Mehdi's Morning Memo: Is Cable Toast?

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Is Cable Toast?
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: Business Secretary Vince Cable leaves Downing Street on March 19, 2014 in London, England. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will deliver his Budget statement to Members of Parliament in the House of Commons later. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: Business Secretary Vince Cable leaves Downing Street on March 19, 2014 in London, England. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will deliver his Budget statement to Members of Parliament in the House of Commons later. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Oli Scarff via Getty Images

Here are the five things you need to know on Thursday 29 May 2014...


The Lib Dems are in the midst of a proper political crisis - first, on Monday and Tuesday, there was what appeared to be an attempt a coup... which was botched; then, on Wednesday, we witnessed the very public resignation from the party of failed plotter (and veteran Lib Dem peer) Matthew Oakeshott; and now, on Thursday, there are accusations that Vince Cable, Oakeshott's pal of 30 years, was involved in the plotting and coup-ing.

The Telegraph splashes on "Cable in Lib Dem leadership bid".

The Guardian splashes on "Lib Dem chaos as Cable denies anti-Clegg plot".

The Mail goes for the party as a whole, rather than just the business secretary, splashing on "Lib Dems in meltdown".

The Guardian reports: "In a day of chaos for the Lib Dems, Cable strongly denied being involved in attempts by his friend, Lord Oakeshott, to get rid of Clegg, insisting he was strongly behind his leader. However, the business secretary was forced to admit he had known about some of his ally's damaging polls that suggested voters would prefer Cable as party leader... Oakeshott, who helped found the party, said Clegg had led the Lib Dems to 'no roots, no principles, and no values'. After stepping down, he also revealed a fifth poll suggested Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury, was on course to come third to the SNP and Labour in his Inverness constituency."

So, is Cable toast? Or will he survive, yet again? The business secretary will be glad he's out of the country this week, leading a trade delegation to China. Meanwhile, a senior Lib Dem source tells the Telegraph: "I am disappointed but not really surprised because Vince still harbours leadership ambitions and the hope that he might one day take the reins. They [the Liberal Democrat leadership] are hoping that this will go away because they are worried it will destabilise the party."

Well, it's not going away. The Times reports:

"Nick Clegg should put his leadership to a vote of Liberal Democrat members, according to leading activists. In a letter to The Times today, the Social Liberal Forum, which represents left-leaning supporters, calls for a “leadership... that people listen to”. Its two chairmen say that the loss of more than 300 councillors and 10 out of 11 MEPs cannot be blamed solely on being in the coalition and call for a strategy rethink... It is right that this debate should include who leads the party. As a democratic party, the membership will hold the key to this re-examination,” they add in a call for a leadership ballot."

The organiser and top signatory of the letter is a Naomi Smith, who was a researcher for... yep, you guessed it... Lord Oakeshott.


That's the message from Peter 'Prince of Darkness' Miliband to the Labour leader - as reported in the Daily Mail:

"Labour grandee Lord Mandelson today warns Ed Miliband he needs to get his ‘act together’ if he wants to counter the rise of Ukip and hope to lead more than a ‘minority government’. The former Business Secretary, one of the founders of New Labour, suggests Mr Miliband needs to abandon his ‘crowd-pleasing’ promises on the cost of living and come up with ‘counter-intuitive policies’ instead. His intervention, in the Spectator magazine, reflects growing concern in Labour ranks about the party’s economic policy, which has been mocked as ‘the politics of pointing at things and saying how expensive they are’."

Miliband is also getting advice from the Labour left, not just the Labour right - here's Diane Abbott in the Guardian:

"The proponents of a more rightwing stance on immigration never spell out exactly what new policies they want... Such a move would be disastrous. Labour cannot win the 2015 election fighting on Tory ground... In popular parlance 'immigrant' means anyone who is black, brown or foreign-looking, and what anti-immigrant opinion actually yearns for is to see fewer of these people on their high street. But no government can easily deliver this."

Meanwhile, on the policy front, Labour continues to dish out new proposals to help the low-paid as well as the 'squeezed middle' - from the FT:

"More than 1.5m people would be enrolled into workplace pensions under proposals from Labour that prompted warnings from business groups of an increase in red tape. Rachel Reeves, the shadow work and pensions secretary, will announce the plans in a speech today, saying that the proposals would help low-income workers currently excluded from automatic enrolment. Under the proposals Labour would reduce the threshold for eligibility from £10,000 to just £5,772, equivalent to the lower earnings limit for national insurance. That would sweep 1.5m low-paid workers - of which 1m are women - back into the workplace pension scheme."

But is anyone listening?


Tell us something we didn't know - from the Independent's splash:

"Grammar schools contribute to social inequality and lead to a widening of the income gap between rich and poor, according to new research. The study represents the starkest evidence yet of the long-term harm suffered by those who miss out on grammar school places – as well as of the impact of selective education on the communities where it has been preserved. It found that in areas with a grammar school system, top earners are likely to earn £16.41 an hour more than those on the lowest incomes, or the equivalent of around £30,000 a year based on a typical 35-hour week. Researchers from the University of Bristol, the University of Bath and the Institute of Education, University of London, who carried out the analysis said that failing to pass the 11-plus left pupils at an 'immediate disadvantage' in terms of their future earnings."

Incidentally, it's worth pointing out that, aside from withdrawal from the EU, the only concrete policy advocated by Ukip is the promotion of new grammar schools...


Watch this rather brilliant video of Tony Blair destroying a then little-known MEP called Nigel Farage in the European Parliament back in 2005.

4) 'MAN UP', ED

That's the message from John Kerry to Ed - not Ed Miliband but Ed(ward) Snowden. From the front page of the Guardian:

"An adviser to Edward Snowden said on Wednesday that an unfair legal landscape made it unlikely that the NSA whistleblower would take US secretary of state John Kerry up on his invitation to “man up” and return to the United States. In a television appearance on Wednesday morning, Kerry said that if Snowden were a 'patriot', he would return to the United States from Russia to face criminal charges. Snowden was charged last June with three felonies under the 1917 Espionage Act. 'This is a man who has betrayed his country,' Kerry told CBS News. 'He should man up and come back to the US.'"

It's ironic to hear Kerry - a man who became famous in his younger days by exposing the crimes of his country (in Vietnam) - accusing Snowden, a young man who risked everything to expose crimes committed by his country today, of 'betrayal'. It's also typical of Kerry to demand Snowden face criminal charges - rather than director of national intelligence, General James Clapper, who has admitted to misleading Congress over the NSA's domestic spying programmes.


More evidence of a left-wing bias at the BBC. Or maybe not. It seems Tory peer Lord Coe could be Tory peer Lord Patten's replacement as chair of the BBC Trust - from the Times front page:

"Lord Coe is the frontrunner to take over as chairman of the BBC Trust. The former middle-distance athlete, who won four Olympic medals and masterminded London’s 2012 Olympic Games, is understood to have the firm support of the prime minister to succeed Lord Patten of Barnes in the £110,000-a-year role. He would take over the BBC’s governing body at one of the most difficult times in the broadcaster’s history. Lord Coe, who sat for five years as a Tory MP and is now a Conservative peer, is favoured above more seasoned media candidates such as Dame Marjorie Scardino, the former chief executive of the Pearson publishing group."


From today's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 36

Conservatives 32

Ukip 14

Lib Dems 9

That would give Labour a majority of 44.


David Aaronovitch, writing in the Times, says: "Let’s calm down. Ukip’s popularity won’t last."

Steve Richards, writing in the Guardian, says: "Liberal Democrat discipline is gone, and the convulsions will deepen."

John Rentoul, writing in the Independent, says: "If only Lord Oakeshott knew how to carry out a coup..."

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


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