Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. This is shaping up to be the most racially polarised US election ever (Guardian)

As their once core demographic diminishes, Republicans are going to any lengths to capture and keep the white vote, says Gary Younge.

2. Supporters of the NHS should fear Jeremy Hunt (Independent)

We must learn from our former mistakes before privatising our national institution, says Owen Jones.

3. America’s season of hollow boastfulness (Financial Times)

Each candidate, with their different visions, is indulging in national denial, says Edward Luce.

4. Chris Grayling will need soul, not a law degree (Times) (£)

A Justice Secretary must be above the hubbub of politics, writes Ken Macdonald. He needs the guts to say, "You’re wrong".

5. Casting ahead to the 2015 election, no party leader likes what he sees (Guardian)

Politicians often don't get to fight the election they want, but our economic deterioration is already giving the next campaign the look of a nightmare, writes Gavin Kelly.

6. Now Dave’s got a winning hand (Sun)

Cameron has bought time and, unless Boris Johnson is quite mad, seen off any threat to his leadership, writes Trevor Kavanagh.

7. Cameron faces a new swipe from the right (Daily Mail)

A new centre-right Tory group is being set up that is seen by many as a snub to Cameron's policy-light government, writes Andrew Pierce.

8. Blair's easy rehabilitation is shameful (Independent)

Sir Geoffrey Bindman agrees with Tutu that the Iraq war was illegal and aggressive and breached UN charter provisions, writes Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. The ICC should hear their case.

9. US needs Japan as its best ally in Asia (Financial Times)

The relationship should be a Nato for economic statecraft, write Ian Bremmer and David Gordon.

10. Britain shines as a beacon of enlightenment in the world (Daily Telegraph)

No degree of cynicism can undo the good achieved during the extraordinary summer, says Boris Johnson.

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Why Theresa May can't end speculation of an early general election

Both Conservative and Labour MPs regard a contest next year as the solution to their problems. 

One of Theresa May’s first acts as a Conservative leadership candidate was to rule out an early general election. After a tumultuous 2015 contest and the EU referendum, her view was that the country required a period of stability (a view shared by voters). Many newly-elected Tory MPs, fearful of a Brexit-inspired Ukip or Liberal Democrat surge, supported her on this condition.

After entering Downing Street, May reaffirmed her stance. “The Prime Minister could not have been clearer,” a senior source told me. “There won’t be an early election.” Maintaining this pledge is an important part of May’s straight-talking image.

But though No.10 has wisely avoided publicly contemplating an election (unlike Gordon Brown), the question refuses to die. The Conservatives have a majority of just 12 - the smallest of any single-party government since 1974 - and, as David Cameron found, legislative defeats almost inevitably follow. May’s vow to lift the ban on new grammar schools looks to many like an unachievable task. Former education secretary Nicky Morgan and former business minister Anna Soubry are among the Tories leading the charge against the measure (which did not feature in the 2015 Conservative manifesto).  

To this problem, an early election appears to be the solution. The Tories retain a substantial opinion poll lead over Labour, the most divided opposition in recent history. An election victory would give May the mandate for new policies that she presently lacks.

“I don’t believe Theresa May wishes to hold an early election which there is evidence that the country doesn’t want and which, given the current state of the Labour Party, might be seen as opportunistic,” Nigel Lawson told today’s Times“If, however, the government were to find that it couldn’t get its legislation through the House of Commons, then a wholly new situation would arise.”

It is not only Conservatives who are keeping the possibility of an early election alive. Many Labour MPs are pleading for one in the belief that it would end Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. An early contest would also pre-empt the boundary changes planned in 2018, which are forecast to cost the party 23 seats.

For Corbyn, the possibility of an election is a vital means of disciplining MPs. Allies also hope that the failed revolt against his leadership, which Labour members blame for the party’s unpopularity, would allow him to remain leader even if defeated.

Unlike her predecessors, May faces the obstacle of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (under which the next election will be on 7 May 2020). Yet it is not an insurmountable one. The legislation can be suspended with the backing of two-thirds of MPs, or through a vote of no confidence in the government. Alternatively, the act could simply be repealed or amended. Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who have demanded an early election, would struggle to resist May if she called their bluff.

To many, it simply looks like an offer too good to refuse. Which is why, however hard May swats this fly, it will keep coming back. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.