Five of the Best

The top five comment pieces from today's papers

The Independent's Yasmin Alibhai-Brown calls for the introduction of an alternative history syllabus in schools:

[O]ur children have a right to learn about British fascism as well as the battles and ultimate victory over Hitler; they need to be taught about how this country set up the conflict in Palestine, a conflict without end, and the mistakes made by the British government when Zimbabwe was created -- mistakes that are still used by the despicable President Mugabe. Idi Amin would not have taken control of my old homeland, Uganda, without British, Israeli and American connivance. Hardly anyone over 20 in Britain knows this.

In the Daily Telegraph, Boris Johnson hails Samuel Johnson's literary achievement 300 years after his birth:

It took 40 Frenchmen 55 years to produce a dictionary of French. It took the Accademia della Crusca 20 years to produce a dictionary of Italian. It took Johnson nine years to produce his dictionary, and he personally wrote 40,000 entries. When the Victorians began their great oeuvre in 1888, they called it the New English Dictionary, and it was new in the sense that it was the first to presume to move out of the shadow of Johnson.

The Guardian's Jackie Ashley argues that cutting middle-class benefits such as the winter fuel payment and child benefit would be a vote-winner for Labour:

If it were still 1996, or even 2001, this would have been suicidal. The whole game was about triangulation and persuading floating, aspirational middle-class voters to back New Labour. But times have changed. Millions of these people -- though not those in the public sector -- have already defected in their minds to Cameron and are a lost cause for Labour. What would be catastrophic would be the simultaneous defection of Labour's core vote.

The New York Times's Ross Douthat compares Barack Obama's attempt at health-care refrom with Bill Clinton's in 1994 and predicts that the Republicans won't capitalise in next year's congressional elections:

The even better news for Democrats is that they aren't up against Newt Gingrich this time. Gingrich was an ideological figure, but he was savvy enough to grasp the essentially nonideological character of the public's anger in 1994. The Contract With America, remembered as a right-wing document by liberals and conservatives alike, was actually a model of center-right incrementalism, with every bullet point carefully crafted to appeal to the voters who went for Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996.

In the Times, Peter Riddell says that the meetings between David Cameron and Brendan Barber are evidence of declining union power:

The unions hope they will have contacts with a Tory government, unlike their lack of access after 1979 when the Thatcher administration came to power. But that is a reflection of the unions' weakness now, not their strength. Mr Cameron is happy to talk to the unions because they are no longer a serious threat.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Commons Confidential: Dave's picnic with Dacre

Revenge is a dish best served cold from a wicker hamper.

Sulking David Cameron can’t forgive the Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, for his role in his downfall. The unrelenting hostility of the self-appointed voice of Middle England to the Remain cause felt pivotal to the defeat. So, what a glorious coincidence it was that they found themselves picnicking a couple of motors apart before England beat Scotland at Twickenham. My snout recalled Cameron studiously peering in the opposite direction. On Dacre’s face was the smile of an assassin. Revenge is a dish best served cold from a wicker hamper.

The good news is that since Jeremy Corbyn let Theresa May off the Budget hook at Prime Minister’s Questions, most of his MPs no longer hate him. The bad news is that many now openly express their pity. It is whispered that Corbyn’s office made it clear that he didn’t wish to sit next to Tony Blair at the unveiling of the Iraq and Afghanistan war memorial in London. His desire for distance was probably reciprocated, as Comrade Corbyn wanted Brigadier Blair to be charged with war crimes. Fighting old battles is easier than beating the Tories.

Brexit is a ticket to travel. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is lifting its three-trip cap on funded journeys to Europe for MPs. The idea of paying for as many cross-Channel visits as a politician can enjoy reminds me of Denis MacShane. Under the old limits, he ended up in the clink for fiddling accounts to fund his Continental missionary work. If the new rule was applied retrospectively, perhaps the former Labour minister should be entitled to get his seat back and compensation?

The word in Ukip is that Paul Nuttall, OBE VC KG – the ridiculed former Premier League professional footballer and England 1966 World Cup winner – has cold feet after his Stoke mauling about standing in a by-election in Leigh (assuming that Andy Burnham is elected mayor of Greater Manchester in May). The electorate already knows his Walter Mitty act too well.

A senior Labour MP, who demanded anonymity, revealed that she had received a letter after Leicester’s Keith Vaz paid men to entertain him. Vaz had posed as Jim the washing machine man. Why, asked the complainant, wasn’t this second job listed in the register of members’ interests? She’s avoiding writing a reply.

Years ago, this column unearthed and ridiculed the early journalism of George Osborne, who must be the least qualified newspaper editor in history. The cabinet lackey Ben “Selwyn” Gummer’s feeble intervention in the Osborne debate has put him on our radar. We are now watching him and will be reporting back. My snouts are already unearthing interesting information.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution