Mehdi's Morning Memo: Bottom Of The Class

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Bottom Of The Class

The five things you need to know on Wednesday 16 July 2014...


Well, when they said it'd be a major reshuffle they weren't kidding. A new foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, and a new defence secretary, Michael Fallon. Plus two new women cabinet ministers, Nicky Morgan at education and Liz Truss at environment. And the departure of big-hitters William Hague and Ken Clarke (the former via the stopgap post of Leader of the Commons). But the big news of the reshuffle, by a country mile, was the shock demotion of Cameron ally, friend and confidante Michael Gove, who goes from the full cabinet job of education secretary to the 'attending' cabinet post of chief whip. The morning papers agree.

"Going, going.. Gove" is the Guardian splash headline.

"Prime Minister sacrifices close friend Michael Gove" is on the front of the Telegraph.

"Gove axed from education" is the Times headline.

The Independent splashes on the prime minister's rather defensive quote about the former education secretary: "He hasn't been demoted!", but adding the following question in its standfirst: "So how do you explain Gove's ÂŁ36,000 pay cut, Mr Cameron?"

It's worth reminding ourselves what a big deal this is. Only a few months ago, he was being touted as a future leadership contender and considered to be one of the most powerful and influential members of the cabinet. Then he fell out with Theresa May over extremism - and the latter, it seems, takes no prisoners.

It's especially remarkable given how the other self-styled radical reformer and deeply unpopular cabinet minister, Iain Duncan Smith, survived. Again. The Guardian's Patrick Wintour writes:

"Both men are passionate and sincere reformers, determined in their own way, to give greater opportunities for the poor. One, in his own terms, has succeeded, and done exactly what he and Cameron promised in the Conservative manifesto. He created academies, established free schools and imposed his no excuses culture in schools. Multiple eggs have been broken, but there is a recognisable omelette. The other has failed, leaving the Treasury, the National Audit Office and Major Projects Authority exasperated. Multiple eggs have been broken and they have largely been scraped off the kitchen floor. Yet it is Gove that has been demoted – a state of affairs that says much about Cameron and the balance of forces inside the Conservative party."

On a side note, check out my HuffPost colleague Asa Bennett's "6 Graphs That Show How Out Of Touch Cameron's New Cabinet Is".

Here, incidentally, are the full details of who's in and out of the new Cameron cabinet.


Let me get this straight: David Cameron spends the past few weeks telling every European leader that Jean Claude Juncker shouldn't be the new president of the European Commission partly on the grounds that nobody has ever heard of him. Then, when it comes time to nominate the UK's next EU commissioner, he puts forward Lord Hill of Oareford as his candidate.

Lord who?

As my HuffPost colleague Ned Simons reports:

"David Cameron has nominated Conservative peer Lord Hill, most recently the leader of the House of Lords, to be Britain's next European Commissioner. The appointment caught some by surprise given he had recently said he did not want the job. In an interview with Conservative Home in June, Hill said he did not fancy having to live in Brussels. "I quite like it at home, in the British Isles," he said. Asked if he would accept the job if asked by the prime minister, Hill said: 'Non, non, non.' However the former political secretary to John Major will soon find himself on a plane to Belgium."

The real reason for Lord Hill's nomination? He's a peer so Cameron didn't have to risk a by-election by picking Andrews Lansley or Mitchell. Cameron, incidentally, is off to Brussels today to haggle over which portfolio the UK's new EU commissioner will get.

Meanwhile - gaffe alert! - Hill's replacement as leader of the Lords, Baroness Stowell, was given his job without... wait for it... his full cabinet status, as first noted by my colleague Asa Bennett, or his salary, as first noted by Bloomberg's Rob Hutton:

"Tina Stowell, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s new leader of the House of Lords, will be paid less than her male predecessor in the same job after an overhaul of the government designed to promote women. Stowell, 47, will be able to draw the Lords’ minister of state salary of 78,891 pounds ($135,500) a year, compared to her predecessor Jonathan Hill, 53, who was entitled to 101,038 pounds a year, Cameron’s office confirmed."

Oh dear. So how did the Tories try to make things better? By promising to top up Stowell's salary with money out of Conservative Campaign Headquarters. Is that a good move? Having cabinet ministers paid by Tory donors from the City and elsewhere?


Drip, drip, drip. From the Guardian:

"Forty-nine MPs have voted against rushing the government's emergency surveillance legislation through all its Commons stages in just one day. A deal between the three major parties, however, secured the fast-track timetable by 436 votes to 49, despite accusations from one Labour MP that the move amounted to 'democratic banditry resonant of a rogue state'. The vote on the timetable motion for the data retention and investigatory powers bill, known as the Drip bill, came as it emerged that the home secretary was to accept Labour amendments strengthening its safeguards."

Guess which MP said it? Go on? Guess? Yep... Tom Watson.


Watch this video of the Daily Show's Jon Stewart dissecting the conflict in Gaza. It's very funny. And very true.


The impact of spending cuts on the poor is exaggerated, right? Wrong. From the Independent:

"The number of parents forced to represent themselves before the family courts jumped by 20,000 last year following the withdrawal of legal aid for almost all family cases, official figures obtained by The Independent show. The increase means that for the first time more than half of parents - 58 per cent - went into court without a lawyer fighting their case in 2013/14. Many were mothers from poor backgrounds."

All in this together, eh?


From the Times:

"An attempt by Lord Rennard to overturn his suspension from the Liberal Democrats was rejected by party officials last night. The former chief executive of the Lib Dems had been suspended after claims that he had brought the party into disrepute by failing to apologise over sexual harassment allegations. An investigation will now begin into whether the peer did bring the party into disrepute and party aides said it was expected to go on for some weeks."


From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 38

Conservatives 34

Lib Dems 6

That would give Labour a majority of 44.


Rafael Behr, writing in the Guardian, says: "Cameron’s reshuffle is the starting pistol in the race for a 2015 Tory win."

Daniel Finkelstein, writing in the Times, says: "Hague’s two faces are the two faces of Toryism."

Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "This country needs a Palmerston in the Foreign Office."

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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