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Thursday, 11 October 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012
** Privileged? Moi? ** Prime Ministerial Porkie Pies ** Dave Denounced On Disability ** Taking A Whipping ** Nein! ** ** Down With The Kids ** "The Antisocial Network" ** Abortion Wars ** Ooh La La **


David Cameron's attempt to take on those critics who say he's 'out of touch' and a 'toff', in his keynote speech to the Conservative conference in Birmingham yesterday, has been welcomed by the Tory-leaning press.

"I'm not here to defend privilege, I'm here to spread it," is the headline on the front of the Times. "Cameron: I want privilege for all," is the Telegraph's splash headline. But it's left to Donald Macintyre, in the Independent, to make the rather obvious point about the emptiness and vacuousness of this Cameroon soundbite:

"[The] problem with spreading privilege is that once spread, it ceases to be privilege."

Exactly! Macintyre continues:

"Privilege Spread! It sounds like something Fortnum and Mason might patent."

It was, nonetheless, a solid speech from the PM - "a serious speech for serious times," in the words of the Sun. The right-wing papers really, really liked it: "[I]n probably his finest speech since becoming Conservative leader in 2005, the Prime Minister yesterday finally gave the country a clear and welcome vision of what he stands for," says the Mail leader. "Gone were the politically correct gimmicks and obsessions with green energy and gay marriage." "Mr Cameron showed yesterday why the Conservatives entrusted him with the leadership seven years ago," says the Telegraph leader. "He tapped easily into the core values of the party – low taxes, family stability and national sovereignty."

Leftie papers, of course, take a different line. "David Cameron's talk of aspiration is shamefully hollow when he makes it harder for people to get on in life," harrumphs the Mirror. The Guardian leader is entitled: "David Cameron: one statesman, two nations". The paper's Jonathan Freedland, writing on the front page, says the PM's "strikingly defensive" speech "left no doubt that Ed Miliband had succeeded, in the argot of elite sport, in getting inside his head".


"As Prime Minister it has fallen to me to say some hard things,"
said Cameron yesterday, "and to help our country face some hard truths."

But there were a fair few half-truths and untruths in his 6,000-word speech in Birmingham.

Here are my top three (all on the economy):

1) "Here was the challenge [in 2010]: To make an insolvent nation solvent again."

Er, anyone who believes that the Britain was literally bankrupt, i.e. unable to service its debts, in May 2010, is a liar - or a fool.

2) "Thanks to the grit and resolve of George Osborne, we have cut a quarter off the deficit in the past two years... That's helped to keep interest rates at record low levels..."

Except that Cameron's former chums at the IMF keep telling us: "Bond yields have been driven more by growth expectations than fears of a sovereign crisis."

Or as Tory backbencher Mark Garnier blurted out at a fringe in Birmingham: "The reason we have a low interest rate is because the economy is absolutely screwed".

3) "Since this government took office, over one million new jobs have been created in the private sector."

"Created"? Not quite, Dave. The government reclassified Further Education Corporations and Sixth Form College Corporations in England, from public sector to private sector, earlier this year. And, as the Guardian notes, "The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimate that private sector employment figures have been inflated by around 196,000 jobs as a result, and guess what? If you redistribute those jobs to the public sector, his claim is no longer true."


In a moving section of his speech yesterday, the PM spoke held back tears as he spoke about his late father Ian and his late son Ivan, both of whom were disabled. However, disability-rights activists have since rounded on Cameron, accusing him of ignoring his government's debilitating cuts to disability benefits.

"The thing that really gets me that I believe the only reason he is using Ivan today as a political football is that he knows disability has become one of the biggest issues,"
campaigner Sue Marsh told the Huffington Post UK. "We are faced with the biggest onslaught disabled people have ever faced."

"I think it's always dangerous to say, 'my best friend's black and therefore I'm not racist',"
Jaspal Dhoni of the UK disabled people's council told the HuffPost. "[His speech is] very close to that. By no means does having a disabled son mean you have an understanding of the wider issues that affect disabled people."



He was very keen to get on his bike that night in Downing Street but is Andrew Mitchell now on his way out of the cabinet? The Mail says "Mitchell's job is on the line" after "Iain Duncan Smith joked that the beleaguered Chief Whip could be banished to Rwanda for swearing at police officers".

The Telegraph says the chief whip's "fate could be decided at a meeting with rank–and–file police officers tomorrow" and adds: "Mr Mitchell's supporters have commissioned focus groups to see if the issue has "cut through" to voters".

The Sun, which broke the story, reports:

"Panicking Tories last night tried to gag their MPs in a bid to save beleaguered Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell.

The order not to speak to The Sun came as speculation mounts that he will be forced to quit over the Gate-gate row."

It doesn't look good for 'Thrasher' who, lest we forget, didn't attend the Tory conference in Birmingham despite being the party's only MP in the area (he represents Sutton Coldfield).


The BA-EADS merger is off. The FT and the Times both splash on the story on their front pages and there does seem to be a common theme in the British press: blame Germany and, specifically, German chancellor Angela Merkel. (Poor ol' Angela: she's had a rough week, what with all those Greek protesters burning Nazi flags on her visit to Athens...)

Meanwhile, the Independent says "a phoenix may yet rise from the BAE-EADS ashes": "If a jilted BAE now decides to seek a less ambitious, but still advantageous, partnership elsewhere - with Rolls-Royce, say - some good may yet come of this sorry mess."

Fingers crossed, eh?


Watch this video of Boris Johnson and David Cameron guessed it..."Gangnam style".


From the front page of the i:

"Scots poll opens door to votes for 16-year-olds"

Yep, the coalition government has agreed to allow 16-year-olds to take part in the planned Scottish independence referendum - but the Tory element of the coalition opposes allowing them to do so in Westminster elections or national referenda. Only a cynic, of course, would say that's because younger voters are disproportionately more anti-Tory and pro-European than the rest of the electorate. Right?

The Lib Dems welcome the move and want it extended to general elections and national referenda as their party policy has long been "votes at 16" while Labour promised a free vote in the Commons on reducing the voting age to 16 at the last election and its leader Ed Miliband says he personally supports this change.

So, do we now have a new 'West Lothian question'? 16-year-olds in Scotland can vote in a referendum on Scottish independence - but 16-year-olds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can't vote in a referendum on, say, European Union membership. How is that fair?


That's the splash headline on the front of the Independent. The paper says:

"Facebook was accused last night of "disingenuous and immoral" tax avoidance after a new analysis of its UK business suggested the social networking giant paid just £238,000 in corporation tax in Britain last year.

Although industry experts estimate the company made £175m in revenue from its UK businesses last year, Facebook is able to avoid paying millions in corporation tax by diverting most of its sales via Ireland."

The social networking giant isn't alone: the Indy says the five largest online companies - Apple, Amazon, Google, eBay and Facebook - may have managed to save as much as £650m in tax through tax avoidance schemes.

So, will we see the boys and girls of UKUncut storm the Facebook and Google head offices in London?


Is abortion becoming a US-style 'wedge' issue in British politics? It hasn't gone away since Jeremy Hunt raised his own personal objections to the 24-week limit at the weekend. The Independent's other front-page headline says: "It's official: the science on abortion really hasn't 'moved on'", referring to "official figures showing no improvement in survival for extremely premature babies".

Meanwhile, the Times reports on how "the first abortion clinic in Northern Ireland will open next week amid tight security and fears that it will become a focal point for US-style protests".

My column in today's New Statesman is on abortion and the (false) left-right divide on this heated topic.


"The French First Lady and her astonishing menage a SIX!," screams the Mail headline, on its front page, above a picture of Valerie Trierweiler.

The paper reports on a new biography, La Frondeuse ('The Rebellious One'), of the French president's partner:

Miss Trierweiler, it was revealed, had been the shared mistress of Francois Hollande, now the country's Socialist president, and a married conservative minister, Patrick Devedjian.

Not only that, but she was still married to her husband at the time.

And more controversially still, Mr Hollande was at the time living with Segolene Royal, the mother of his four children and a senior Socialist politician in her own right.

...She was sleeping with Mr Devedjian at the same time as seeing Left-winger Mr Hollande, now 58.


"I don't think anybody would shed buckets of tears if he was to fall on his sword." - Former Tory chairman Norman Tebbit, referring to current Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell.


From today's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 41
Conservatives 34
Lib Dems 8

This would give Labour a majority of 88.


@iainmartin1 Why does anyone listen to totally discredited IMF? They've been all over the shop: cut, don't cut, up, down, in, out, shake it all about

@glenoglazaSky Andrew Mitchell due to have private meeting with Police Federation tomorrow. Reckon it's 50 - 50 (max) he'll still be Chief Whip by then

@DanHannanMEP One of the reasons politicians like to talk about hard working people being up at 6am is that they themselves have to rise early.


Ed Miliband, writing in the Daily Mirror, says: "David Cameron has showed he can only drive us apart. He cannot be a One Nation Prime Minister... Your choice is becoming clearer by the day: The sink or swim society of David Cameron or One Nation Britain with Labour."

Martin Kettle, writing in the Guardian, says: "Cameron's conference speech held out the promise that Britain can go it alone, without Europe or the US. It's an illusion."

Peter Oborne, writing in the Telegraph, says Cameron "conceded nothing to his ideological opponents – and made his case in classic Conservative language. At the core of his speech was a strong, statesmanlike and beautifully lucid explanation of Coalition policies on the economy, education and welfare".

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 Targets 'Intellectual' Ed Miliband In Conference Speech
Miller's Gay Marriage Stance Draws Mixed Reaction
It's All Off! BAE and EADS Tie Up Hits The Skids
David Cameron: Top Ten Speech Questioned Answered (We Knew The Tie Would Be Purple)
Jonathan Portes: What Explains Poor Growth in the UK? The IMF Thinks it's Fiscal Policy
Everyone agrees growth since 2010 in the UK has been very disappointing. But there has been much debate about why - was it cutting the deficit too quickly, was it the spike in inflation resulting from commodity price rises, was it the impact on confidence from the eurozone?
Caroline Davey: Why Bother With Facts on Welfare When Fiction Is So Convenient?
Once again, the old myths and stereotypes about benefit claimants - or should I say "feckless workshy scroungers" - have been wheeled out as cover for radical proposals to cut welfare by a further £10billion.
Kate Allen: The Rwandan Authorities Must Investigate Unlawful Detention and Torture by Its J2 Military Intelligence Unit
The Rwandan authorities must take these allegations seriously. They have an obligation under Rwandan and international law to investigate and prosecute those thought to be responsible. Doing so will be an important step towards justice for victims and reduce the risk of such abuses happening again. It will also help to restore the confidence of donor countries that are increasingly concerned by human rights abuses committed by the Rwandan military in DRC and now in Rwanda itself.
Anna Claeys: Male, Pale and Stale: The Gender Gap in the UK's Leading Roles
The current system continues to leave women severely underrepresented in the top job - this is an issue not just for women, but for our economy and society as a whole.
Nicky Gavron: Cutting Under-25s' Housing Benefit Will Increase Youth Homelessness
Completely at odds with this latest welfare proposal, the government has created a policy framework that may force more young adults out of the family home and prevent many from returning.

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