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Thursday, 27 September 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012
** Dumb American Outwits Smart Brit ** Moses Didn't Make It ** Paddy Pants Up ** All Eyes On Ed ** Gategate, Day 7 ** A Licence To Shoot Burglars ** Say Sorry. To Me. **


Quick, call Michael Gove. Call Niall Ferguson. Call Andrew Roberts. Coz Dave has failed a history test, in his clash with the other Dave - Letterman.

"Do you mind if I ask you a lot of dumb American questions?" asked the latter, as he quizzed our prime minister (PPE, Oxford, first-class) on a range of historical issues.

Who composed Rule Britannia? Dave went with Edward Elgar (correct answer: Thomas Arne, setting words by James Thomson to music). What does Magna Carta mean? Dave shrugged (correct answer: Great Charter). How Boris, the classicist, must be chortling and chuckling this morning.

The rest of us may laugh too - but 1) how many of you knew the answers? Honestly?, and 2) this is the prime minister who has introduced a UK citizenship test which basically defines Britishness on the basis of such random bits of information. Stupid, eh?

Cameron's press team won't be pleased with the headlines either: "Letterman leaves Cameron red-faced," says the Telegraph. "Brit of a Twit" is the Mirror's helpful take on the story.

To be fair, it's worth pointing out, however, that the PM did seem to win over the studio audience. "I'm gonna go look him up on Wikipedia when I get home," one smiling audience member told a BBC reporter afterwards.


The Guardian's tireless politics-blogger-in-chief Andrew Sparrow said yesterday that, listening to Clegg's conference speech, he was "struck with the image of Clegg as Moses, leading his party through the wilderness in the hope that they will reach they promised land". What Andrew omitted to mention, of course, and what Clegg should be worried about, is that Moses himself never made it to the promised land. So, who is the Lib Dems' Joshua?

As for the speech itself, the best bit was probably the part where the Lib Dem leader tried (I stress the word "tried") to sum up the party's 2015 appeal:

"Imagine yourself standing on the doorstep in 2015 talking to someone who hasn't decided who to vote for. This is what you'll be able to say: we cut taxes for ordinary families and made sure the wealthiest paid their fair share. We put more money into schools to give every child a chance. We did everything possible to get people into work - millions of new jobs and more apprenticeships than ever before. And we did the right thing by our older people too - the biggest ever cash rise in the state pension. But most importantly, we brought our country back from the brink and put it on the right path. Then ask them: are you ready to trust Labour with your money again? And do you really think the Tories will make Britain fairer?"

The worst bit was when the deputy PM decided to repeat the discredited and disingenuous line about Britain being like Greece. Er, Nick, no we're not.

On Twitter, the Mail's Tim Shipman summed it all up: "Clegg speech was pretty dull but it was fairly sound and represents his only possible strategy - to look and sound grown up and governmenty."


4339 number of words it contained
37 number of minutes it took to deliver
23 number of separate ovations
3 number of times Clegg referred to Ed Balls
0 number of times Clegg referred to Ed Miliband


Ashdown is back. The crowd in the conference hall cheered as Nick Clegg revealed that the former Lib Dem leader and ex-commando would be running the party's 2015 general election campaign.

The Spectator's James Forsyth says Paddy "I've killed men with my bare hands" Ashdown's appointment "shows [Clegg's] keen to do everything he can to demonstrate that he is going to lead the party into that election". Lucky Lib Dems.


Goodbye Brighton and Nick Clegg, hello Manchester and Ed Miliband. It's Labour's turn to take the political spotlight this weekend and the "pressure on Ed" stories have started appearing in the papers right on cue. The former shadow chancellor Alan Johnson, writing in the Guardian, says: "Ed Miliband has to do more to demonstrate that he is a leader...[he] needs to flesh out the thinking behind last year's conference speech."

The paper also quotes from a new essay by influential thinkers Gavin Kelly (of the Resolution Foundation) and Nick Pearce (of the IPPR), both former colleagues of Ed Miliband, in which they write: "What currently passes for radical thinking on tough tax and spending choices in centre-left Westminster circles falls far short of grasping the scale of the challenge."

Over to you, Ed...


Watch this video of the Avengers movie getting the "Honest Trailers" treatment.


More bad headlines for Thrasher. "Whip Whacked: 90% demand Tory is axed in Plebiscite," screams the headline in the Sun, which first broke the story last Friday.

9 out of 10 Sun readers told the paper they thought he should be sacked; meanwhile, a YouGov poll for the Sun found 3 out of 4 members of the pubic thought "he was probably lying and DID call Downing Street cops 'f****** plebs'".

The paper also claims that the prime minister cancelled a series of TV interviews prior to his Letterman appearance in order to avoid having to be grilled on the subject of his chief whip. Run away! Run away!


A new report from the King's Fund says the NHS's finances could "unravel" in 2013. Don't panic, though. Jeremy Hunt's in charge.


That's the splash headline on the front of the Daily Mail. Paul Dacre, presumably, was doing cartwheels in the paper's offices as Judge Michel Pert QC's verdict was read out to him: "If you burgle a house in the country where the householder owns a legally held shotgun, that is the chance you take." Bang!


From the Telegraph:

"Spain's debt crisis has returned with a vengeance after Germany, Holland and Finland reneged on a crucial summit deal and scuppered hopes of direct eurozone help for Spanish banks.

Yields on 10–year Spanish bonds punched back above the danger line of 6pc and spreads over German Bunds reached 450 basis points, intensifying pressure on Madrid as it continues to resist a sovereign bail–out."

Today, the country's conservative prime minister Mariano Rajoy will "try to stave off a backlash from financial markets", says the FT, by unveiling a new austerity budget for 2013. "Insanity," as Albert Einstein is said to have once remarked, "is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results."


Writing in the Spectator's diary column, former Sun editor and bigmouth-in-chief Kelvin Mackenzie says he wants an apology - from South Yorkshire Police. Yes you read that sentence correctly. No, I wasn't drunk when I typed it out.

Here's what he has to say for himself:

"Now I know — you know, we all know — that the fans were right. But it took 23 years, two inquiries, one inquest and research into 400,000 documents, many of which were kept secret under the 30-year no-publication rule, to discover there was a vast cover-up by South Yorkshire Police about the disaster. Where does that leave me?"

Well, it leaves you in denial, Kelv, that's where. As the Guardian's Hillsborough expert David Conn tweeted: "Even now, Kelvin Mackenzie doesn't get it. It did not take 23 years to prove The Sun on Hillsborough was lies. Taylor report said so in 1989."


"That is bad, I have ended my career on your show tonight." - David Cameron speaking on the Letterman show last night, after fluffing his host's UK history quiz.


From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 41
Conservatives 32
Lib Dems 9

This would give Labour a majority of 96.


@TonyBarretTimes Kelvin MacKenzie must be the ultimate troll.

@labourpress Confirmed: Clegg didn't bother to mention the NHS once in his speech, in the year Lib Dem MPs voted through the Health Bill #ldconf

@OwenJones84 Apparently David Cameron failed the UK Citizenship Test on the David Letterman Show. Customs! Over to you


Martin Kettle, writing in the Guardian, says a future Lib-Lab coalition "requires advance trust-building between key individuals. It requires some advance thought about what kind of programme such a coalition might realistically adopt...If Labour is serious, it occurs to me that Jack Straw might be an ideal person to help do it."

Rafael Behr, writing in the New Statesman on "Project Ed's Charisma'", says: "There doesn't appear to be much concern in Downing Street that Miliband's status will rise as Cameron's popularity falls."

David Aaronovitch, writing in the Times, warns Tories that "Nigel Farage's [UKIP] offers only dangerously appealing right-wing comfort politics that don't stand up to scrutiny."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (, Chris Wimpress ( or Ned Simons ( You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @chriswimpress, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol
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On the face of it this has been a pretty tepid, even dull, Lib Dem conference. No rows, cock-ups, or defeats. But it's probably been the most important party gathering since the special conference in May 2010 when the party dipped its hand in blood to sign the Coalition Agreement.
Fiyaz Mughal: Faith Hate: The EDL Targets Faith Communities for New Recruit
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Clive Stafford Smith: Why Are CIA Drones Still Causing the Death of Innocents in Pakistan?
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Andrea Mann: Mitt Romney Uses the Jimmy Carr Tax Defence
I don't know about you, dear reader, but I'm inclined to think that a man who pays only what is "legally due" is rather less qualified to become president. Because such a man appears to be solely looking after himself and lacking in both compassion for others and a sense of duty to society as a whole.
Vincent Brogan: Private Healthcare and the 'New' NHS
What is wrong with our health service that such a radical overhaul is needed? Is it that broke? News another seriously ill patient has been transferred from a private to a public hospital for treatment says something about standards of care in the NHS.

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