Mehdi’s Morning Memo: Gay Marriage – The Vote

The ten things you need to know on Sunday 3 February 2013…


The Sunday Telegraph splashes on the impending Tory ‘rebellion’ over gay marriage – the paper says it has

“… established that around 180 Conservative MPs, most notably including six whips and up to four members of the Cabinet, are ready to defy the Prime Minister’s plan to legalise gay weddings.

“Meanwhile, 25 chairmen or former chairmen of Conservative party associations across the country have signed a letter to Mr Cameron warning that the policy will cause “significant damage” to the Tories’ 2015 general election campaign.

“One chairman, who has quit over the issue, said ‘this is a policy dreamt up in Notting Hill’, while a serving chairman said it had angered the grassroots more than Europe.”

The four cabinet ministers are believed to be Owen Paterson, David Jones, Philip Hammond and Iain Duncan Smith.

The paper says: “The vote on Tuesday is the first parliamentary vote on the gay marriage legislation and a test for the Prime Minister.” Now there’s the understatement of the day…

(On a related note, the Sunday Times reports that “the Liberal Democrats want heterosexual couples to be able to have civil partnership ceremonies in the same way as gay men and lesbians… The policy, backed by Nick Clegg, would give unmarried couples legal protection if they split up or one of them dies.”)


More talk of Tory plots and coups on the front of the Sunday Times:

“Tory rebels backing Adam Afriyie’s attempt to unseat David Cameron as party leader hope that Boris Johnson will emerge as the ultimate victor.

“Some MPs involved in the multimillionaire’s campaign plan to line up the London mayor in the growing expectation that he will return to Westminster in 2015.

“Johnson is not playing an active role in the manoeuvring.

“One friend said he was ‘taking a close interest’.”

I’m sure he is. The Sunday Times refers to a ‘Reagan solution’. (A Reagan what?)

“However, many do not entirely trust him and accept that his reputation for bumbling may make it hard for him to perform well as a conventional prime minister. Some are mulling a ‘Reagan solution’ in which Johnson is the glitzy public personality of a future Tory government but day-to-day work is done by a protective coterie of ministers with management skills. Afriyie could then be rewarded with a government job.”

The paper also claims that Theresa May, the home secretary, is being lined up as a ‘Stop Boris’ candidate. Hmm. Not sure about that…


You want know how tough the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, is? It isn’t just criminals who face his wrath. Watch out kids! From the Mail on Sunday:

“His disciplinarian views are mirrored by the ‘regime’ he and wife Susan adopted towards their two children, now 20 and 16. He says when they misbehaved they knew they could get a smack from dad.

“‘You chastise children when they are bad, as my parents did me. I’m not opposed to smacking. It is to be used occasionally. Sometimes it sends a message — but I don’t hanker for the days when children were severely beaten at school.’”

Grayling’s comments came in an interview with the Mail on Sunday’s Simon Walters in which, says the paper, he announced an “end to Britain’s ‘holiday camp’ jails, with a ban on Sky TV, fewer televisions, more prison uniforms, less pocket money for inmates and a ban on gay couples sharing cells is planned by the Government.”

Tough, tough, tough. But will it work?


Ed Mili may be a fan of the Fabians, and the Fabians a fan of Ed Mili, but the organisation has produced a report which won’t put a smile on the Labour leader’s face (via the Obs):

“Ed Miliband is failing to repeat Tony Blair’s success in winning over former Tory voters and will have to rely on people returning to Labour as well as ex-Lib Dem converts to win a majority, a new polling analysis suggests.

“Research by the New Fabian Society finds just 400,000 voters have moved from Conservatives to Labour since the last election which, if unchanged on polling day, would mean Labour had made only tiny inroads into Tory heartlands.”

The Fabians’ general secretary Andrew Harrop tells the paper: “Ed Miliband is not Tony Blair and he’ll need to win power in his own way. Blair’s success was based on winning over disillusioned ex-Tories who are so far resisting Miliband’s appeal,” said Harrop.

“Instead Ed has won the backing of people who had given up on voting as well as former Lib Dems. The Fabian research shows that together there are enough of them for Labour to win a majority. The challenge for Labour is to turn this mid-term support into votes in 2015.”

As Tony Blair himself noted, on the Marr show this morning, “What Ed’s trying to do is tougher than what I had to do.” Indeed…


The Observer’s Toby Helm got into a row with CCHQ Twitter account – and, this morning, the Observer hits back with a splash and a double-page spread:

“Education secretary Michael Gove has been plunged into a potentially toxic row over allegations that members of his department have used the social networking site Twitter to launch highly personal attacks on journalists and political opponents and to conduct a Tory propaganda campaign paid for by the taxpayer.

“… An anonymous Twitter account called @toryeducation is regularly used to attack critical stories about both Gove and his department. It is often abreast of imminent Tory policies, suggesting it is coming from close to the centre of government. However, it is also used to rubbish journalists and Labour politicians while promoting Gove’s policies and career. Issuing party political material and indulging in personal attacks are both clear breaches of the special advisers’ code and the civil service code.”

Don’t mess with Toby Helm, eh?


Watch this video of a fox that thinks it’s a dog…


Did Tony Blair ever leave the British political and media scene? As this Memo has noted before, ‘TB’ never seems to be off our TV screens or comment pages.

Blair was on the Marr show on BBC1 this morning, with Marr stand-in Sian Williams chucking one softball question after another in the former PM’s direction. Blair who was in full ‘neocon’ mode, making repeated references to ‘the perversion of Islam’, a ‘generation’-long struggle against terrorists which he compared to the struggle against “revolutionary communism”, and arguing how “David Cameron is essentially right in what he’s saying” about a decade or more of conflict against al-Qaeda-inspired violence. There were few, if any, references to the radicalising role of Blair’s illegal invasion of Iraq or the failure to secure peace and statehood for the Palestinians in the Middle East (where Tony, lest we forget, is a ‘special envoy’).

“You’ve got to shape the events happening in the Middle East,” said Blair, as he defended the concept of ‘intervention’. Now, I have no problem in ‘shaping’ things abroad – but Blair’s definition of ‘shape’ normally includes bombing and/or invading.

Meanwhile, the Independent on Sunday’s story on the blossing relationship between Blair and and his self-proclaimed (Tory) heir is worth a read – it’s headline: “Meet my NBF! David Cameron and Tony Blair become chums.”


Is the coalition starting to lose its PR war on welfare ‘scroungers’? From the Independent on Sunday:

“As many as 100,000 children from working families will be forced into poverty as a result of the Government’s plans to cut benefits for the poorest, ministers have admitted for the first time.

“Official figures show that a total of 200,000 youngsters from all families will be pushed into child poverty as a result of George Osborne’s 1 per cent cap on benefits from April, in effect a real-terms cut in welfare payments. But Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat pensions minister, revealed in a parliamentary written answer last week that 50 per cent of those children come from families where at least one parent is in work.”

Good job, Dave…


Want to know how to be a member of parliament? The Sunday Express reports:

“A Tory MP has taken practical steps to tackle unemployment by setting up his own apprenticeship scheme in the House of Commons.

“Robert Halfon became the first MP to take on a properly accredited apprentice to help him and now, thanks to his Parliamentary Academy, another 20 MPs have also hired young people.

“Mr Halfon, who won his Harlow seat in 2010, is now on his third apprentice. ‘It was in 2009 that I was working with these young people who were problem kids and they just couldn’t find opportunities,’ he said.

“‘When I spoke to them they all said that what they wanted was an apprenticeship.'”


From the Sunday Times:

“A sixth of the 2010 intake of Tory MPs have divorced, formally separated or had long-term relationships break down since the election.

“Charles Walker, the MP for Broxbourne, who is an unofficial counsellor to fellow Tory MPs, said 23 of the 147 newly elected in 2010 had been affected. He estimates this amounts to one in six of those who were in a relationship at the general election.

“Parliamentarians this weekend blamed in part the public vitriol and official scrutiny that followed the expenses scandal for taking a toll on their personal lives.”


The Sunday Times (instructed by Rupert M?) devotes its second leader to ‘an apology’ over that cartoon:

“The image we published of Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, which appeared to show him revelling in the blood of Palestinians, crossed a line. The image would have been a mistake on any day but the fact that last Sunday was Holocaust Memorial Day compounded the error.

“We realise that we caused grave offence, however unintended, which detracted from a day that marks one of the greatest evils in human history.”

For an alternative view on the Scarfe row and Murdoch’s hypocrisy on anti-Semitism, you could do worse than re-read Matthew Norman’s Independent column from last week.


From yesterday’s Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 41
Conservatives 34
Lib Dems 12
Ukip 8

That would give Labour a majority of 86.


@Mike_Fabricant Why r journalists saying the Gay Marriage vote on Tuesday is a “rebellion”. This is a free vote and not whipped! Why @edvaizey not say that?

@oliver_wright Would love to know how many Tory MPs who opposed (and voted against) civil partnerships now support them #murnaghan

@paulwaugh Now that’s what I call triangulation. Blair says he’s as equally available for advice for both ‘David’ [Cameron] and ‘Ed’ [Miliband] #marr


Matthew D’Ancona, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, says: “Westminster’s Tory tots must do some growing up.”

Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Observer, says: “The Tory malcontents possess a destructive intensity all their own.”

Michael Gove, writing in the Mail on Sunday, says: “Marriage is the greatest joy of my life… Denying it to gay men and women is wrong – and prejudiced.”

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan ( or Ned Simons ( You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol