11/11/2013 03:10 GMT | Updated 11/11/2013 03:12 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Danny Vs His Dad

File photo dated 20/03/13 of Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander who has accused some Tory Cabinet colleagues of talking tough about the need to control the public finances while jealously guarding their own budgets during negotiations on the latest round of Government spending cuts.

The five things you need to know on Monday 11 November 2013...


The chairman of the Lochaber housing association in Scotland has criticised the coalition's 'bedroom tax' - sorry, 'spare room subsidy' - as "particularly unfair".

Why should we care what he thinks? Well, he happens to be named Di Alexander and he is the father of Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem Chief Secretary of the Treasury. Awk-ward!

The Guardian reports Alexander Snr's comments:

"The association has been 'facing up to the considerable challenge presented by welfare reform changes', he said. 'The first of those to be implemented – the so-called bedroom tax – is particularly unfair in that it penalises both our tenants and ourselves for not being able to magic up a supply of smaller properties.'

"He said government funding had been focused on providing homes with at least two bedrooms as 'all parties hitherto agreed' they were best suited to the needs of the rural area."

The report continues:

"Lib Dem ministers have supported the bedroom tax, although at the party conference in September delegates voted for a motion condemning it and calling for an immediate review of its impact."

Coalition ministers seem to have problems getting their parents onboard with key government policies - David Cameron's mum wasn't a fan of her son's support for gay marriage.


First he called for a windfall tax on the energy companies; now he's having a go at the private school boys who run Britain.

Sir John Major isn't the loyal, quiet ex-premier any more, it seems.

From the Telegraph:

"The dominance of a private-school educated elite and well-heeled middle class in the “upper echelons” of public life in Britain is 'truly shocking', Sir John Major has said.

"The former Conservative Prime Minister said he was appalled that 'every single sphere of British influence' in society is dominated by men and women who went to private school or who are from the “affluent middle class”.

"More than half of the Cabinet, including David Cameron, the Prime Minister, George Osborne, the Chancellor, and Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, are thought to have gone to private school and are independently very wealthy."

I guess Sir John - who tries to cover himself by bizarrely blaming the current situation on the 1997-2010 Labour government - has just made it acceptable again to raise the 'poshness' of Dave, Gideon and Nick...


Talking of ex-prime ministers, what's Major's successor, Tony Blair, up to these days? From the Daily Mail:

"Tony Blair’s multi-million-pound deal to boost ‘good governance’ in Kazakhstan has resulted in civil rights and freedom of the Press getting worse, it was claimed yesterday.

"The former prime minister was accused of helping to preside over heavy reversals in human rights as he advised the Kazakh regime led by dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev. The two-year contract has come to an end but could still be renewed.

"Hugh Williamson, of Human Rights Watch, said Mr Blair’s main achievement had been ‘positive spin’ for the oil-rich regime."

The paper quotes Amirzhan Kosanov, the "embattled Kazakh opposition leader", who says: "Unfortunately, over the two years that Tony Blair has been a consultant [to the president], we haven’t seen any changes for the better or signals of movement towards democratisation."

Oh dear...


Watch this video of a dancing bulldog.


The row over energy prices and the government's energy price policy (or lack thereof!) continues to rumble on for the seventh consecutive week. This week the words "conflict" and "interest" come to mind. From the Guardian front page:

"A major state subsidy scheme for the UK's gas-fired power stations is being designed by an employee of a gas company working on secondment to the government, according to a document released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc).

"The list of industry secondees, released to Greenpeace under freedom of information (FOI) rules, shows that the head of capacity market design at Decc is an employee seconded for two years from the Irish energy company ESB, which owns three gas-fired power plants in the UK.

"A separate industry document names the employee as Fergal McNamara and describes him as the head of capacity market design at the ministry as well as being a 'government representative'."

The paper quotes Green Party MP Caroline Lucas as saying: "Ed Davey is trying to convince us that he's taking a tough stand against the energy companies. How on earth are bill-payers supposed to take him seriously when they get reminders like this of the cosy relationship between government and the gas industry?"

Indeed. Meanwhile, the Independent reports on its front page:

"Fund managers controlling billions of pounds invested in UK energy companies have warned that they are considering pulling out of the sector because of political interference in the market."

The paper adds:

"The debate over energy costs is set to intensify in the run-up to George Osborne’s Autumn Statement on 4 December, when the Chancellor is expected to roll back the green levies imposed on energy companies. Such action has been vehemently opposed by the Liberal Democrats, with the Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, saying that he would fight “like a tiger” to preserve the incentives, which increase bills while promoting energy efficiency."


Ten years ago, France was pushing for a diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis while the UK and US were pushing for military action.

Today, on Iran, the situation seems to be reversed - in fact, over the weekend, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius helped undermine negotiations between western powers and the Iranian government in Geneva.

Colum Lynch and Yochi Dreazen, writing for ForeignPolicy.com, have a fascinating piece on how French foreign minister Lauren Fabius joined the - to the delight of US super hawks such as Republican senator John McCain (who tweeted: "#France had the courage to prevent a bad nuclear agreement with #Iran. Vive la France!").

They note:

"Yet the French response shouldn't have been a total surprise. The socialist government of French President François Hollande has adopted a muscular foreign policy that has put it to the right of the Obama administration on Libya, Mali, Syria and now Iran. Along the way, it has also become Israel's primary European ally and -- after the U.S. -- arguably its closest friend in the world."

They conclude:

"France's opposition to the deal carries clear risks. The U.S. negotiators and their Iranian counterparts have both warned that the window for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue won't stay open forever. Not too long from now, Iran will have enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. If the talks fall apart, France may have effectively scuttled any option of ending Iran's nuclear program without using military force, something no country -- including Israel -- wants to do."

It's worth reading the full piece...


From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 39

Conservatives 34

Ukip 11

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 60.


‏@bbcnickrobinson If you just got on the number 19 bus in highbury & have lost your bag - you left it at the bus stop #testingthepoweroftwitter

@alstewitn #DowntonAbbey 'Is it just me or are the bills twice what they used to be'. Lord F's been talking to @Ed_Miliband

@stephenkb Really want to steal @PCollinsTimes' excellent rule: "my iron law of things that happen in America is that they happen in America."


Chris Huhne, writing in the Guardian, says: "The Tories' psychosis over Europe is leading them to disaster."

Boris Johnson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Marine A must face justice, but the law has its limits in warfare."

Edward Luce, writing in the FT, says: "Iran will test Obama's diplomatic game plan."

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