POLITICS
25/10/2013 04:18 BST | Updated 25/10/2013 04:20 BST

Mehdi's Morning Memo: The Truth About Health Tourism

AP
Britain's culture secretary Jeremy Hunt leaves his home in central London, Thursday, May 31, 2012. Jeremy Hunt is due to appear Thursday at the Leveson Inquiry into media standards at the High Court in London. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

The five things you need to know on Friday 25 October 2013...

1) THE TRUTH ABOUT HEALTH TOURISM

From the Independent's splash:

"The number of foreign patients who pay to use the NHS each year could be twice as high as the number of so-called “health tourists” exploiting free healthcare in the UK, a new academic study suggests.

"In research that turns the high-profile debate over health tourism on its head, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and University of York found that 18 NHS trusts made a total income of £42m in 2010-11 from foreign paying patients – or 'medical tourists'.

The Guardian adds:

"The researchers also found that more people leave the UK seeking medical treatment abroad than arrive in this country for care: about 63,000 people from the country travelled to hospitals and clinics abroad in 2010, while considerably fewer, about 52,000 people, came here.

"The research flies in the face of assertions by Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, that the tourists cost the health service money."

2) VOTE BLUE, STAY BLUE

Remember when the PM used to say "vote blue to go green"? From the Times splash:

"David Cameron plans to halve the green levies in energy bills while clearing the way for a windfall tax on suppliers before the next election. ScottishPower became the latest of the leading energy companies to increase prices yesterday, warning its 2.2 million customers of above-inflation rises that will add £113 to the average dual fuel bill... The Prime Minister, who was accused by Liberal Democrats of a 'panicky U-turn' for his surprise announcement on Wednesday that he would 'roll back' green taxes, has earmarked four levies on energy companies for abolition. They will be discussed with Liberal Democrat ministers before an announcement in the Autumn Statement on December 4, according to senior Conservatives."

The Times report continues:

"The Conservatives are hoping that a substantial reduction in average bills now will help them to turn the pressure over future energy costs onto the Labour Party. Mr Miliband has signed up to a more radical environmental commitment than the Government — a pledge that one Tory claimed last night would add an extra £125 to average bills by 2020."

I guess voting blue now keeps you blue. Fighting climate change, like fighting poverty, has been binned by the one-time Tory 'modernizer' David Cameron...

3) SPYING ON THE WORLD'S LEADERS

So, it wasn't just Angela Merkel. From the Guardian splash:

"The National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department, according to a classified document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"The confidential memo reveals that the NSA encourages senior officials in its "customer" departments, such the White House, State and the Pentagon, to share their 'Rolodexes' so the agency can add the phone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems.

"The document notes that one unnamed US official handed over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders, none of whom is named. These were immediately 'tasked' for monitoring by the NSA."

Once again, the argument that our spooks use their powers only to 'stop terrorists' is exposed as a complete and utter lie.

On a side note, the BBC's Frank Gardner claims this morning that it is "likely" that David Cameron's phone has been tapped by the NSA as well, "as a matter of course" - despite denials from the White House yesterday.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of a real-life Postman Pat and his black-and-white cat (seriously).

4) WHERE'S THE 'TRACTION'?

From the Telegraph:

"The economic recovery is strengthening but still lacks 'traction', the Governor of the Bank of England said last night.

"Mark Carney promised households that he will not rush to raise interest rates or withdraw emergency support for banks and businesses.

"He was speaking before official figures are expected to confirm today that the recovery is firmly established. Economists were forecasting that the Office for National Statistics would reveal a rise in Gross Domestic Product of 0.8 per cent in the three months to September – the strongest growth since 2010.

"'The recovery has begun, it is strengthening. But we are not going to withdraw monetary stimulus until it has gained that traction,' Mr Carney said."

Ministers will try and spin today's positive GDP figures - a third successive quarter of growth - as a vindication of their austerity policies.

Yet, as shadow chancellor Ed Balls argued yesterday, after three years of pretty flat growth "we would need 1.4 per cent growth in each and every quarter between now and the election simply to catch up all the ground lost since 2010". Labour sources also point out that even if we get growth of 1% today, output will still be 2.3% below its pre-recession peak (compared to the US, where it is 3% higher), and the economy will have grown by just 2.8% since November 2010 - compared to the 7.7% that had been forecast at the time.

Vindication? Not quite...

5) BLAIR: I FEEL EVERYONE'S PAIN

John Major's recent intervention in the debate over energy prices was remarkable because Major's interventions are so rare. Unlike his successor at Number 10. Tony Blair never seems to go away or stop pontificating on political issues. The Guardian reports:

"Tony Blair attributes his success as a conflict mediator to his ability to absorb the 'sense of pain' felt by participants and his skill in transmitting raw emotions from one side to the other.

"The former prime minister says mediators can only bring opponents together if they can understand their suffering on an "empathetic level".

"... In a new foreword to the latest volume of diaries by Alastair Campbell, which focus entirely on the Northern Ireland peace process, Blair writes that the main participants in the negotiations became his friends because 'I had inside me something of the passions they felt inside them'."

Some in the Middle East might argue that Blair has been a failure as a peace envoy because he is unwilling to absorb the Palestinians' 'sense of pain'. It's a point the late Robin Cook made in his memoir...

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From today's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 38

Conservatives 32

Ukip 13

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 76.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@Ed_Miliband Scottish Power becomes yet another energy firm to increase prices. Hard-pressed families need Labour’s energy price freeze.

@jreedmp Taking the advice of @rustyrockets and sitting at home without a jumper, sticking it to 'The Man'...

#bbcqt

@davidschneider I'd respect Michael Gove's passion for unqualified teachers more if he agreed to be operated on by an unqualified surgeon #bbcqt

900 WORDS OR MORE

Philip Collins, writing in the TImes, says: "Cop-cameras won’t rebuild trust in the police."

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Lib Dems are becoming illiberal democrats."

Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "Simon Stevens, new head of NHS England, is in for a rude awakening."

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