POLITICS
22/11/2013 03:17 GMT | Updated 22/11/2013 03:20 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Flowers Arrested

Co-operative Bank chairman Reverend Paul Flowers in front of the Treasury Select Committee on November 6 to answer questions on the Project Verde inquiry.
PA/PA Wire
Co-operative Bank chairman Reverend Paul Flowers in front of the Treasury Select Committee on November 6 to answer questions on the Project Verde inquiry.

The five things you need to know on Friday 22 November 2013...

1) FLOWERS ARRESTED

Former chairman of the Co-operative Bank, Paul Flowers, who the Mail on Sunday claimed had been caught buying and using crystal meth, crack cocaine and ketamine, has been arrested in connection with a "drugs supply investigation". From the Huffington Post UK:

"West Yorkshire Police said officers arrested the 63-year-old in the Merseyside area last night and detectives are questioning him at a police station in West Yorkshire.

"Mr Flowers, a Methodist minister, was suspended by both the church and the Labour party following allegations that he bought and used illegal drugs."

The Times splashes with the headline: "Labour engulfed by Co-op scandal". Despite shadow chancellor Ed Balls distancing himself yesterday from Flowers, insisting he had never had a meeting or conversation with the Methodist minister, the paper reports:

"Balls trumpeted his role in the deal that almost broke the Co-operative Bank, it has emerged, as questions mount over Labour's links to the troubled institution... literature from his Labour leadership campaign shows Mr Balls keen to highlight his work while a Treasury minister in clearing the way for the Co-operative Bank to merge with the Britannia Building Society. The deal, which went through in 2009, turned out to be a disastrous mistake... taking it to the brink of collapse this year. The Shadow Chancellor was also under pressure over a claim that Mr Flowers was not involved in a donation of £50,000 to fund his office."

But Labour has hit back against Tory "smears" over the Co-op and highlighted comments made by former Tory frontbencher David Davis - the FT has the details:

"The Treasury has been accused by a senior Tory MP of missing warnings that the Co-op bank's bid to buy 630 Lloyds bank branches was heading for failure, adding fuel to Labour attempts to pin blame on George Osborne for the Co-op fiasco.

"David Davis, a former Tory leadership contender, claimed the Treasury and regulators should have been aware of concerns that Co-op bank, which nearly collapsed with a £1.5bn capital hole, was too weak to buy the branches.

"... Ed Balls, shadow chancellor, claimed yesterday that Mr Osborne had been 'asleep' during the bidding process, which ended when the Co-op's capital shortfall became apparent."

Could the Co-op scandal boomerang back onto the Tories? Lynton Crosby and co will have to be tread carefully in the coming days...

2) LET ME IN THE DEBATES - OR I'LL WRECK 'EM

From the HuffPost UK:

"Nigel Farage is planning to circumvent the three main parties should they choose to exclude him from the televised debates leading up to the next election.

"Speaking to Total Politics magazine, the Ukip leader reiterated his wish to be given a podium next to the other leaders ahead of the next election even though David Cameron, who has yet to agree to participate in the format, has been vocal in his desire to keep the contest between those with a reasonable chance of becoming Prime Minister.

"Yet Farage remains defiant, despite his party boasting not a single MP in parliament (Ukip does continue to poll higher than the Liberal Democrats), with the charismatic front man threatening to derail the debates by staging some 'fun' alternatives.

"If Ukip has good cause to think that it should be in the TV debates and it's excluded, we will provide an alternative form of entertainment on the evening," he told the publication. 'I'm working on some ideas. The Internet is quite big these days.... you could live stream. There are one or two technical things we are working about and thinking about.'"

Perhaps Farage, Lucas and Salmond could have a rival, simulcast debate screened online...

3) TESSA QUITS PARLIAMENT

Goodbye Tessa J! And thanks for the London Olympics! From the Guardian:

"Dame Tessa Jowell, one of the driving forces behind the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics, has announced that she is to stand down from parliament at the next election.

"The popular MP, who served as a minister for Labour's entire 13 years in office, won praise from across the political spectrum as she announced the move to allow her to concentrate on an academic career.

"Jowell, MP for Dulwich from 1992-97 and Dulwich and West Norwood since 1997, will take up a post at the London School of Economics. But she will be seen as one of the frontrunners to be Labour's candidate for London mayor in 2016."

So, by my count, that's Lammy, Adonis, Khan, Wolmar, Creasy, Abbott and Jowell... anyone else?

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of a cat and dog performing a popcorn trick together.

4) FORGET FACTS, 'FEEL' YOUR WAY TO MIGRATION POLICY

"Enough is enough, Mr Cameron," bellows the splash headline on the front of the Daily Mail. The paper has commissioned a poll which reveals the extent of people's concerns over a "new wave of migrants" from Romania and Bulgaria next year. The poll reveals, among other things, that "76% say young Britons are losing out on jobs".

The problem is: they aren't. As economist Jonathan Portes has noted, the government's own Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) found that "overall, looking at all immigrants over the entire time period for which data was available, there was no statistically significant impact of migration on employment".

The MAC concluded: "In particular, any link between immigration and employment of British-born people cannot be proved to be causal. Rather, it should be thought of as an association."

But who cares about pesky facts, eh? It's all about what people 'feel' about migrants, right? On the right, feelings often trump facts. (See also: Duncan Smith, Iain).

5) HAS IT REALLY BEEN 50 YEARS?

It's the fiftieth anniversary of the assasination of John F Kennedy. Jonathan Freedland has a smart piece on the front of the Guardian:

"The greater significance of that day in Dallas – beyond the arguments about the grassy knoll and the Zapruder film – is the effect the killing had on how the Kennedy presidency would be viewed thereafter. It would, forever, be a story of what might have been, of potential snuffed out before its time. As David Ormsby-Gore, then Britain's ambassador to Washington, wrote to Jackie Kennedy: 'He had great things to do and he would have done them.'"

"The result is that historians do something unusual when confronted with the 35th American president: they debate his actual record less than his potential record."

Nonetheless, Freedland adds:

"For one thing, he was that rare politician able to inspire. The young especially responded to his call: 'Ask not what your country can do for you … ,' while his declaration in a city divided by the cold war that 'Ich bin ein Berliner' resonated throughout eastern Europe. Less than three years in office, Kennedy nevertheless conjured up oratory and imagery that retain their hold half a century later."

Meanwhile, the New Yorker's John Cassidy has a rather interesting and nuanced piece in favour of JFK conspiracy theories.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 39

Conservatives 32

Ukip 12

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 86.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@Mike_Fabricant I do love this country of ours. Not for us the shame of bull-fighting, but instead red-faced businessmen in drug-fuelled gay sex romps.

@LucyRigby FT says Osborne “leaned on” EU “to win more lenient capital treatment for the Co-op”. So annoying when your own side undermines a smear op.

@thatUPSdude Unless you found the 2nd shooter I don't want to see another JFK special.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "The cracks are starting to show between the PM and Chancellor."

Philip Collins, writing in the Times, says: "Miliband misunderstands the 2008 crash. It didn’t save him, it wrecked his only plan – higher spending."

Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "One thing Cameron can't rip from the young is the vote."

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