Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Nothing can be made cheaper painlessly (Independent)

Ed Miliband implies we should be affronted that in a recession people find it harder to make ends meet, writes John Rentoul

2. It's been a long time coming, but at last they're reining in the chuggers, the scourge of our high streets (Independent)

The girls extract money through tactical simpering, the boys favour an Elizabethan fool-style jiggle, writes Grace Dent.

3. Exporting the NHS won't make it better (Independent)

The NHS has a global reputation not because it's a brand, but because it's free, writes Mark Steel.

4. Don't lose sight of why the US is out to get Julian Assange (Guardian)

Ecuador is pressing for a deal that offers justice to Assange's accusers – and essential protection for whistleblowers

5. The west's hypocrisy over Pussy Riot is breathtaking (Guardian)

Our courts now jail at the drop of a headline – for stealing water or abuse sent on Twitter. So who are we to condemn Russia?

6. Everyone's talking about rape (Guardian)

So why do so few of these commentators appear to have the first clue what it actually is? Writes Hadley Freeman.

7. Honours: how to decide who deserves that little extra (Telegraph)

Our honours system will never satisfy everyone, but it meets an important need, writes Douglas Hurd.

8. Forget the politics and build George Orwell a statue (Telegraph)

The greatest British journalist of his day should be honoured at the BBC’s new Broadcasting House, writes Joan Bakewell.

9. Why do we need to pay billions of pounds for big projects? (Financial Times)

The current estimate for the cost of the Olympics in 2012 is £11bn, writes John Kay.

10. George Galloway, Todd Akin and other male politicians still getting it wrong on rape. (Telegraph)

Women are fed up with male politicians on both sides of the Atlantic diminishing this serious crime, writes Louise Mench.

 

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Europe's elections show why liberals should avoid fatalism

France, Germany and the Netherlands suggest there is nothing inevitable about the right's advance.

Humans are unavoidably pattern-seeking creatures. We give meaning to disparate events where little or none may exist. So it is with Brexit and Donald Trump. The proximity of these results led to declarations of liberalism's demise. After decades of progress, the tide was said to have unavoidably turned.

Every election is now treated as another round in the great duel between libralism and populism. In the Netherlands, the perennial nativist Geert Wilders was gifted outsize attention in the belief that he could surf the Brexit-Trump wave to victory. Yet far from triumphing, the Freedom Party finished a distant second, increasing its seats total to 20 (four fewer than in 2010). Wilders' defeat was always more likely than not (and he would have been unable to form a government) but global events gifted him an aura of invincibility.

In France, for several years, Marine Le Pen has been likely to make the final round of the next presidential election. But it was only after Brexit and Trump's election that she was widely seen as a potential victor. As in 2002, the front républicain is likely to defeat the Front National. The winner, however, will not be a conservative but a liberal. According to the post-Trump narrative, Emmanuel Macron's rise should have been impossible. But his surge (albeit one that has left him tied with Le Pen in the first round) suggests liberalism is in better health than suggested.

In Germany, where the far-right Alternative für Deutschland was said to be remorselessly advancing, politics is returning to traditional two-party combat. The election of Martin Schulz has transformed the SPD's fortunes to the point where it could form the next government. As some Labour MPs resign themselves to perpeutal opposition, they could be forgiven for noting what a difference a new leader can make.

2016 will be forever remembered as the year of Brexit and Trump. Yet both events could conceivably have happened in liberalism's supposed heyday. The UK has long been the EU's most reluctant member and, having not joined the euro or the Schengen Zone, already had one foot outside the door. In the US, the conditions for the election of a Trump-like figure have been in place for decades. For all this, Leave only narrowly won and Hillary Clinton won three million more votes than her opponent. Liberalism is neither as weak as it is now thought, nor as strong as it was once thought.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.