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.

 

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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