Morning Call: pick of the comment

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

1. Labour must act now to replace Gordon Brown (Independent)

The Labour MP Barry Sheerman argues that Brown has failed to improve since the party's dreadful performance in the European elections and must be removed for the good of the country.

2. Britain just might pull off this high-speed railway revolution (Daily Telegraph)

Benedict Brogan says that Lord Adonis's visionary high-speed rail plan deserves to succeed with cross-party support. He calls on David Cameron to adopt a "new kind of politics" and make Adonis his first transport secretary.

3. Threats to Yemen prove America hasn't learned the lesson of history (Independent)

Patrick Cockburn argues that the US is beginning to make the same mistakes in Yemen as it made in Afghanistan and Iraq. He warns that US policy continues unwittingly to aid al-Qaeda.

4. Love Tony Blair or loathe him, only one choice for politician of the decade (Guardian)

Michael White says that despite the calamitous invasion of Iraq, Blair was the dominant force of the decade. Whether posterity will judge him more harshly or more kindly depends on what happens next.

5. Towering ambition always comes before a fall (Times)

Ben Macintyre says that as Dubai's economy totters and sways, the decision to build the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building, may turn out to be a monumental folly

6. The economic "experts" who stopped making sense (Daily Telegraph)

Edmund Conway explores why, despite the financial crisis, we continue to put our faith in economists. He argues that we have lost confidence in our common sense and are seeking refuge in "apparent certainty".

7. Maybe Tories aren't so stupid after all (Independent)

John Rentoul argues that the Conservatives' opposition to electoral reform isn't as strange as it appears.

8. As threats multiply and power fragments, the coming decade cries out for realistic idealism (Guardian)

Timothy Garton Ash says that strategic co-operation between old and new powers is the best way to tackle terrorism.

9. She knew she was right (Daily Telegraph)

A leader says that the cabinet papers released on Margaret Thatcher's first year in office remind us of the political benefits that accrue from strong leadership.

10. Why 2010 could be an own goal for the Rainbow Nation

Jonathan Steele argues that the ANC is failing poor black South Africans and predicts that hosting the World Cup could backfire on Jacob Zuma.


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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.