The five things you need to know on Wednesday 23 July 2014...
1) 'I'M UP FOR A FIGHT'
I've done a (long) profile of Ed Miliband's 'secret weapon', Cambridge-educated lawyer Justine Thornton, based on a series of conversations with friends of the couple, shadow cabinet ministers, pollsters - and a recent speech that Thornton gave to a group of Labour supporters in London in which she said she wanted to make the next election about the need for "decency and principles in public life".
"That's why I am up for a fight," she told the crowd, "however nasty, however brutal."
A shadow cabinet minister tells me Thornton is Miliband's "political soulmate". Senior Labour sources say she'll have a much bigger role in the forthcoming general election campaign - and may even give a speech ahead of her husband at the party conference in Manchester.
NOTE: Parliament has risen for its summer recess so this Morning Memo will be taking a break for the summer, too.
2) 'VILE, CRASS AND OFFENSIVE'
Controversial 'pro Palestinian' Lib Dem MP David Ward has been making waves again - this time on Twitter:
"The big question is - if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? - probably yes"
Ward, as the BBC points out, "has had a long-running dispute with the party's leadership over his use of language with regard to Israel" - and Jews.
In January 2013, ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, Ward, for example, accused "the Jews" in Israel of "inflicting atrocities on Palestinians... on a daily basis".
A Lib Dem spokesman said last night: "David has previously overstepped the mark with repugnant language. We fully support his right to campaign on behalf of the Palestinian people, but these views are clearly vile, crass and offensive."
Tory chairman Grant Shapps called Ward's comment an "incitement to violence".
Personally, I couldn't help but think of a rather similar 2008 remark made by Ehud Barak, former Israeli prime minister and decorated general: "If I were a Palestinian.. I would have joined a terrorist organisation."
On a side note, you can listen to my 'debate' with the Israeli ambassador Daniel Taub on BBC Radio 2's The Jeremy Vine Show on Monday here.
3) CAMERON'S CRONIES VS VLAD'S CRONIES
Are Cameron's - and let's be honest, the City of London's - past associations with Russian oligarchs coming back to bite him in the backside? Just as the PM tries to put together an international coalition against Putin, and in favour of sanctions and embargoes? From the Daily Mail splash:
"David Cameron was under pressure last night to return a £160,000 donation from the wife of a Vladimir Putin ally.
Lubov Chernukhin, whose billionaire husband served in the Russian president’s first administration, won an auction bid to play tennis with the Prime Minister. Calling for the donation to be reversed, Labour said the Tories should ‘come clean’ over an estimated £1million in payments from Russian individuals and businesses. Conservative Party sources indicated last night however that the party will keep the Chernukhins’ money. In a further embarrassment for the Government, a report released by MPs today shows Britain was selling weapons to Russia only a few months ago."
Meanwhile, the Times splashes on the news that the French have "accused 'hypocritical' Britain of cosying up to Russian oligarchs yesterday as European divisions thwarted hopes of immediate action over the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet".
The Independent's splash headline is: "Massive rise in sale of British arms to Moscow."
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...
Watch this video of a baby doing an impression of his mother's walk.
4) NOT SO SELF-DENYING
From the Telegraph's splash:
"Alex Salmond promised yesterday not to talk about Scottish independence during the Commonwealth Games, only to break his self–imposed ban seconds later. His opponents warned that the sporting event in Glasgow should not be politicised. But the First Minister used a press conference at the Games media centre to criticise George Osborne then promised Scotland's sporting teams would 'flourish' when no longer part of the UK. He announced the 'self–denying ordinance' after he was widely criticised for unveiling the Scottish flag behind David Cameron's head when Andy Murray won Wimbledon last year. Murray disclosed last month that he "didn't like it" when Mr Salmond flourished the Saltire that had been hidden in his wife's handbag.
5) A VERY BRITISH COUP
Is there a 'plot' against the Speaker? The Times thinks so:
"A mysterious poison pen plot to oust the Speaker of the House of Commons was revealed yesterday amid growing frustration over his 'increasingly erratic behaviour'. An anonymous motion has been drawn up calling for John Bercow to be replaced for failing 'to live up to the tradition of impartiality established by his predecessors'. It also accuses him of 'systematic bullying and humiliation of staff' — a reference to allegations that he swore at a senior Commons official.
Mr Bercow denies the claims. The draft early day motion, which has not yet been officially tabled and remains unsigned, was passed to The Times by someone from within the Palace of Westminster."
PUBLIC OPINION WATCH
From today's Sun/YouGov poll:
Lib Dems 7
That would give Labour a majority of 32.
900 WORDS OR MORE
Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Ed Miliband must rouse himself from the chloroform of caution."
Daniel Finkelstein, writing in the Times, says: "Blairism worked – but we can’t go back to it."
Salma Yaqoob, writing in the Guardian, says: "Stigmatising Muslims won't solve problems in Birmingham schools."
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