POLITICS
08/11/2013 03:13 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Theresa's Terror Error

PA
Home Secretary Theresa May is interviewed after addressing The College of Policing Conference in Bramshill near Hook, Hampshire.

The five thing you need to know on Friday 8 November 2013...

1) THERESA'S TERROR ERROR

Theresa May's star continues to fade. The political victories over Gary McKinnon and Abu Qatada now seem so long ago. From the Guardian:

"Pressure is mounting on the home secretary, Theresa May, over her handling of the fugitive al-Shabaab-linked terror suspect, Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed, after it emerged on Thursday that he is suing the government, claiming that it was complicit in his torture in Somaliland.

"The legal action emerged as May confirmed that she had wrongly told MPs earlier this week that police had Mohamed's passport. Mohamed was last seen fleeing a west London mosque on Friday wearing a burqa."

The shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper continues to stick the knife in:

"This is farce. The home secretary told the Commons that the main reason Mohamed was under a TPIM was to stop him travelling overseas.

"Surely the existence or whereabouts of his passport is crucial, basic information? How can the Home Office have got this wrong?"

Meanwhile, the FT reports on its front page that the home secretary is "locked in a battle over the benefits of European immigration to Britain, as the minister struggles to find evidence to support her case for imposing tighter restrictions on migrants.

"Ms May has infuriated the Foreign Office by 'dragging her feet' in drafting a report on the impact of the EU's free movement rules, amid claims that the evidence does not support her political narrative of the system being abused."

The paper quotes a senior government official as saying: "Theresa wants to go big on impact of immigration on local services and health tourism and the reality is there is very little evidence to demonstrate this."

Ouch.

2) NEITHER SHAKEN NOR STIRRED

Britain's spy chiefs appeared in public before a parliamentary committee for the first time ever yesterday afternoon. But MPs and peers on the intelligence and security committee (ISC) failed to land any blows on the bosses of MI6, MI5 and GCHQ. As even the generally supportive Times lead editorial acknowledges:

"Sir John Sawers, head of MI6, claimed it was the Snowden leaks that had upset the see-saw and left al-Qaeda 'rubbing its hands'. Sir Iain Lobban, boss of GCHQ, said his staff would 'leave the building' if ordered to snoop. MI5's Andrew Parker said they had foiled 34 plots since 7/7. In truth none of them faced a tough question in 90 minutes. For much of the time this was the Establishment talking to itself, too deferentially..."

The Guardian, at the centre of the political and media storm over spying claims, notes in its own lead editorial:

"An American or European visitor would have been most struck by what the committee did not ask: it barely touched on the substantive issues raised by the Snowden documents. It skated over any serious questioning about the complex issues to do with mass surveillance, civil liberties or privacy... There was nothing on the bugging of world leaders who might be considered allies, not enemies."

The paper concludes:

"There was no Bond villain, no white cat, no steel-rimmed bowler hats – just a gentle 90 minutes of polite questioning in which little was demanded or gleaned. The afternoon came briefly to life only when the spies united to identify the real bad guys: the media."

For me, Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti put it best: "These public servants presided over blanket surveillance of the entire population without public, parliamentary or democratic mandate. Yet they faced a grilling that wouldn't have scared a puppy."

3) WHAT DO THEY HAVE TO HIDE?

Talking of spies and lies, whatever happened to the Chilcot inquiry? The much-delayed official report from retired civil servant Sir John Chilcot into how Britain went to war in Iraq has been delayed again. Remember: it was originally supposed to have been published at the end of 2011 (!)

The Mail has the details:

"The long-awaited report into how Britain went to war in Iraq has been delayed indefinitely by a row over new transcripts of conversations between Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and George W. Bush.

"Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot has revealed that he has asked for ‘more than 130 records of conversations’ between the three men to be declassified.

"His demands have been blocked by Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, Britain’s most senior civil servant... MPs last night voiced fears that the inquiry may never conclude and that it is ‘beyond a joke’ to let the costs to taxpayers spiral further than the £7.4million it has already cost."

It's a simply question: what do Blair and Brown have to hide?

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of martial arts performances... gone wrong!

4) FROM WAR WAR TO JAW JAW?

Is the threat of a US, or even Israeli, military strike on Iran finally receding? My US HuffPost colleagues report:

"Iran's chief nuclear negotiator signaled progress at talks with six world powers Thursday on a deal to cap some of his country's atomic programs in exchange for limited relief from sanctions stifling Iran's economy, saying the six had accepted Tehran's proposals on how to proceed.

"U.S. officials said Secretary of State John Kerry will fly to Geneva on Friday to participate in the negotiations — a last-minute decision that suggests a deal could be imminent."

Whoa! The report continues:

"Even if an agreement is reached, it would only be the start of a long process to reduce Iran's potential nuclear threat, with no guarantee of ultimate success.

"Still, a limited accord would mark a breakthrough after nearly a decade of mostly inconclusive talks focused on limiting, if not eliminating, Iranian atomic programs that could be turned from producing energy into making weapons."

Fingers crossed...!

5) GOODBYE SHAUN

Shaun Woodward is quitting parliament at the next election. The former That's Life and Newsnight producer became a Tory MP in 1997, defected to Labour in 1999 and joined the cabinet under Gordon Brown as Northern Ireland Secretary in 2007.

As the Guardian notes, "His defection cleared the way for David Cameron's election to parliament in the Oxfordshire constituency."

In his diaries, the former Labour MP Chris Mullin wrote with shock of "the awful Shaun Woodward" defecting to Mullin's own side, calling "the New Labour elite parachuting [Woodward] into a safe seat ... one of New Labour's vilest stitch-ups ... made my flesh creep".

I guess he, like most Tory MPs, won't be shedding a tear over Woodward's departure...

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the latest Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 39

Conservatives 33

Ukip 11

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 78.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@jameswhartonmp Walking into work- today I hope MPs vote to #LetBritainDecide on our EU membership!

‏@DanHannanMEP 'Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly & applying the wrong remedies.' Groucho Marx

@jreedmp

#bbcqt

KNOCK, KNOCK:

Nigel, there's someone at the door for you.

Who is it?

The whole of Bulgaria.

Tell them I'm not in.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian, says: "Cities are cool, unpredictable and hard to control: Russell Brand should run for mayor."

Philip Collins, writing in the Times, says: "Talk of who leads Labour next (Chuka, perhaps, or Yvette?) ignores the sentimental policies of today."

Owen Jones, writing in the Independent, says: "Why do so many critics of those of us on the left assume we are consumed by class envy?"

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