Mehdi's Morning Memo: Don't Mention The Spying!

British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel participate in a meeting on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, Oct. 25, 2013. Migration, as well as an upcoming Eastern Partnership summit, will top the agenda in Friday's meeting of EU leaders. (AP Photo/Yves Herman, Pool)
British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel participate in a meeting on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, Oct. 25, 2013. Migration, as well as an upcoming Eastern Partnership summit, will top the agenda in Friday's meeting of EU leaders. (AP Photo/Yves Herman, Pool)

The five things you need to know on Wednesday 6 November 2013...


The Germans aren't pleased. The Independent's splash has the details:

"Britain’s ambassador was called in by the German Foreign Minister after The Independent disclosed allegations that a secret listening post is operating from its embassy in Berlin, just yards from the German parliament and Angela Merkel’s offices.

"Simon McDonald met senior officials and was bluntly warned that any interception of data by intelligence services from a diplomatic facility would be in violation of international law. It is believed to be the first time that Germany has called in a UK ambassador in this way since the end of the Second World War."

So, while David Cameron and the Daily Mail attack the Guardian for daring to reveal the stunning scale and extent of the government's surveillance operations, one of our closest European allies is giving our man in its capital a proper telling off for potentially breaking international law. Sheesh.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports, "lawyers for the partner of a journalist are due back in court in a legal challenge to his airport detention under anti-terrorism laws.

"David Miranda was carrying sensitive computer files for the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald when he was held at Heathrow for almost nine hours in August.

"Mr Greenwald has written about use of electronic surveillance by intelligence agencies in the UK and the US.

"The judicial review will take place at the High Court in London."

Can UK government lawyers really continue to claim, with the straightest of straight faces, that Miranda was/is/could be a terrorist? Really?


From the Times:

"Fireworks were launched at Buckingham Palace as hundreds of masked Anonymous protesters clashed with police in Central London last night.

"Scotland Yard said 11 demonstrators were arrested, mostly for public order offences but also for criminal damage to the Queen Victoria memorial and to Nelson’s Column.

"A fire was started just yards from the palace gates as protesters threw glass bottles during clashes with police dressed in riot gear.

"The demonstrators were taking part in the annual worldwide march against austerity cuts, which were also taking place int he United States, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Spain, Jordan and New Zealand."

Comedian Russell Brand, who has been calling for a 'revolution' in recent weeks, was also spotted in the crowd of protesters wearing a Fawkes mask...


Tory backbencher Mark Pritchard has referred himself to the parliamentary standards commissioner. Why? Let the Telegraph splash do the explaining (alleging?):

"A senior Conservative MP offered to use his political contacts to set up business deals with foreign officials and ministers in return for being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds, The Telegraph can disclose.

"Mark Pritchard, the Conservative MP for The Wrekin and former secretary of the influential 1922 Committee, told an undercover reporter that he could use his 'network' to set up meetings with politicians in countries where he had parliamentary connections.

"Mr Pritchard sits on official parliamentary groups for many of those countries where, in return for payment, he was offering to broker investments and to arrange meetings with senior government figures.

"Parliamentary rules ban MPs from seeking to profit from their positions and warns politicians to avoid any potential conflict of interest."

Pritchard says the Telegraph claims are "hurtful" and "malicious" and is consulting his lawyers. Watch this space.


Watch the full video of my interview with Russell Brand, from Monday night, on politics, economics and misogyny. Agree or disagree with him, he is a very passionate, funny and charismatic man.


A landslide victory for the lefty candidate in the New York mayoral race - from my HuffPost colleagues in the United States:

"Bill de Blasio was elected New York City's first Democratic mayor in two decades Tuesday, running on an unabashedly liberal, tax-the-rich platform that contrasted sharply with billionaire Michael Bloomberg's record during 12 years in office.

"With 21 percent of precincts reporting, De Blasio, the city's public advocate, had 72 percent of the vote compared with 26 percent for Republican Joe Lhota, former chief of the metropolitan area's transit agency... He ran as the anti-Bloomberg, railing against economic inequality and portraying New York as a 'tale of two cities' — one rich, the other working class — under the pro-business, pro-development mayor, who made his fortune from the financial information company that bears his name."

Who says lefty populists can't win elections in the current political climate?


Forget the (future) mayor of New York for a moment - consider instead the astonishing press conference performance from the (current) mayor of Toronto yesterday. My HuffPost colleagues in Canada report:

"Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admitted to reporters at City Hall Tuesday that he has smoked crack cocaine.

"The stunning admission comes months after the leader of Canada's largest city denied using the drug and being an addict.

"Ford had been under intense scrutiny after The Toronto Star and Gawker reported in May on the existence of a video that they said appeared to show the mayor smoking crack. Ford suggested the video did not exist... 'Yes, I've made mistakes, all I can do now is apologize and move on,'' the mayor said.

"'You guys kept referring to alcohol ... there's been times when I've been in a drunken stupor. That's why I want to see the tape. I want everyone in the city to see this tape.'

"The mayor also denied he has been lying for months.

"'I wasn't lying,' he told reporters. 'You didn't ask the correct questions. No, I'm not an addict and no I do not do drugs.'"

Bizarrely, Ford insists he won't be quitting. Huh? You gotta admire the guy's chutzpah - his excuse for smoking crack was that he was in a "drunken stupor"; his excuse for denying the truth was that he wasn't asked "the correct questions". Astonishing...


From the latest Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 40

Conservatives 34

Ukip 11

Lib Dems 8

That would give Labour a majority of 78.


‏@tobyharnden Fact that Mayor Rob Ford smoked crack during a "drunken stupor" makes it totally OK. if he'd been sober it'd be a big lapse in judgement.

@campbellclaret Two years today since Philip Gould died. Time goes too fast. Miss him every day. So does politics

@davidschneider FACT. Guy Fawkes' arrest was used by the government of the time to justify a massive programme of hacking into emails and other data by GCHQ


Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Ed Miliband is making waves, but Labour needs to put Ed Balls centre stage."

Daniel Finkelstein, writing in the Times, says: "Introducing a ‘living wage’ will mean low-paid workers are replaced by increasingly specialist computers."

Russell Brand, writing in the Guardian, says: "We deserve more from our democratic system."

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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