US Press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1. America the Overcommitted (New York Times)

To succeed in foreign policy, says Jeremy Suri, America must set three clear priorities and pull back everywhere else.

2. The Wire: Why it still matters (Boston Globe)

The issues and concerns raised on the show have grown ever more timely as we descend into a new decade, writes Carlo Rotella.

3. Rabbit-Hole Economics (New York Times)

Tuesday's Republican debate opened the door on a fantasy world where nothing looks or behaves the way it does in real life, writes Paul Krugman.

4. Dollar coin? It's time (Los Angeles Times)

A coin would last longer than a bill, saving the government money, argues this editorial. It continues: But why stop there? Let's retire the penny and the nickel as well.

5. Prison isn't best option for nonviolent youths (Chicago Sun Times)

Research consistently shows that locking up nonviolent juvenile offenders fails to reform them, costs too much and makes us no safer. This editorial says it's time to get smarter.

6. New battle cry: We're 53 percent (St. Petersburg Times)

According to Annie Lowrey, this new campaign, a conservative answer to Occupy Wall Street, has some verve.

7. Ending hypocrisy of terrorist designation (Washington Times)

Gen. Hugh Shelton argues the U.S. government's practice of listing "foreign terrorist organizations" (FTOs) has become an increasingly dangerous and hollow political exercise, rather than a sober assessment of the real threats to America.

8. Health care aside, death panels alive and well (San Francisco Chronicle)

The notion of a White House bothering to request the statutory authority to execute troublesome Americans is just so ... 2009, writes David Sirota.

9. Raising up Hermain Cain (Washington Post)

Enjoy the GOP flavor of the week, while he lasts, says Eugene Robinson.

10. Happy birthday, Mr. Despot (New York Daily News)

This editorial concedes that celebrities occasionally use their star power to help good causes, such as disaster relief. But it continues: or they can help a murderous dictator celebrate his birthday -- for the right amount of cash.

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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.