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Five of the Best

The top five comment pieces from today's papers

The New York Times's Paul Krugman argues that the Democrats should abandon health-care reform if the bill is diluted by Republicans:

It would be disastrous if health care goes the way of the economic stimulus plan, earlier this year. As you may recall, that plan -- which was clearly too weak even as originally proposed -- was made even weaker to win the support of three Republican senators. If the same thing happens to health reform, progressives should and will walk away.

In the Guardian, Nick Clegg and Lord Ashdown say that Britain needs to change gear in Afghanistan and they call on Gordon Brown to form a war cabinet:

You cannot win a war on half-horsepower. The prime minister needs to make it clear that this struggle is now the nation's first priority and we will strain every sinew to win it. In most of our recent wars, prime ministers have formed a special war cabinet. Why not now? Why not a minister for Afghanistan? Why have we not assembled the very brightest in the FCO, DfID, MoD and Cabinet Office to form a co-ordinated team to see this thing through?

In the Daily Telegraph, David Elstein, the former chief executive of Channel 5, argues that the BBC should respond to its critics by replacing the licence fee with voluntary subscription:

[T]here is a way in which the BBC could, with one bound, be free. What gives all its critics leverage is the licence fee. It is unpopular, regressive, inflexible and inefficient, yet leaves all who pay with a spurious sense of entitlement. If the BBC announced that it was going to replace the licence fee with a voluntary subscription, what it paid its talent and executives, and what services it provided, would cease to be anyone's business but its customers'.

The Independent's Johann Hari calls for international action against "vulture funds" -- which buy the debt owed by poor countries for a small sum and then take them to court to demand that the full amount be paid:

Most people, when they hear about this, ask -- why is this lawful? Of course it's important for countries to repay their debts when possible so they can continue to borrow for investment where necessary -- but not if the debts were taken out by thieving dictators generations ago, and not at a loan-shark profit rate of 500 per cent.

The Economist's Bagehot column predicts that the Liberal Democrats will surprise their detractors at the next election:

A sound election platform, plus a powerful national urge to throw Labour out, may allow the Lib Dems to hang on to most of the southern seats that look vulnerable to the Tories, while taking a few from Labour elsewhere. Even if the outcome is not the Lib Dem nirvana of a hung parliament, with its mythical potential for coalitions and pacts, the party may emerge stronger than the carpers predict.