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Friday, 28 September 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012
** Tell Barack I'm Chillaxing ** Libor And The Liars ** Hard And Soft Balls ** History Lessons ** The Prime Minister Who Cried Wolf ** Not-So-Gorgeous-George ** Gimme Your Phone **


What would you do if you were tied, one set all, in a tennis match with a close friend and the president of the United States of America suddenly called for a chat? Play the deciding set later, right? Not if you're David Cameron, prime minister of Great Britain.

"Tell Obama I can't talk, I'm serving for match," says the Mirror. The Telegraph goes with: "Obama on the phone? I'll just finish this tennis match."

The papers have gone to town over a piece in the Racing Post - first noted by Andy McSmith in his Indy diary yesterday - in which Charlie Brooks - aka Mr Rebekah Brooks - wrote:

"I played tennis with him at Chequers one day. I won the first set easily, then he won the second set, and then someone came up to him and said 'er ... Mr Obama is on the phone for you, Prime Minister'.

"I thought 'okay, we'll have to leave it there'. But he said 'I think we've got time for a third set - tell Mr Obama I'll ring him back'. He obviously thought he had me on the ropes. And I beat him two sets to one."

According to the Telegraph, "Downing Street questioned the claims, insisting that official records show the pair had only played tennis once at Chequers, and no phone call was logged during that time from Mr Obama."

Perhaps, just perhaps, it was all an elaborate ruse to get Dave out of an awkward spot. Damian McBride, Gordon Brown's former spinner-in-chief, tweeted:

"I'm guessing Obama wasn't really on the phone & that's just the pre-agreed 'out' the clerks always give Cam once a meeting has run an hour.

"We used to put blank post-it notes into GB. If he wanted to carry on a meeting, he'd ignore them. If not, he'd say eg: 'Netanyahu? Now?'"


"Total overhaul for 'broken' Libor," says the FT splash headline. The paper says: "The 'broken' Libor interbank lending rate will get 'a complete overhaul' including a radical pruning of the number of rates it offers, a new administrator and tough regulatory oversight, under reforms announced today."

Did we really need an official review to tell us - shock! horror! - that dishonest, greedy bankers shouldn't be allowed to set (sorry, manipulate) their own rates?


Labour's shadow chancellor has pre-conference interviews in both the Guardian and the Mirror. He wants to be seen as tough - he tells the Mirror he will have to take "tough decisions" and is willing to "use private firms to run state services if the party believes it gives better value for money", and tells the Guardian that a Labour government in2 015 would "have a proper, zero-based spending review where we say we have to justify every penny and make sure we are spending in the right way."

But his soft side is on display too - the Guardian interview reveals that Balls passed his Grade 1 piano three months ago. "It is not often that Ed Balls admits to quiet terror," begins the piece.


Quentin Letts in today's Mail may think "the Prime Minister survived his interrogation" on Letterman but Jason Groves, reporting for the Mail from Sao Paulo, Brazil, where Cameron travelled from New York, quotes the PM saying:

"I'm a history obsessive, so I'm sorry I didn't do better. I think when I get home and do my children's homework, maybe I need to sit down and do a little bit extra myself."

The Guardian leader takes a pop: "For an expensive school, Eton leaves some huge gaps in its alumni's knowledge."

And this isn't our history-obsessed premier's first history gaffe: remember, when he said the UK had been a "junior partner" to the US in the war against Nazi Germany in 1940 - a year before the US entered the Second World War?

No more chillaxing, Dave!


He goes all the way to Brazil yet the Tory leader can't escape his two biggest threats - rows over Europe and Boris Johnson.

WIth the Telegraph reporting that Cameron is understood "to have decided to delay a speech sounding a strongly Eurosceptic note for several weeks and possibly months", the PM told a Brazilian newspaper that he believes "Britain should be in the EU and that being part of the world's largest single market with over half a billion customers is vital for our national interest."

Then there's the Mayor of London. "Do you feel your post is threatened [by Boris Johnson?" asked the Brazilian (the Brazilian!) interviewer. The PM's response (through gritted teeth??)? "Not at all. Boris has been a great friend of mine for a long time and a first-class mayor of London... Boris still has much work to do as mayor, and so do I as Prime Minister."

Even on the other side of the world, Dave can't escape Boris.


Watch this video of dogs pushing other dogs inside toy cars. Bizarre.


Two Guardian stories are worth reading side by side this morning. The first:

"Private companies should be allowed to bid to run up to 30 NHS hospitals – and begin by taking over those the Department of Health acknowledges are "clinically and financially unsustainable", a former health adviser to Tony Blair has said.

...In his paper, Takeover: Tackling Failing NHS Hospitals, [Paul] Corrigan writes that it would better to let private companies keep any savings they make as profits to incentivise the private sector."

The second:

Ministers have allowed successive welfare-to-work schemes worth nearly £1bn to remain open to possible fraud by private companies, a powerful committee of MPs has said.

The Commons public accounts committee said the Department for Work and Pensions failed to ensure that employees of such firms do not defraud the public purse while claiming to place unemployed people into work.



Benjamini 'Bibi' Netanyahu turned up at the UN general assembly in New York yesterday to claim, in typically alarmist fashion that it was getting "late, very late" to stop Iran from building nukes and that "the future of the world" was at stake.

From the Telegraph:

"The Israeli prime minister told the United Nations General Assembly that Iran would become a nuclear power unless it was stopped in its tracks by next summer at the latest."

But what's this? Back in 1992 (yes, 1992!), a young Israeli parliamentarian warned his colleagues that Iran was 3 to 5 years from being able to produce a nuclear weapon – and that the threat had to be "uprooted by an international front headed by the US." His name? Benjamin Netanyahu.

Anyways, according to the Telegraph:

"[Netanyahu] used a crude diagram [yesterday] to show the progress Iran had made towards a bomb, drawing a red line in marker pen at the point where he said Iran must be stopped. It was a move that was instantly mocked by online commentators..."

Do you blame them? It was a bizarre choice of picture. Buzzfeed's Zeke Miller tweeted: "We come from the greatest race of comic illustrators... and he comes up with a 5th grade science fair drawing".


My HuffPost UK colleague Dina Rickman reports:

"The National Union of Students has banned George Galloway for being a 'rape denier', despite a last-ditch plea from a member of his office who claimed his views on Julian Assange are 'widely held on the left of the political spectrum.'

...Two other politicians who have made controversial comments about rape, Tory MEP Roger Helmer and Andrew Brons, MEP for the BNP, have also been banned."


From Sky News:

"[Ed Miliband] disclosed earlier this month that he had been secretly wooing the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary with text messages.

His admission infuriated Labour left-wingers and veterans Dennis Skinner and Ken Livingstone protested angrily at a meeting of the party's national executive committee on Tuesday.

But according to one member of the party's ruling body, the Labour leader stunned NEC members by responding: "They've taken my phone away."

One NEC member told Sky News: "They've changed his mobile phone. He now has a different phone with a different number. Someone else now has his number. When I tried to text Ed, someone else replied."

Snail mail, anyone? Carrier pigeon??


@MissEllieMae Mogg's talking but all I can hear is BURGHG POSH POSH GURRGGHH #bbcqt

@Kevin_Maguire Dave Chillax put tennis with an Old Etonian chum(currently on bail) before Obama? Very old Ruling Class

@BorowitzReport Romney could still win the election if he becomes an entirely different person.


Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "Labour supporters, spitting expletives, vow coalition is unthinkable. But they need to think again."

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Daily Telegraph, says: "The basic truth is that Britain is already taxed as much as it can bear...but a wealth tax would be the biggest, riskiest and craziest gamble of all."

Michael Ashcroft, writing in the Guardian, says: "If the Conservatives want to ditch the Lib Dems after the next election, they will need to steal their voters."

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
David Cameron Can't Even Escape Boris In Brazil
George Galloway Banned By The NUS After Rape Comments
Ed Miliband: Religious Gay Couples Should Be Able To Get Married In Church (WATCH)
David Cameron 'Put Barack Obama On Hold To Play Tennis', Claims Charlie Brooks
Stephen Tall: The Lib Dem Conference That Didn't Bark
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.
Stephen Timms: Why the Universal Credit Project Is a Mess
The government boasts that Universal Credit will strengthen work incentives by enabling people to keep more of their income from work... Unfortunately, this claim will not be true once the new localised arrangements for Council Tax Benefit are factored in.
Francis Maude: Open Government Partnership - the UK Takes the lead
Twelve months ago, the UK was one of eight national governments that founded the Open Government Partnership, a powerful new international organisation dedicated to the promotion of transparency and openness. Today, the UK is taking over as leading co-chair of the partnership, which now includes 57 member states or a third of the world's population.
Cherie Blair: We Can't Afford to Ignore Half the Population
Out of a global population of some seven billion people, 50% of us are women. The world's women represent 40% of the workforce and are over 50% of the world's university students. Despite this significant contribution, women continue to face many formal and informal barriers that hinder their potential. We can't afford to ignore half the population. We will all gain through the input of able women helping their communities reach better decisions, not replacing men but working alongside them. We have to continue to develop opportunities. We have to lift unfair barriers which stop people from making the most of their potential.
Fiyaz Mughal: Faith Hate: The EDL Targets Faith Communities for New Recruit
Whilst more and more lights are shone on the EDL and its affiliates, we believe that the future may give these far-right organisations more oxygen, as economies weaken in Europe. More than ever, the voices of reason within faith communities are needed and there is a need for all of us to report faith-hate crimes where we see them.

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