Mehdi's Morning Memo: The War On Migrants, Part 665

Iain Duncan-Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, addresses delegates at the annual Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, north-west England on October 1, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Paul Ellis (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Iain Duncan-Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, addresses delegates at the annual Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, north-west England on October 1, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Paul Ellis (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
PAUL ELLIS via Getty Images

Here are the five things you need to know on Sunday 12 January 2013...


For Tory politicians, from George Osborne to Boris Johnson, bashing migrants over benefits has become more and more popular as each week goes by. Today, Iain Duncan Smith goes a step further - from the Sunday Times splash:

"The work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has proposed that European Union migrants should be banned from claiming welfare payments for up to two years after arriving in Britain to stop them exploiting the benefits system.

"Duncan Smith's plan goes far beyond Britain's recently announced three-month ban on benefits to new EU migrants, prompted by Bulgarians and Romanians gaining free access to the British jobs market from January 1. Duncan Smith told The Sunday Times that he had begun building an alliance of countries including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Finland to attack 'benefits tourism'."

The problem for those of us that care about facts or figures is that there is little or no evidence for so-called 'benefit tourism' - as economist Jonathan Portes has put it, these are "phantom measures to combat a phantom problem".

Yet as IDS tells the Sunday Times: "There is a growing groundswell of concern about benefit tourism." Ah, ok, well that's alright then...


Europe, and the rules governing decision-making in the EU, dominate the other front pages too - from the Observer to the Sunday Telegraph. The latter reports in its splash:

"Parliament must be given the power to veto every aspect of EU law, 95 Conservative MPs demand today in a letter to David Cameron.

"In a major intervention, the backbenchers have written to the Prime Minister urging him to change the law to give the Commons authority to block new EU legislation and repeal existing measures that threaten Britain's 'national interests'."

Nick Clegg, speaking on BBC1's Marr show this morning, said such Tory MPs had to "come clean" on Europe, and called on them to admit that they want to quit the EU and then campaign accordingly. He accused them of wanting to "have their cake and eat it", with the UK benefitting from the single market without playing by the rules.


Remember the 'dodgy dossier' on Iraq? Well, now, there's another dossier on the Iraq war and it'll make uncomfortable reading for former ministers in Tony Blair's government - specifically, Geoff Hoon and Adam Ingram. The Independent on Sunday has the scoop:

"A devastating 250-page dossier, detailing allegations of beatings, electrocution, mock executions and sexual assault, has been presented to the International Criminal Court, and could result in some of Britain's leading defence figures facing prosecution for 'systematic' war crimes.

"General Sir Peter Wall, the head of the British Army; former defence secretary Geoff Hoon; and former defence minister Adam Ingram are among those named in the report, entitled 'The Responsibility of UK Officials for War Crimes Involving Systematic Detainee Abuse in Iraq from 2003-2008'.

"The damning dossier draws on cases of more than 400 Iraqis, representing 'thousands of allegations of mistreatment amounting to war crimes of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment'."

It goes without saying that Wall, Hoon and Ingram deny any accusations of wrongdoing in relation to Iraq or alleged war crimes.


Watch this video of a cat that really loves hugs.


Ariel 'Arik' Sharon passed away yesterday, at the age of 85, after eight years in a coma. Many had forgotten the former Israeli premier was still alive.

The whitewashing of his blood-stained legacy continues apace - the BBC news package on Sharon at the start of this morning's Marr show didn't even mention the Sabra and Shatilla massacre in Lebanon in 1982, for which an official Israeli inquiry held Sharon 'personally responible'. David Cameron praised his "brave and controversial decisions in pursuit of peace" while US politicians fell over another to hail him as a "hero" and "peacemaker".

As veteran Middle East watcher Robert Fisk writes in the Independent on Sunday, Sharon will "be assured, receive the funeral of a hero and a peacemaker.

"Thus do we remake history. How speedily did toady journalists in Washington and New York patch up this brutal man's image."

Fisk reminds us that "when an Israeli pilot bombed an apartment block in Gaza, killing nine small children as well as his Hamas target, Sharon described the "operation" as 'a great success'".

Sharon's body is lying in state at in parliament, where the Israeli public is paying its respects and his burial will take place on Monday.


From the Mail on Sunday:

"Chancellor George Osborne and other Coalition Ministers splashed out £10,000 of taxpayers’ money on acting lessons from Britain’s premier drama school at the same time as overseeing deep public-spending cuts.

"They paid the world-famous Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) for actors and voice experts in a bid to boost their performance.

"Rada, which helped launched the careers of Sir John Gielgud and Sir Kenneth Branagh, offers ‘role-playing’ with actors, voice-coaching and tips to boost ‘confidence and gravitas’.

"Embarrassingly for Mr Osborne, details of the Treasury’s own £3,000 drama bill emerged just days after he warned of the need for fresh cuts."

The paper says the chancellor received help from leading speech therapist Valerie Savage to in order to ensure he sounded less "posh". Oh dear...


"It has got to the ridiculous position where Nigel Farage is telling us what our policy on immigration should be – and he is right." - former Tory frontbencher Bernard Jenkin speaking to the Mail on Sunday.


From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 40

Conservatives 31

Ukip 14

Lib Dems 9

That would give Labour a majority of 96.


@lucianaberger Clegg talk about doing things "fairly" - his Government has given millionaires a tax cut while everyone else has paid more #Marr

‏@jameschappers Clegg's new line about one party govt 'biggest threat' to economy inverts Tories on hung parliament in 2010. Remember UK in a noose? #marr

‏@chhcalling Did you know that most animals don't have a coccyx? Well thereby hangs a tale...


Matthew D'Ancona, writing int he Sunday Telegraph, says: "What the Tories fear most is the 'voteless recovery’."

James Forsyth, writing in the Mail on Sunday, says: "It's crunch time for 'car crash' Ed and 'don't panic' Dave."

Sunder Katwala, writing in the Observer, says: "Identity can unite Britain rather than divide it, if we want it to."

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

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