Mehdi's Morning Memo: Cameron's Crosby Controversy


The five things you need to know on Monday 15 July 2013...


As Oscar Wilde almost said, to lose one top Downing Street adviser may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two would just look like carelessness.

After the Coulson controversies come the Crosby controversies - though I hasten to add that the Australian strategist isn't accused of breaking any laws.

From the Times:

"David Cameron’s top political adviser will be forced to disclose the clients who use his lobbying consultancy under legislation to clean up the industry to be published tomorrow.

"The Times revealed on Friday that Philip Morris Ltd, the tobacco giant, engaged a firm run by Lynton Crosby to evade government moves to make smoking less attractive to youngsters.

"Last week, the plan to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes was abandoned until after the election, prompting fury among health campaigners.

"Labour is demanding that Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, investigates what role, if any, Mr Crosby played in the decision."

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports:

"Lynton Crosby, the Conservative party's election co-ordinator, chaired a meeting last year where members of the tobacco industry discussed how to block the government's plan to force cigarettes to be sold in plain packets, Labour claimed on Sunday.

"Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, made the claim in a letter demanding answers to a series of questions about Crosby's contact with ministers and officials involved in the government's decision to shelve the plan."

Oh, and the Independent piles on the pressure too, with this report:

"David Cameron came under renewed pressure to sack his party’s elections adviser Lynton Crosby on Sunday night as environmental activists expressed concern about his links to the fracking industry.

"Mr Crosby’s lobbying firm, Crosby Textor, represents the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, an oil and gas lobby group campaigning aggressively for fracking."

Her Majesty's Opposition will be looking to drag out the Crosby stories for as long as possible - especially given how keen Cameron and the Conservatives will be to cling on to the Australian's services.


Move over Tony Blair, liberal interventionism has a new, female, Tory champion - from the Times splash:

"David Cameron is being pushed to do more to intervene in Syria’s civil war by his wife, Samantha, according to senior government figures.

"Mrs Cameron is the 'biggest explanation' for the Prime Minister’s hawkish posture on the conflict which has already cost almost 100,000 lives, a Cabinet minister said.

"She has pushed for a robust response to the humanitarian crisis after travelling to the region in her role as a charity envoy, sources close to the prime minister confirmed."


From the BBC:

"A cap on the total amount of benefits that people aged 16 to 64 can receive has begun rolling out across England, Scotland and Wales.

"Couples and lone parents will now not receive more than £500 a week, while a £350 limit applies to single people.

"The cap is part of the government's overhaul of the benefits system, the biggest since the 1940s."

The fact is, however, that the £26,000 figure is an arbitrary one, which fails to take into account the cost of housing and regional differences, and, according to Paul Johnson of the Institute for FIscal Studies (IFS) this morning on the Today programme, makes only a "modest" saving in terms of the overall social security budget.


Watch this video of a duck named Buttercup who can now waddle again thanks to a prosthetic foot. I kid you not!


From the Guardian:

"The NHS is bracing itself for a fresh onslaught from the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who is preparing to make clear that he expects some hospital trust bosses to lose their jobs when an extensive inquiry triggered by high death rates reports on Tuesday.

"David Cameron ordered the inquiry into 14 hospital trusts with high mortality rates earlier this year, following the damning official report into the Mid Staffordshire care scandal. The findings are expected to highlight failings such as poor care, inadequate staffing and lax medical record keeping – at all of them."

The Independent has its own (different) NHS story splashed on its front page:

"Drugs companies have been accused of 'highway robbery' of the NHS by using a legal loophole to push up the price of medicines in some cases by up to 2,000 per cent – at a cost to the taxpayer of tens of millions a year.

"At least 15 drugs have substantially increased in price after being 'flipped' from one firm to another, according to information obtained by doctors.

"The legal 'scam' has prompted outrage from the British Medical Association – which has warned that vital treatments risk being denied to patients if costs rise so much that the NHS can no longer afford them."


Journalists becoming politicians is more and more common these days - perhaps the prominent and successful example is Michael Gove, who went from the Times comment pages to the Commons and then the Cabinet.

Last night, journalist, blogger and activist Rowenna Davis, a regular on TV newspaper reviews and Sunday political programmes, was selected as the Labour PPC for Southampton Itchen.

"I've known Rowenna since 2011 and have long admired her campaigning on issues such as the living wage, affordable housing and payday loans. Current MP John Denham, who is standing down in 2015, held the seat by just 192 votes in 2010 (making it the 13th most marginal in the Commons) but with a candidate as strong as Rowenna it's one the party can be confident of retaining... As well as serving as a councillor in Peckham, Rowenna has been a regular contributor to the NS since 2010. She's also the author of Tangled Up In Blue, an excellent account of the birth of Blue Labour..."

George adds:

"Labour also held its selection in Hampstead and Kilburn today, where Camden councillor Tulip Siddiq was chosen to replace the retiring Glenda Jackson. That seat is even more marginal than Southampton Itchen, with Labour holding on by just 42 votes in 2010.

"Judging by tweets from those at the selection, it appears to have been an acrimonious occasion. Camden New Journal reporter Richard Osley wrote: 'All a bit heated outside the Labour selection meeting for Hampstead and Kilburn. One man reportedly headbutted in clash outside', and the police and ambulance services were subsequently called."

Over the weekend, in total, six Labour parliamentary candidates were selected to fight for seats in 2015 and all six of them were women, with not a Unite scandal in sight...


"There are the Murrays of this world who win and there are the Djokovics who come second. You've got to be gracious when you don't win." - David Miliband speaking on the Andrew Marr show yesterday, about his defeat at the hands of his brother Ed. Of course, Djokovic is still ranked as number one in the world. As, I'm sure, David M knows...


From yesterday's Andrew Rawnsley column in the Observer: there are now more members of the Jedi faith in the UK than there are members of the Conservative Party.


From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 41

Conservatives 30

Ukip 13

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 112.


@JohnDenhamMP Congrats to Rowenna Davis. Came through a strong set of candidates to win. Look forward to working with her to keep Itchen Labour in 2015

@KailashChandOBE We all remember the posters: ‘I’ll cut the deficit,not the #NHS’. It turns out,@David_Cameron is the man who cut the NHS, not the deficit.

@RicHolden Professor Sir Brian Jarman, of Imperial College, says @andyburnhammp presided over "denial machine", ignoring data on high NHS death rates


Gary Younge, writing in the Guardian, says: "Calls for calm after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin are empty words for black families."

Tim Montgomerie, writing in the Times, says: "From arming the Syrian rebels to gay marriage, the Prime Minister’s policies tend to reflect his wife’s core values."

Owen Jones, writing in the Independent, says: "For Tories, privatisation is still a matter of dogmatic faith."

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

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