cameron never really probed former comms chief Andy Coulson on what the latter did and didn't know about phone hacking at the News of the World. But how much has he asked his current top strategist Lynton Crosby about the latter's alleged ties to Big Tobacco? From the Observer splash:

"David Cameron faces calls from senior Liberal Democrats to sack his controversial election strategist Lynton Crosby over his links with the tobacco industry, as the coalition descended into open warfare over public health policy.

"As the latest row over the role of big money in politics hit Downing Street, Paul Burstow, who was a health minister until September last year, said Crosby should either quit or be sacked by Cameron after it emerged that his lobbying firm works for global tobacco giant Philip Morris.

"Other Liberal Democrats also made clear they were furious and would fight to ensure Crosby was removed from any role in which he could influence health or any other coalition policy."

The paper says Stephen Williams, the Lib Dem MP who chairs the all-party group on smoking and health, has also called for Crosby to go, while the shadow cabinet office minister Jon Trickett has sent a list of questions about Crosby to the PM and to the Cabinet Secretary and Tory MP (and former health secretary) Stephen Dorrell has said his health select committee will look into why the coalition dropped its plain packaging plans.


Writing in the Sun on Sunday, Ed Miliband says his decision to reform the links between the trade unions and the Labour Party is a "gamble".

Maybe not. After all, Len McCluskey continues to kiss and make up with Ed Miliband, it seems. From the BBC:

"There is 'some moral justification' to Labour's plan to end the automatic affiliation fee for some trade union members, the leader of Unite has said.

"Len McCluskey's remarks to the BBC were the first time he directly addressed proposals outlined by Labour leader Ed Miliband earlier this week.

"But he said Mr Miliband must show union members that he was 'on their side'.

"... Speaking ahead of his speech at the annual Durham Miners' Gala, Mr McCluskey said: 'At the moment Unite affiliates one million of our members who pay our political levy to Labour. Ed has said 'I don't think that's right, I think it should be people who want to be associated with Labour'. And I have to say I think there's some moral justification for that. So that's why I've received his proposals with enthusiasm.'"

Morally justified or not, I still don't think senior Labour types have quite clocked how much money this proposal is going to cost their party come 2015 and beyond. How will Her Majesty's opposition plug the multi-million pound gap, up against a well-funded Tory Party?

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times front page includes this story:

"The former head of the Trades Union Congress walked away from his job with a six-figure 'golden goodbye', newly published accounts reveal.

"Brendan Barber was handed a 'termination payment' worth £104,379 after he retired as TUC general secretary last year. The award meant that his overall pay package in 2012 was almost £300,000 — more than twice the salary of the prime minister."

Nice work if you can get it, I guess...


Tuesday won't be a good day for defenders and supporters of the National Health Service - from the Sunday Telegraph splash:

"The needless deaths of thousands of NHS patients will be exposed in a report this week.

"The NHS's medical director will spell out the failings of 14 trusts in England, which between them have been responsible for up to 13,000 "excess deaths" since 2005."

"Prof Sir Bruce Keogh will describe how each hospital let its patients down badly through poor care, medical errors and failures of management, and will show that the scandal of Stafford Hospital, where up to 1,200 patients died needlessly, was not a one-off.

"The report will also pile pressure on Labour over its handling of the NHS, with the Conservatives likely to seize on it to attack Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary who was in charge of the NHS in England from June 2009 until May 2010."

Oh, and if you want to improve your chances of survival inside an NHS hospital, best to avoid going in between Friday night and Monday morning - from the Sunday Times splash:

"Thousands of patients are dying unnecessarily because of the failure of Britain’s hospitals to provide safe out-of-hours care. Death rates are rising by up to 27% at the weekend in some hospitals."


Watch this video of a dog watching TV - and trying to catch a frisbee that it sees on the screen!


Is Florida about to be hit by race riots? From the New York Times:

"George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, igniting a national debate on racial profiling and civil rights, was found not guilty late Saturday night of second-degree murder. He was also acquitted of manslaughter, a lesser charge."

"After three weeks of testimony, the six-woman jury rejected the prosecution’s contention that Mr. Zimmerman had deliberately pursued Mr. Martin because he assumed the hoodie-clad teenager was a criminal and instigated the fight that led to his death."

I wonder what Barack Obama's response to the verdict will be - the president famously said, a month after the shooting, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

After all, as my HuffPost colleague Ryan Grim, head of the Washington bureau, tweeted late last night: "Does anyone honestly believe Trayvon would have been acquitted if he had shot Zimmerman and told the same story?"


Some plain-speaking from Miliband the Elder, it seems. From the Observer:

"The clear failings of western intervention in both Iraq and Afghanistan have left the international community paralysed by indecision and riven by diplomatic divisions over Syria, former foreign secretary David Miliband says.

I"n a hard-hitting and brutally frank speech – his last before taking up a post as president and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee in New York – Miliband said the 'overall reckoning' on Iraq was 'strongly negative' and that Afghanistan faced the likely prospect of many years of civil war after western troops had left.

"Delivering the 49th Ditchley lecture, entitled After the Decade of War, he insisted that the international community, having shown an 'over-reliance on military power and under-investment in politics and diplomacy' for 10 years, must now learn from its mistakes rather than walk away and disengage.

"... His assessment of the Iraq and Afghanistan missions was brutal. 'Iraq and Afghanistan have occupied American and other western troops for longer than the second world war, at enormous not to say inordinate cost, human, financial and political.'"

All good points - but how about an apology, David?


From the Observer/Opinium poll:

Labour 38

Conservatives 27

Ukip 19

Lib Dems 6

That would give Labour a majority of 110.

From the Independent On Sunday/Sunday Mirror/ComRes poll:

Labour 36

Conservatives 28

Ukip 18

Lib Dems 8

That would give Labour a majority of 90.

From the Mail on Sunday/Survation poll:

Labour 36

Conservatives 28

Ukip 20

Lib Dems 9

That would give Labour a majority of 90.

From the Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 41

Conservatives 30

Ukip 13

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 112.


‏@JackDromeyMP The link that stinks, not between workers, their Trade Unions and the Labour Party but between Lynton Crosby, the Tobacco industry & the PM

@DouglasCarswell Just voted online for Tory MEP candidate selection. Great way of doing it. Don't forget to vote too, if you have one!

@davidwearing If [David] Miliband really thinks Syria carnage's due to failure of NATO to invade then he's even more stupid than I realised


Matthew D'Ancona, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "Reshuffle rumours bode ill for forward-looking Tories."

Adam Boulton, writing in the Sunday Times, says: "Ed’s offering to give up £10m. What about you Dave?"

Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Observer, says: "Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems must reinvent themselves as mass-membership organisations."

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