Mehdi's Morning Memo: Dave Vs Vlad

The five things you need to know on Monday 21 July 2014...


The shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines passenger plane, MH17, and the growing geopolitical crisis between Russia and the West, continues to dominate most of the front pages.

The Mail splashes on: "PM: We'll freeze Russian billions".

The Telegraph goes with: "MH17 dead held as bargaining chips, families fear".

The Times headline is: "Damning US intelligence puts Russia in the dock".

Cameron is set to make a Commons statement on the issue today. But will EU ministers announce new, tougher action against Putin and his allies at a meeting of EU's Foreign Affairs Council, also today? From the Times:

"David Cameron brokered an agreement in telephone calls with President Hollande of France and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, for stiffer sanctions against Russia... Travel bans, asset freezes and limits on investment are all being examined. Downing Street is pushing for sanctions to be extended to President Putin's 'cronies', an inner circle responsible for 'influencing or supporting the Russian regime'. In a blunt 30-minute call to Mr Putin last night, Mr Cameron said that ten British citizens had died and the bringing down of the plane was 'totally unacceptable'. He told Mr Putin that 'the world was now watching' and that he 'must change course and work to bring stability to eastern Ukraine'."

Putin, meanwhile, continues to disregard European opinion and lay the blame for the tragedy at the door of Ukraine's government. Cameron may have to work harder at his poker face. And think beyond sanctions on top of more sanctions...


The Guardian's front page headline refers to Gaza's "bloodiest day"; the Independent's to Gaza's "deadliest day". Both papers' headlines refer to Israel's shelling of Shuja'iya, resulting in the deaths of up to 70 people, including dozens of women and children. The Independent's Kim Sengupta reports:

|A night and day of ferocious violence has resulted in more than 100 deaths in Gaza, with Palestinian accusations that a bloody assault on the town of Shuja'iya by Israeli forces, leaving bodies on the streets and buildings destroyed, was motivated by revenge for the deaths of 13 soldiers. The Israeli losses were one of the largest in one operation suffered in recent times by the Jewish state. Al Quds Force, the military wing of Hamas, had claimed that it had lured troops into a minefield... The killing in Shuja'iya of Palestinians, including a large number of women and children, was condemned by the Palestinian government led by President Mahmoud Abbas as a 'heinous massacre' and a 'war crime'."

With the overall Palestinian death toll now having topped 400 in less than two weeks, Barack Obama finally picked up the phone, according to the Guardian, to raise "'serious concern' about the growing number of Palestinian casualties in a... conversation on Sunday night with Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu".

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry was caught on an open microphone sarcastically referring to Israel's action in Gaza as "a hell of a pinpoint operation".

Late last night, the UN Security Council Resolution, according to the Mail Online, "expressed 'grave concern' at the high number of civilians killed in Gaza, including children, and called for an immediate cease-fire, 'including the withdrawal of Israeli occupying forces from the Gaza Strip'".

Will it make the slightest bit of difference to Israel's behaviour?


From the Telegraph:

"Alex Salmond's plan for an independent Scotland to share the pound with the remainder of the UK is a 'dead parrot' and he must urgently set out his plan B, an inquiry by MPs has concluded. The Commons Scottish affairs committee compared the First Minister's reluctance to accept that his plan for a currency union would not happen with the famous Monty Python sketch in which a pet shop owner refuses to admit a Norwegian Blue parrot he sold was dead. The MPs also dismissed Mr Salmond's claim that George Osborne, Ed Balls and Danny Alexander were bluffing by ruling out the proposal. No future Chancellor could perform an about-turn on a currency union after a Yes vote in September's referendum without "destroying both their political and economy credibility", the committee concluded."


Watch this video of a beagle stealing a baby's toy - and then becoming consumed with guilt.


There's a new cabinet split between the Tories and the Lib Dems and guess which minister is behind it? Yep, you guessed right - Vince Cable. The Guardian has the details:

"Vince Cable has announced plans to scrap a proposed sale of student loans, forcing a U-turn on the government's privatisation programme and potentially opening a new rift in the coalition cabinet. Worth an estimated £12bn, the student loans earmarked for sale formed a key part of David Cameron's planned auction of state assets, but Cable called off the sale at a meeting of Liberal Democrat activists at the weekend. 'The government was considering the sale of student loans on the basis that it would reduce government debt. Recent evidence suggests this will no longer be the case,' the business secretary told the Social Liberal Forum. 'Given there is no longer any public benefit, Nick Clegg and I have agreed not to proceed with the sale.'"

Take that, Dave and George!


A week ago today we were gearing up for Dave's first major reshuffle since 2012. Seven days later, it looks like several ministerial and former ministerial egos took a battering during the process.

Liam Fox, according to the Mail on Sunday, turned down a middle-ranking Foreign Office post last week and reportedly told Cameron: "You must be bloody joking. I assume the ambassadorship to the moon is taken?"

Owen Paterson took to the pages of the Sunday Telegraph to slam the Green Party and Friends of the Earth, say he was "proud" his sacking had been welcomed by environmentalists and claim he "received more death threats in a few months at Defra than I ever did as secretary of state for Northern Ireland".

Then there's Esther McVey who kept her employment minister job but was allowed to attend cabinet. Well, guess what? According to the Sun on Sunday, McVey staged a "sit-in" at Number 10 and told Cameron "she was not leaving the building until he gave her a new role".

From the PM's perspective, I guess it's all in a day's work. But I don't blame him for not liking reshuffles and doing so few of them...


From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 37

Conservatives 32

Ukip 13

Lib Dems 9

That would give Labour a majority of 58.


Boris Johnson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "This is Putin's war, and this disaster is his responsibility."

Damian McBride, writing in the Times, says: "Ed is wasting his time at the White House."

Owen Jones, writing in the Guardian, says: "How the occupation of Gaza corrupts the occupier."

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