Mehdi's Morning Memo: Arms For Dictators

The five things you need to know on Wednesday 17 July 2013...


"The Government has issued more than 3,000 export licences for military and intelligence equipment worth a total of £12.3bn to countries which are on its own official list for human rights abuses... The scale and detail of the deals emerged after a forensic investigation by a committee of MPs, who also discovered that strategically controlled items have been sent to Iran, China, Sri Lanka, Russia, Belarus and Zimbabwe – all of which feature prominently on the Foreign Office’s list of states with worrying civil rights records."

The best bit of the story:

"There are also 57 [contracts] for Argentina, which is not on the list, but which remains in confrontation with Britain over the Falklands."

Er, okay...


The crisis in the NHS continues to dominate the front pages - as the Tory press joins the Tory Party in putting pressure on Labour and, specifically, Labour's shadow health secretary (and ex-health secretary) Andy Burnham.

"Shaming Of NHS As Care Crisis Laid Bare," is the Telegraph splash headline.

"Cameron Hammers Labour Over Failure Of NHS Trusts," says the Times on its front page.

"Labour's Day Of Shame Over The NHS," screams the Daily Mail.

The paper says:

"Labour faced its ‘darkest moment’ yesterday over its stewardship of the Health Service as a devastating report laid bare an appalling catalogue of failings at 11 hospitals where ‘thousands’ of patients needlessly died.

"Voters are told that Labour is the only party in whose hands the NHS is safe, but David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt said the study proved the opposite to be true."

However, the Guardian reports:

"Doctors have accused Jeremy Hunt of trying to 'make political capital out of patients' deaths' after the Keogh report into 14 hospitals with high death rates uncovered 'mediocrity' rather than a disaster on the scale of Mid Staffs.

"...'It is reckless to try to make political capital out of patients' deaths,' said a spokesman for the British Medical Association. 'This just reduces even further patients' confidence in the NHS. Instead of further rhetoric, we need to see a change of culture across the NHS to ensure patients receive the best possible care.'

"Paul Flynn, the chair of the BMA's consultants committee, also criticised Hunt for using Keogh's report to score political points against Labour.

"'Although we need to find urgent solutions to these problems, kneejerk reactions are not going to be helpful,' he said. 'Short-term political gain only ignores the wider long-term challenges facing the NHS, and further risks patient safety.'

"Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said the Department of Health and NHS England should launch an inquiry to find out who had given the media outlets an erroneous briefing on the contents of Keogh's findings.

"'Media reports last weekend said 13,000 patients had died avoidably,' he said. 'But when Bruce Keogh's report came out, he said nothing of the sort. Patients using these hospitals have been worried unnecessarily. Whoever briefed the media on that has been highly irresponsible. My worry is that erroneous 13,000 figure will stick because many people remember headlines, not facts.'"


From the Guardian:

"The Conservative leadership was facing growing pressure on Tuesday over the business interests of its chief strategist for the 2015 general election.

"William Hague and Jeremy Hunt both faced questions about whether Lynton Crosby, who runs an international consultancy, had lobbied them on issues ranging from Syria to plain cigarette packaging.

"Crosby will be forced to declare all his British clients under a new statutory register of professional lobbyists that is to be established in legislation to be published on Wednesday. The lobbying bill will force lobbying consultancies to reveal the names of companies that pay them to lobby ministers and officials."


Watch this video of a cute, fluffy dog chewing on a slice of watermelon.


We have the most overexamined, overtested children in the western world - but Nick Clegg, obviously, didn't get the memo.

From the Guardian splash:

"Children as young as five could face formal classroom tests under proposals unveiled today by Nick Clegg.

"In what would be seen as a significant extension of testing, the deputy prime minister will announce a consultation on whether to introduce a "baseline" test at the start of reception for five-year-olds as part of a new drive to support pupils. The Liberal Democrat leader will unveil the proposals as he anounces a big increase in the pupil premium for disadvantaged primary school children, given to those on free school meals. It will lift from £900 in 2013/14 to £1,300 in the year following.

"... The proposed tests for five-year-olds in England would be a more formal version of tests already set informally by some teachers. These include sitting a child next to a computer for 15 minutes and asking them, for example, to point to a carrot that would be displayed on the screen. As another example they could also be shown a picture of four cats. The pupils would then be asked how many cats are displayed on the screen.


No, no, not Dick! Phew. But his equally right-wing and belligerent daughter, Liz. From the Mail Online:

"Former Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter Liz Cheney will run against Wyoming's senior U.S. senator in next year's Republican primary, her campaign said Tuesday.

"Liz Cheney, 46, is the elder of Dick Cheney's two daughters. Her announcement is a political challenge unlike anything Wyoming has seen for years, maybe decades.

"Republicans in the state rarely challenge incumbents of their own party in national office. All three members of the state's congressional delegation and all statewide elected officials are Republican."

God help us all...


From today's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 38

Conservatives 32

Ukip 12

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 76.


@BBCPolitics Nick Clegg on 5Live says he doesn't even know what Lynton Crosby looks like: "I've never met the guy."

@SophyRidgeSky Thatcher aide in 1984: Savile is "strange & complex...We remain worried... Savile might not be able to refrain from exploiting a knighthood"

@Mike_Fabricant 30 mins ago bumped into a reporter I didn't recognise. Turned out to be the new slimmed-down, sleak @paulwaugh


Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says the NHS "is being asked to do too much with too few staff – but Burnham might just have a cure."

Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian, says: "Another NHS crisis? This is no way to run a public service."

Daniel Finkelstein, writing in the Times, says: "These [Arab] uprisings are mostly incoherent protests by young people. Only when they are older will democracy thrive."

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