Mehdi's Morning Memo: Christmas Comes Early In Westminster

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Christmas Comes Early In Westminster
A man dressed as Father Christmas waves as he leaves the annual Downing Street children's christmas Party at 10 Downing Street in central London on December 17, 2012. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)
A man dressed as Father Christmas waves as he leaves the annual Downing Street children's christmas Party at 10 Downing Street in central London on December 17, 2012. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)
CARL COURT via Getty Images

The five things you need to know on Sunday 8 September...


Our elected politicians want to restrain public sector pay, right? Right? From the Huffington Post:

"MPs are heading for a bumper £7,600 pay rise.

"The independent watchdog has refused to bow to pressure from political leaders to scale back the increase at a time voters are feeling the squeeze.

"Ipsa will unveil its final proposals next week - including boosting MPs' salaries to £74,000 from 2015 - 11% higher than they get at present.

"It is expected to try to temper criticism by announcing a tougher-than-expected squeeze on MPs' pensions in a bid to cancel out the £4.6 million cost to the public purse."

The Sunday Times, which splashes on the story, notes that the pay rise "will be offset by changes to MPs' gold-plated retirement packages, including an end to their final salary pension and the scrapping of 'golden goodbyes' for MPs who lose their seats or retire at an election.

"The so-called resettlement grants, worth up to £33,000, are expected to be replaced by a less generous redundancy package."

The paper also reports:

"Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, and the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, have said they will refuse to take a pay rise but their opposition to any pay increase has put them on a collision course with many of their own backbenchers.

"Clegg faced a furious response from many Liberal Democrat MPs after he condemned proposals to give them a pay rise, saying the public would find it 'impossible to understand'."

Indeed we would. MPs should reject the rise and do so en masse.


I thought Ed Miliband was supposed to be 'moving on' from New Labour and 'breaking' with the Blairite past. Well, what's this? The Observer has obtained what it calls a 'top secret memo', outlining the return of various key figures from the Tony Blair era to the Labour election planning team, and splashes with it:

"The document – Proposed General Election 2015 Meeting Structure – drawn up in the office of Douglas Alexander, chair of campaign strategy, will infuriate many on the party's left, who believed that Miliband had moved on from New Labour's approaches to campaigning and policy... One senior Labour party figure described the three-page leak as "dynamite", saying it would intensify already bitter power struggles at the top of the party and exacerbate tensions over how ambitious and bold central policy messages should be over the next 17 months. 'This is a power grab by Douglas," the source said. "It looks like a return to New Labour tactics, with the old caution and everything driven by focus groups. There will be a massive row about this. Key people look like they have been sidelined.'"

So who's making a comeback?

"A spokesman for Miliband confirmed that Campbell would return, but played down the roles of other New Labour figures in the memo, saying their contributions had yet to be finalised. The memo says there will be a monthly election 'catch-up' meeting between a triumvirate of Campbell, Miliband and Alexander at Miliband's north London home.

"Every six weeks, the memo says, there will be 'Alan Milburn chats' between Miliband and the former health secretary, who helped to run Labour's 2005 campaign."

Okay, Campbell, whether you like him or not, has indisputable skills as a spin doctor and strategist. But Milburn? Really? The most overrated - and right-wing - member of Blair's cabinet? Last time I checked, he was advising private health companies the coalition!


First there was Ukip MEP Godfrey 'Bongo Bongo' Bloom who split with the party over his unpleasant views; now there's Ukip councillor Victoria Ayling.

"A high-profile UKIP politician is facing a racism storm after being caught on camera saying all immigrants to Britain should be sent back home.

"Victoria Ayling, who made headlines when she defected from the Tories in March, made the inflammatory comments in a 20-minute video seen by The Mail on Sunday.

"On the subject of immigration she talks about restricting the numbers of foreigners entering the UK, but then adds: ‘I just want to send the lot back, but I can’t say that.’"

If even the Mail on Sunday thinks you're too harsh on foreigners, then you really must be pretty harsh on foreigners...


Watch this video of dogs too petrified to walk past... cats! You know you want to.


"Labour councils are building twice as many homes in their areas as Conservatives local authorities, new research reveals today. Since the last election, an average of 403 social and affordable homes have been built in each Labour council area, compared with 201 in each Tory-held authority. There are an average of 618 social and affordable homes in the pipeline, with planning permission and financing in place, in each Labour area compared with 365 homes in each Conservative council.

"The figures will fuel concerns about the UK's housing crisis, with George Osborne taking steps to boost housing supply, including for those most in need, in his Autumn Statement last week. There are 1.8 million people on the social housing waiting list, and the number of families in temporary accommodation has increased by 8 per cent in the past year. Shelter estimates that 85,000 children in Britain will wake up on Christmas Day in temporary accommodation."

How can that be? I thought we were 'all in this together'?


From the deputy prime minister's Sunday Telegraph interview:

"Clegg responded fiercely to the Mayor of London’s recent remarks about IQ, accusing him of 'unpleasant, careless elitism' and recoiling with particular vehemence from the use of the word 'species'.

"When I ask whether he could see himself performing a similar role [DPM] for Boris, there is not a moment’s hesitation. 'Yes, of course. I’m quite un-precious about the idea that someone who has a much stronger democratic mandate than me but hasn’t got an outright mandate has every right to be a prime minister, and for me to be a deputy. I want my party to punch above its weight, and indeed we do.'"

BoJo and the Cleggster sitting in a tree...


From the Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 39

Conservatives 34

Ukip 11

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 60.


Will Hutton, writing in the Observer, says: "Osborne wants to take us back to 1948. Time to look forward instead."

Adam Boulton, writing in the Sunday Times, says: "A point to Osborne, but no need for new Balls."

Matthew D'Ancona, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: "Nelson Mandela still has lessons to teach the Tory party."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan ( or Ned Simons ( You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

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