POLITICS
13/11/2013 03:10 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: 'We Messed Up'

ASSOCIATED PRESS
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, right, listens to the debate with Prime Minister Tony Blair at the governing Labour Party Conference in Brighton, England, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2004. Straw called on the Israeli government Thursday to stop the targeted killings of Palestinian militants, and insisted the Palestinian Authority must rein in terrorist groups. In a speech Straw said there was no "greater challenge to international order than the terrible conflict between the Israelis and Palest

The five things you need to know on Wednesday 13 November 2013...

1) 'WE MESSED UP'

The Daily Mail has gleefully splashed on comments made by Jack Straw in a column for his local paper:

"Jack Straw has admitted that throwing open Britain’s borders to Eastern European migrants was a ‘spectacular mistake’.

"The former Home Secretary said Labour’s 2004 decision to hand immediate working rights to Poles and migrants from other new EU states was a ‘well-intentioned policy we messed up’."

It is indeed undeniable that the government's pre-2004 forecast that up to 13,000 migrants would come to Britain each year was way off - by a factor of 10. But was it harmful to the UK? Some respected analysts - such as the National Institute for Economic and Social Research - say East European migrants contributed far more to the public purse in tax contributions than they took out in benefits or public services, and their very presence in the UK helped fuel the New Labour boom years...

2) BEDROOM TAX REVOLT

We were reminded again last night that the so-called 'bedroom tax' is the coalition's most controversial (and unpopular?) 'welfare reform'. From the Guardian:

"The Liberal Democrat president, Tim Farron, and one other Lib Dem MP joined Labour in voting against the bedroom tax in a Labour-inspired Commons debate on Tuesday that sparked rare passion including a claim by one Tory MP that feckless fathers should be chained and forced to work.

"The Labour motion calling for the abolition was defeated by 252 to 226, a substantial cut in the coalition majority. A handful of Lib Dem MPs abstained. The spare-room subsidy or bedroom tax cuts housing benefit for social housing tenants by 14% for those deemed to have an extra bedroom and 25% for claimants with two or more spare bedrooms."

The Guardian report continues:

"A succession of Labour MPs produced personal stories of the impact of the bedroom tax drawn from their constituency surgeries. Steve Pound, said his brother was in danger of losing his home of 20 years even though his spare room was being used for a kidney dialysis unit."

But it quotes Tory MP for Monmouth, David Davies, as saying: "[G]et hold of some of these feckless fathers, drag them off, put them in chains if necessary, make them work and make them pay back society for the cost of bringing up the children they chose to bring into this world."

Hmm, some might argue that the bedroom tax prevents plenty of divorced dads from having their kids over to stay for the weekend...

3) THE NEW TWO-TIER A&E

The Tories are still trying to neutralise the NHS issue, on which Labour enjoys a substantial lead. From the Telegraph splash:

"At least 100 accident and emergency units will offer reduced levels of service and patients will have to travel further for expert treatment under the biggest shake–up of NHS casualty departments in 40 years.

"A new two–tier system of A&E departments is the only way to keep a safe health service which is free at the point of use, officials claim... The reorganisation comes amid fears that this winter will put unprecedented strain on England's A&E units.

"Prof Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS medical director, said the system was under 'intense, growing and unsustainable pressure' from an ageing population and high numbers turning to casualty departments because of widespread confusion about where else to go."

Critics of the coalition will see this as a distraction technique. As Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham argued in the Times earlier this week: "2013 has been the worst year in A&E for at least a decade, with one million people waiting more than four hours to be seen and the first summer A&E crisis in living memory. The NHS stands in an even worse position than last year, with fewer nurses, fewer beds, a shortage of senior A&E doctors and social care support further reduced."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of the Newsnight end credits featuring Jeremy Paxman showing off his own new 'tatoo'. Er...

4) BLAIR, IRAQ AND BIG MONEY

The row over the Iraq war and the progress of the Chilcot inquiry rolls on. From the Times:

"The civil servant who was Tony Blair's closest adviser on the 2003 Iraq invasion must have no say in whether to publish discussions between Mr Blair and President George W. Bush about the war, a former Foreign Secretary has said.

"The decision on whether the official inquiry into the war may publish communications between Downing Street and Mr Bush rests with Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, who was Principal Private Secretary to Mr Blair from 1999 to 2003.

"Lord Owen, who was Foreign Secretary from 1977 to 1979, said it 'beggars belief' that Sir Jeremy should be in charge of the decision, and urged the Prime Minister to give the task to the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling."

Talking of Blair, the Mail reports:

"Tony Blair took his earning power to astonishing new heights yesterday when he pocketed £150,000 for just an hour’s work.

"The former Prime Minister, who is said to have amassed a £50 million fortune since leaving office, was paid the staggering sum for conducting two 30-minute events in Dubai.

"His fee for talking about global affairs in the fabulously wealthy Gulf state worked out at £2,602 per minute."

5) CAMPBELL VS DACRE, ROUND TWO

Alastair Campbell has the press barons in his sights - if only he'd attacked them like this when he worked for Tony Blair, eh?

From the Huffington Post UK:

"The era in which British newspapers are dominated by barons such as Paul Dacre and Rupert Murdoch is coming to an end, according to former Downing Street Director of Communications Alastair Campbell.

"In a series of lectures to be delivered at Cambridge University this week, Tony Blair’s former press secretary lambasts the Murdoch-Dacre generation, which he likens to the union bosses in the Thatcher era, 'desperately clinging on to power and systems being overtaken by people demanding change.'"

Ouch.

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"It's amazing how my own leader can be so wrong. But he was." - former Labour campaign coordinator Tom Watson MP, commenting on Ed Miliband's handling of the Falkirk/Unite selection row.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 42

Conservatives 32

Ukip 10

Lib Dems 8

That would give Labour a majority of 116.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

‏@Mike_Fabricant Question: Do you stop wearing your poppy after 11am on 11th of the 11th or at midnight on 11/11??? Is there a protocol?

@jreedmp .@timfarron Genuine thanks for voting with us to scrap the bedroom tax, Tim. Kudos.

@politic_animal A little note to politicians on all sides: the use of the phrase "we don't need lectures from..." automatically loses you the debate.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "NHS faces ruin and it will take brave decisions to save it."

Zoe Williams, writing in the Guardian, says: "If ordinary people were in charge of the energy sector, it would drive the shift to renewables."

Roger Boyes, writing in the Times, says: "Britain should do more about human rights abuses in Commonwealth member states."

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