Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The Thick of Mitt (Daily Telegraph)

Even before a candidate gets through the door of the undecided, he has to pass a basic competence test, says Alastair Campbell.

2. George's freeze wheeze (Guardian)

Osborne's proposed benefits freeze incorporates choices which betray cold indifference to hardship, says a Guardian editorial.

3. Bernanke makes an historic choice (Financial Times)

The Fed is correct in its decision to err on the side of expansion, says Martin Wolf.

4. The British are having more babies. Let's start planning for it. (Independent)

Rising fertility rates point the way to future economic growth - we need a large population to help support the elderly and bring down national debt, writes Hamish McRae.

5. If we don’t cut the deficit now, when will we? (Times) (£)

Politics is about seizing the moment, writes Daniel Finkelstein. If the government loosens its fiscal policy it will never tighten it again.

6. The politicians trying to preserve national dignity at the cost of lives in Afghanistan (Daily Mail)

All that matters now is to get British forces home as soon as can be contrived, says Max Hastings.

7. Time for a free vote on gay marriage (Independent)

There are no more excuses for not pushing ahead with gay marriage, says an Independent editorial.

8. Romney rescue plan – Cut the accountancy (Financial Times)

The governor can win if he ventures out of his comfort zone and moves beyond Republican orthodoxies, says Lloyd Green.

9. It's judicial machismo that jails women like Sarah Catt (Guardian)

The harm done to society by needlessly sending women to prison far outweighs their crime: in this, Britain is medieval, argues Simon Jenkins.

10. 'Green on Blue’ attacks must not deter us (Daily Telegraph)

A good relationship with the Afghan army is crucial to our success, says Lt Col Charlie Maconochie.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.