Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. George Osborne's strategic mind? Long may it continue to whirr (Guardian)

As the Tories gather for their crisis conference, their plans to win back support are growing more and more dotty, writes Polly Toynbee.

2. Faithless Britain is still a country of compassion and principles (Daily Telegraph)

Times have changed, and Ed Miliband may be on to something with his political creed, says Fraser Nelson.

3. Republicans are losing the US culture wars (Financial Times)

The party seems ever more out of touch with a public mood framed by greater tolerance, writes Philip Stephens.

4. Don’t risk victory under false pretences, Ed (Times) (£)

After the virtuoso performance must come honesty about cuts, says Philip Collins. There is one approach that wins hands down.

5. Sanctions hurt Syria and Iran but regimes can ride on regardless (Independent)

One of the small but immensely wealthy states which may suffer from Iran's crisis is Dubai, writes Robert Fisk.

6. US debates: the illusion of choice (Guardian)

The issue is not what separates Romney and Obama, but how much they agree on, says Glenn Greenwald.

7. Syria inaction could ignite a fragile region (Financial Times)

Hostility with Turkey reflects the international system’s failure, writes Sinan Ulgen.

8. The BBC, tax and a question of morality (Daily Mail)

The corporation hands out 25,000 contracts a year to employees who do not pay tax at source, notes a Daily Mail leader.

9. Does the Tory party still care about its voters? (Daily Telegraph)

A metropolitan agenda aimed at winning new support has alienated the Conservative Party's traditional base, says Liam Fox.

10. Learn from the errors of the Westland Affair and let the Europeans come to our defence (Independent)

Yet again, when Britain is forced to choose between a special relationship with America and cultural affinity with Europe, it chooses dithering and delay instead, writes Mary Dejevsky.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Scottish Labour's defeat to the Tories confirms a political transformation

The defining divide is no longer between left and right but between unionist and nationalist.

It was Scotland where Labour's recovery was supposed to begin. Jeremy Corbyn's allies predicted that his brand of left-wing, anti-austerity politics would dent the SNP's hegemony. After becoming leader, Corbyn pledged that winning north of the border would be one of his greatest priorities. 

But in the first major elections of his leadership, it has proved to be Labour's greatest failure. A result that was long thought unthinkable has come to pass: the Conservatives have finished second (winning 31 seats). For the first time since the 1910 election, Labour has finished third (winning 24). Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale stood on a left-wing platform, outflanking the SNP on tax (pledging to raise the top rate to 50p and increase the basic rate by 1p), promising to spend more on public services and opposing the renewal of Trident. But rather than advancing, the party merely retreated.

Its fate confirms how Scottish politics has been realigned. The defining divide is no longer between left and right but between unionist and nationalist. With the SNP as the only major pro-independence party, the Tories, led by the pugnacious Ruth Davidson, framed themselves as the pro-UK alternative - and prospered. In contrast, Dugdale refused to rule out supporting a second referendum and suggested that MPs and MSPs would be free to campaign for secession. The result was that Scottish Labour was left looking dangerously irrelevant. "Identity politics. Labour doesn't get it," a shadow minister told me. Its socialist pitch counted for little in a country that remains ideologically closer to England than thought. The SNP has lost its majority (denying it a mandate for a second referendum) - an outcome that the electoral system was always designed to make impossible. But its rule remains unthreatened. 

Corbyn's critics will seek to pin the baleful result on him. "We turned left and followed Jeremy's politics in Scotland, which far from solving our problems, pushed us into third," a senior opponent told me. But others will contend that a still more left-wing leader, such as Neil Findlay, is needed. Dugdale is personally supportive of Trident and was critical of Corbyn before his election. Should she be displaced, the party will be forced to elect its sixth leader in less than five years. But no one is so short-sighted as to believe that one person can revive the party's fortunes. Some Corbyn critics believe that a UK-wide recovery is a precondition of recovery north of the border. At this juncture, they say, SNP defectors would look anew at the party as they contemplate the role that Scottish MPs could play in a Westminster government. But under Corbyn, having become the first opposition to lose local election seats since 1985, it is yet further from power. 

In Scotland, the question now haunting Labour is not merely how it recovers - but whether it ever can. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.