Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Andrew Mitchell isn't the only Tory for whom this saga bodes ill. David Cameron is rightly worried too (Independent)

With elections for police commissioners on the horizon, the timing could hardly be worse for the Tories, says Steve Richards. Their new Chief Whip's job just got much harder.

2. Tax on wealth is true to Tory principles (Financial Times)

There is nothing Thatcherite about backing established wealth and there are not many votes in it, writes Janan Ganesh.

3. Osborne is sharpening his axe – but will Cameron let him use it? (Daily Telegraph)

Ministers wonder whether Cameron will be ready to defy those who insist that the economy cannot withstand any further reduction in demand, writes Benedict Brogan.

4. Mitt Romney and the myth of self-created millionaires (Guardian)

The parasitical ultra-rich often deny the role of others in the acquisition of their wealth – and even seek to punish them for it, says George Monbiot.

5. India is part of an upside-down world (Financial Times)

With more poor than Africa and more billionaires than Britain, the country is both rich and poor, writes Gideon Rachman.

6. Police v Mitchell: this looks a lot like revenge (Times) (£)

Regardless of who is right about ‘plebs’, just look at the track record of the police and you see the need for reform, says Hugo Rifkind.

7. This pleb jibe exposes the Tories' Flashman thinking (Guardian)

David Cameron and Andrew Mitchell rule for 'people like us', writes Polly Toynbee. The Lib Dems should never be complicit in their attacks on the poor.

8. The pensions revolution arriving by stealth (Daily Telegraph)

Half the country may not know it, but a huge change is coming in the way we pay for old age, says Philip Johnston.

9. The rich are paying their fair share (Independent)

The Lib Dems say we should tax the rich more, writes Dominic Lawson. But the numbers prove that would not address the real problem.

10. Hands off our homes (Guardian)

From London to the Lake District, the wealthy are buying properties they rarely use, writes Simon Hughes. Councils need powers to prevent this.

Felipe Araujo
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Hull revisited: What happens when a Brexit stronghold becomes City of Culture?

We report from Hull, to find out if you can replace the kind of nostalgia that led to a Leave vote with cultural investment.

At 75 metres long, the offshore wind turbine blade erected across Queen Victoria Square, in the heart of Hull, is a sculpture intended to mark a new chapter in the city’s history. For the next 12 months, Hull, a city of more than a quarter of a million people in the northeast of England, will be the UK’s City of Culture.

The 28-tonne blade hails from the local Siemens plant. The German technology company employs around 1,000 people in the area, making it Hull’s biggest single employer.

Seen up close in this context – laid dormant in the middle of a town square instead of spinning up in the air generating energy – the structure is meant to remind passersby of a giant sea creature. It is also, I’m told, an allusion to Hull’s rich maritime history.


All photos: Felipe Araujo

Nostalgia is a big thing in this part of the country. At one point, Hull was the UK’s third largest port but technology and privatisation drastically changed that. The battle over cod fishing with Iceland in the waters of the North Sea 40 years ago has also dealt a major blow to a region with a long and proud trawling tradition.

People here still talk about a bygone era when the fishing industry provided jobs for everyone and there was enough money to go around.

Fast forward to 2017, and the country’s new capital of culture is the same city that voted 67 per cent in favour of leaving the EU last June. Its new-found prestige, it seems, is not enough to erase years of neglect by a political class “too busy for commoners like us”, as one resident puts it.

“More than a message to Brussels, it [the Brexit vote] was a message to Westminster,” Paul Leeson-Taylor, a filmmaker born and bred in Hull, tells me. “For the first time in a long time people in Hull felt like they had the chance to change something, and they took it.”

But while speaking to people on the high street and hanging out with locals at the Community Boxing Club in Orchard Park, one of the city’s most deprived areas, there is one word that consistently popped up in conversation – more than any specific policy from Westminster or the much-hated rules “dictated” by Brussels. Foreigners.

According to official figures, Hull’s population is 89.1 per cent white British. Still, immigration is big on people’s minds here.

During my two-day stay in the city, I find myself being the only black person in most places I visit – I’m certainly the only black guy at the boxing club. So when someone begins a sentence with “I’m not racist but…”, I know a tirade on immigrants is about to ensue.

“There are just too many of them,” Nick Beach, an estate agent whose Polish clientele is a big part of his business, tells me as he is about to teach a boxing class to local children. Beach was born in Shepherd’s Bush, in West London, but has been living in Hull for the last 20 years.

“When I go down there these days and go into Westfield shopping centre, it is very rare you get an English person serving you now,” he says. “I just find it disappointing that you go into your capital city and you are a minority there.”

These are the much-discussed “left behind”, a white working-class community that has gained particular prominence in a time of Brexit and Donald Trump. Under economic pressure and facing social change, they want to have their say in running a country they claim to no longer recognise.

For Professor Simon Lee, a senior politics lecturer at the University of Hull, immigration is only a superficial layer when it comes to explaining the resentment I witness here. For him, the loss of the empire 70 years ago is still something that as a country Britain hasn’t come to terms with.

“The reason for us to be together as a United Kingdom has gone, so what is the project?”

As destiny would have it, a foreign company will now play a major role on Hull’s economic future, at least in the short term. In the wake of the Brexit vote, there were widespread fears Siemens would pull out of the region and take its factory elsewhere. With the massive blade looming large in the background, Jason Speedy, director of the blade factory in Hull, assures me that isn’t the case.

“The Brexit decision has made no difference. We have made our investment decision, so Siemens, together with the Association of British Ports, has put in £310m. It’s all full steam ahead.”

As Hull becomes the country’s cultural hub for the next few months, the hope is that its residents stop looking back and start looking forward.

For Professor Lee, though, until there is a complete change in the power structures that run the country, the north-south divide will remain – with or without the EU. “The way you kill nostalgia is to have something new,” he said. “The reason why people here are nostalgic is because there is nothing to replace it with.”

Felipe Araujo is a freelance journalist based in London. He writes about race, culture and sports. He covered the Rio Olympics and Paralympics on the ground for the New Statesman. He tweets @felipethejourno.