20/11/2013 03:16 GMT | Updated 20/11/2013 03:21 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Don't You Know That You're Toxic?

Oli Scarff via Getty Images
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: Delegates walk past a giant model of the Conservative Party logo before British Prime Minister David Cameron delivers his keynote speech to delegates on the last day of the annual Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central on October 2, 2013 in Manchester, England. During his closing speech David Cameron said that his 'abiding mission' would make the UK into a 'land of opportunity'. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

The five things you need to know on Wednesday 20 November 2013.


David Cameron's hope of detoxifying the Conservative Party has failed. At least that seems to be the takeaway message from arch-moderniser Nicholas Boles' comments at an event in Westminster yesterday. The planning minister said the only way many people would vote for Tory candidates in 2015 would be if they rebranded themselves as National Liberals. Boles, a close ally of the prime minister who in 2010 had advocated a Tory-Lib Dem electoral pact, said he had underestimated how unwilling some in his party were to accept the Cameron project. Or how keen the Lib Dems would be to convince voters that the Tories were still not very nice.

"I did not realise that our coalition partners would do everything in their power to paint us as heartless extremists," Boles said. "I underestimated the readiness of some in the Conservative party and the press to play up to the caricature and thereby fall squarely into their trap."

When Boles called for Tory and Lib Dem MPs to contest the general election on a coalition ticket many backbench Tories saw it as a test balloon from Cameron's inner-circle. This time around his intervention seems more like a warning to No.10 not to abandon the pre-election modernising message.

Today's Memo is edited by Ned Simons as Mehdi Hasan's popped down to the local Co-op to buy some provisions for the day.


Former Ukip leader Lord Pearson used a debate in the Lords yesterday to warn there was a growing "dark side" (oooh, scary) to British Muslims. And that "we see thousands of home-grown potential terrorists". He also said a lot of other bad things about Islam. Baroness Warsi, who was given the job of responding for the government, hit him with a scene from The West Wing. You can listen the Foreign Office minister's president Bartlet impression here.


David Cameron and Hassan Rouhani spoke on the phone yesterday following the bombing of the Iranian embassy in Lebanon, The Guardian reports. Why does that matter? It was the first time a British prime minister had called an Iranian president to have a chat since 2002. Rouhani, because he is so modern, broke the news on Twitter. He said the call focused on "improving bilateral ties" and that "ways to create positive atmosphere to address concerns of both sides on the #nuclear issue was emphasized". Downing Street also said that on Syria, "there was agreement on the need for a political solution to end the bloodshed".

However @David_Cameron isn't actually following @HassanRouhani on Twitter yet though, so don't get too excited. He isn't following me either. Rude.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR: The Man Behind 17 (Hilarious) Twitter Accounts: @AstonishingSod Really Is Astonishing


Tory chairman Grant Shapps has written to Labour to ask what advice Paul Flowers gave to the party on their banking and economic policy - given his rather dodgy credentials. Michael Green will be writing to Toronto mayor Rob Ford to ask similar questions later today.

Conservative MP Mark Garnier told HuffPost that Labour needed "clear the air of any rumours" that its relationship with Flowers had been anything but above board. The Treasury committee member said while it was perfectly legitimate for Co-op to donate to Labour, it was understandable that "when something fishy comes up people can look at it and ask questions". And there is a whole freezer full of fish fingers of fishyness about this lurid story. Garnier added: "The real story is, what on Earth was going on when this guy was appointed to be chairman of this bank with no experience?"

Flowers is unlikely to appear at the committee again. But you can bet that the banks regulator may be asked to come answer some questions.

MORE DRUGS/POLITICS NEWS: US congressman Trey Radel (R-Fla) was arrested for cocaine possession. The Republican Tweeted on the day of his arrest: "Had some fun last few wks."


Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has written to Conservative MPs warning that they risk "serious damage" to the UK's reserve forces if they vote against Government plans to reorganise the Army. The House of Commons is due to vote on Wednesday on a rebel amendment which could delay plans to expand the Army Reserve to 30,000 to offset cuts of 20,000 in regular forces by 2020.

The amendment, tabled by Tory backbencher John Baron, has been signed by 25 other MPs - including 21 Tories - who are concerned that the changes will leave gaps in defence capabilities. Hammond's letter suggests that he may be concerned that the Government could lose the vote.


@SteveTheQuip Nick Boles is right Tory Party is seen as rich & alien to most young people. Nick spent roughly £100k trying to Win Hove in 2005 & failed.

@JoeWatts_ John Humphrys being delicate: "Hull has been named City of Culture.....what does that mean exactly?"


Mary Riddell in The Daily Telegraph: 'Labour must step in to rescue a generation of doomed youth'

Chris Blackhurst in The Independent: 'Banks should be run by bankers to avoid future disasters'

Allister Heath in The Daily Telegraph: High-impact tax cuts may just save Coalition from the exit come the election

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