Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1.  We're rewriting the nation's future. Here's how it looks... (The Independent)

Big projects, stamped with a Union Jack, were ecstatically embraced by public opinion, writes Mary Dejevsky.

2. The grades are down – well done to you all! (The Telegraph)

After decades of exam inflation, yesterday’s GCSE results herald a return to credibility, writes Anthony Seldon.

3.Celebrate Paralympians, but remember they needed state help to get there (Guardian)

As we celebrate these super-fit athletes, benefits for disabled people are being cut and views against them are hardening, writes Polly Toynbe.

4.The Lib Dems don't need a new leader. They need a point (The Independent)

Searching for cheap populist policies and silent on issues long held sacred, what do they stand for now? writes Ian Birrell.

5. How an extraordinary day spent with Tony Nicklinson changed my views on right-to-die (The Telegraph)

Visiting the severely disabled man with locked-in syndrome revealed the depth of his suffering, the seriousness of his intent and the extent to which he had explored every other avenue, writes Peter Stanford.

6. Time to put a stop to speculating on hunger (The Independent)

Even the slightest increase in prices may mean that people go hungry, writes The Independent.

7. Orwell should have his statue at the BBC (The Telegraph)

Far from considering him 'Left-wing’, we conservatives rather admire the writer, writes Daniel Hannan.

8. To Republicans, women are simply the sum of their parts (Guardian)

The GOP's adoption of an anti-abortion platform is further indication of a party that has no clue about reproductive life, writes Ana Marie Cox.

9. How food insecurity keeps the workforce cowed (Guardian)

The development of food banks in the UK marks a shift from welfare to the punitive management of poverty, writes Richard Seymour.

10. The real worry is how have we fallen so far behind the rest of the world (The Independent)

Our system is at best in the middle of the global pack and at worst it is slipping down it, writes Hamish McRae.


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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.