06/09/2013 05:06 BST | Updated 06/09/2013 05:08 BST

Mehdi's Morning Memo: 'There Can Be No Military Solution'

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 05: In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency, Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) greets U.S. President Barack Obama at the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The G20 summit is expected to be dominated by the issue of military action in Syria while issues surrounding the global economy, including tax avoidance by multinationals, will also be discussed during the two-day summit. (Photo by Ramil Sitdikov/Host Photo Agency via

The five things you need to know on Friday 6 September 2013...


From the FT:

"Barack Obama, US president, yesterday came under pressure from China and the European Council chief to back away from the pursuit of a military solution in Syria.

"Amid high diplomatic tension at a G20 summit in St Petersburg, Mr Obama arrived with the international community split on any response to the alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus last month.

"China's deputy minister of finance Zhu Guangyao pointed out that it would harm the global economy if oil prices shot up, while European Council president Herman Van Rompuy emphasised the need to address the Syria crisis "through the UN process". He told a press briefing: 'There is no military solution to the Syria conflict, there can only be a political solution.'

"Further pressure on the US president came from Pope Francis, who wrote a letter to summit host Vladimir Putin opposing the US plans. 'I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,' he said."

First, Vladimir Putin called John Kerry a liar. Then, yesterday, Obama's ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, accused Russia of holding the Security Council "hostage" on Syria. So much for all that talk of Obama "resetting" relations between the US and Russia when he was first elected to office in 2009.

Meanwhile, the chancellor George Osborne admitted to the Today programme that there was “disagreement around the table” about whether or not to launch air strikes against the Assad regime following the alleged chemical weapon attack in eastern Damascus.

“I was not at the leaders’ dinner, but what I’ve heard is there were a number of people around the table – for example the Turks – who put a very strong argument about how the world must respond to the use of chemical weapons and that was a very passionate and heartfelt appeal.”

And Blair's back. Again.

Oh, on a side note, the Huffington Post UK reports: "Ukip was decisive in swinging the Commons vote against British military intervention in Syria, according to Nigel Farage."

He's a modest man, our Nige...


From the Times splash:

"David Cameron has made curbing migrants’ access to British benefits a key demand in negotiations with Brussels before a referendum on EU membership.

"In an interview with The Times, the Prime Minister said that he was looking at restricting the ability of workers from new EU member states to work in Britain and limiting existing migrants’ access to benefits.

The paper quotes the PM as saying: Could the whole problems of immigration, problems with welfare tourism . . . be part of ... making sure we have a European relationship that works for Britain? Yes of course it can."

Channel 4's Factcheck blog debunks some of the myths around 'welfare tourism' here.


Poor ol' Chris Patten. Not just under fire from the right-wing press but also from a former BBC director general. From the Guardian:

"The former BBC director general Mark Thompson has accused the BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten of 'fundamentally misleading' parliament over the extent of his knowledge of controversial six-figure payoffs to senior staff at the broadcaster.

"Thompson alleges that Patten and the BBC Trustee Anthony Fry told 'specific untruths and inaccuracies' in their evidence to MPs on the public accounts committee (PAC) on 10 July this year, in leaked evidence from the former director general sent to the same committee.

"... Thompson, who ran the BBC between 2004 and 2012, attacked his former boss in a detailed 25-page witness statement that will raises questions for Patten about his knowledge of two controversial severance payments.

"... A BBC Trust spokesman said: 'This is a bizarre document. We reject the suggestion that Lord Patten and Anthony Fry misled the PAC. We completely disagree with Mark Thompson's analysis, much of which is unsubstantiated, in particular the suggestion that Lord Patten was given a full and formal briefing on the exact terms of Mark Byford's departure, which in any event took place before the current Chairman's arrival at the Trust.'"


Watch this video of a sneezing bunny.


Who needs the GMB, eh? From the Independent's splash:

"Labour is threatening to impose a £5,000 cap on donations to political parties and hand them more taxpayers' money without reaching agreement with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

"The Labour manifesto at the 2015 general election is expected to include a pledge to “take the big money out of politics”. Until now, politicians have accepted that reform of party funding would require agreement between the three main parties. But for the first time, senior Labour figures are suggesting that Ed Miliband might introduce legislation without first reaching consensus if the party wins the election.

"Although an incoming Labour Government would try to reach a deal with the Tories and Lib Dems, bringing in millions of pounds more state funding without cross-party agreement would be controversial."

That's the understatement of the day...


Say it ain't so? Another U-turn? Really? From the Guardian:

"Ministers have been forced into a U-turn over new anti-lobbying laws after a public outcry against the "gagging" effect on charities.

"Liberal Democrat sources said the government will retreat on some parts of the lobbying bill as early as next week, after charities raised serious concerns that it would have a "chilling effect" on their ability to campaign.

"The news comes days after MPs attacked the bill as a 'dog's breakfast' and a 'mess' when it was debated for the first time in the House of Commons."


From today's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 38

Conservatives 31

Ukip 13

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 84.


@tnewtondunn BREAKING: David Cameron says "it may be necessary" to get a UN Security Council resolution to force free access for aid columns into Syria.

@Dorianlynskey Foreign policy advice from the man behind Iraq war is like medicine from the inventor of thalidomide. Even if he were right he'd sound wrong

@EmmaReynoldsMP Michael Gove says chIldren do better at school if they have their own bedrooms, how does he explain his support for bedroom tax?


Nick Clegg, writing in the FT, says: "London needs HS2 as much as the north."

Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "Whose recovery is this? That's the great general election question."

Philip Collins, writing in the Times, says: "Labour can’t allow the unions to win this."

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