07/01/2014 03:34 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 08:17 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: George's War On Welfare, Part 667

Bloomberg via Getty Images
George Osborne, U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, pauses during a tour of Sertec Group Holdings Ltd.'s automotive manufacturing facilities, in Birmingham, U.K., on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. Osborne set out his plan to ease the burden on families while reiterating his goal to shrink the deficit as he says tax cuts will have to be funded by spending reductions. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Here are the five things you need to know on Tuesday 7 January 2013...


How does the chancellor plan to plug the deficit? By getting growth back to pre-recession levels? Nope. By raising taxes on the bankers who caused the crash? Guess again. George Osborne wants to squeeze even more money out of - yep, you got it - the welfare budget. £12 billion to be precise. After the next election.

And it isn't just his critics on the left who have a problem with this proposal. I mean, if even Iain Duncan Smith thinks you're being nasty to people on benefits then, rest assured, you're being nasty to people on benefits. From the Times splash:

"George Osborne has been accused of 'hacking at the same people' by allies of his Cabinet colleague Iain Duncan Smith, as the Chancellor slashed another £12 billion from welfare spending.

"The Work and Pensions Secretary, known for his hard line on benefits, is thought to be concerned about the effect of the cuts on the poorest in society.

The Mirror is pretty blunt on its front page: "Tories launch £12 billion cuts against poor".

Osborne, in his big speech in Birmingham yesterday, said he'd rather do deficit reduction via spending cuts, rather than tax increases. But the HuffPost UK's Asa Bennett has put together a list of 10 possible tax rises - from a mansion tax to a bigger bank levy - which could help raise the missing £12 billion.

Meanwhile, Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), writing in the Guardian, says: "Whatever the political parties say now, the likely state of the public finances in 2015 must make [tax rises] a real possibility." He adds that "the government could decide to return the public finances to balance rather more slowly. There is nothing magical about the chancellor's fiscal rules. And even to meet them he doesn't need the additional squeeze announced in the autumn statement for 2018-19."


It isn't just Osborne and IDS who are briefing against one another. Education secretary Michael Gove has been attacked by a bunch of eminent historians - including Cambridge don Richard Evans - over his controversial comments about the origins and nature of the First World War, but now he's also been stung by a fellow (anonymous) minister - from the Telegraph:

"A government source said that Mr Gove should spend more time on his departmental brief instead of engaging in debates about history. The source said: “Michael should get back in his box. Maybe he has too much time on his hands. Perhaps he should be spending more time on free schools.”



So, what's the latest on preparations for the TV debates at the next election? Cameron isn't keen on them, Farage wants to be part of them. Yesterday, at his monthly press conference, Clegg tried to put pressure on the former, while studiously ignoring the latter. From the BBC:

"Nick Clegg has urged David Cameron 'to sign on the dotted line' for a repeat of the format of the 2010 general election debates.

"The Lib Dem leader suggested both he and his Labour counterpart Ed Miliband backed having three debates over consecutive weeks before polling day.

"This was a 'success' in 2010 and the 'public liked them', he said."

He liked them, too. The Lib Dem leader outperformed his Tory and Labour counterparts during the debates at the last election - but, lest we forget, it didn't help him increase his party's vote share.


Watch this video of a sleeping dog with a pretty creepy snore.


Move over Hillary Clinton. Well, for now. "Janet Yellen just became the most powerful woman in US history" - that was the headline on the Quartz business news website yesterday, which reported:

"So the US Senate has made it a done deal. Federal Reserve vice chair Janet Yellen will be the next head of the powerful US central bank, making her arguably, the most powerful woman in US history. She’ll take over after current chairman Ben Bernanke’s term ends on Jan. 31."

Yellen is a former London School of Economics professor, reports the Telegraph, which adds that she "has spent the past two and a half years as deputy chairman of the Fed, as it kept spooling out fiscal stimulus measures to help buoy up the US economy while it navigated its recovery. She was one of the driving forces behind the Fed's sharp focus on jobs and made the case for keeping quantitative easing in place until the employment situation was back on an even keel.

However, her predecessor, Ben Bernanke, has left her to pick her way through a very different landscape. Her appointment coincides with what appears to be the beginning of the end for QE."

The paper continues: "Much has been made of the fact that she will be the first woman to hold the Fed chairmanship but there is another and more important first here. She will also be the first person to try and unwind such extraordinary levels of monetary stimulus."


You could not make this up - from the Mirror's splash:

"David Cameron faced fresh accusations of cronyism today after it emerged his hairdresser was awarded a gong in the New Year’s Honours list.

"Celebrity crimper Lino Carbosiero was handed an MBE for 'services to hairdressing' - three years after taking control of Mr Cameron’s thinning barnet.

"The former X Factor 'style director' is thought to be responsible for switching the Prime Minister’s side parting from left to right in 2010, sparking ridicule in the Commons."


"The bald truth is this - it must be a cover up. It may not be hair-raising but it certainly raises questions about cronyism." - Labour MP Stephen Pound comments on Cameron's barber's MBE


The legendary Guardian sketchwriter passed away on Sunday. Alan Rusbridger writes: "He turned politics into theatre, complete with a cast of characters that he made his own. His refusal to take any MP or situation very seriously masked an encyclopedic knowledge of politics derived from his spell as the Observer's political editor... From his column you could often learn as much about what was truly important in politics as from the front-page splash."


From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 40

Conservatives 32

Ukip 12

Lib Dems 9

That would give Labour a majority of 92.


@George_Osborne We have a plan to back #hardworking people. It means facing up to hard truths - including more cuts required so we live within our means

@ShippersUnbound With Dave's hairline in retreat beneath the 'comb back', it's surely only a matter of time before his hairdresser gets a knighthood...

@jreedmp Think I'll volunteer to work on the [Steven] Seagal gubernatorial campaign. Now there's hair... Also, what a slogan "I'm just a cook..."


Rachel Sylvester, writing in the Times, says: "Minimum wage rise could be a Tory winner."

George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian, says: "At last, a law to stop almost anyone from doing almost anything."

Steve Richards, writing in the Independent, says: "The next election may be a year away, but Osborne is on the campaign trail. It’s a risky strategy."

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