Morning Call: pick of the comment

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

1. A principled Europe would not leave Greece to bleed (Guardian)

The economist Joseph Stiglitz says that unless it is one rule for the big and powerful and another for the small, the EU must stand behind the new leadership in Athens. European solidarity and democracy are at stake.

2. The crusades of "virtuous" Tony Blair have come back to haunt us all (Daily Telegraph)

The former PM devised policies that splintered our society, argues Mary Riddell. But, for all his folly, Blair had charisma, weight and a social reform agenda.The Blair-lite approach of David Cameron could be even more damaging.

3. Chilcot is a stage for Labour's psychodrama (Times)

Rachel Sylvester agrees that Blair was both hero and villain for his party. This inquiry is not really about Iraq, but about resolving that split personality.

4. Cut now or cut later: the election decider (Independent)

Surely this time voters won't be able to mouth the lazy cliché that "they're all the same", says Steve Richards. David Cameron and George Osborne's calls for cuts rather than fiscal stimulus point to an excessive attachment to Thatcherite orthodoxy.

5. The time to talk to the Taliban is now (Guardian)

The US wants to see its surge bear fruit before negotiations begin. But the Americans may be unwise to wait, says Ahmed Rashid, who sets out steps that should be taken to make these negotiations possible.

6. Tolerant times (Times)

A study of social attitudes suggests Britain is becoming more liberal. The Times leading article asks whether this could be New Labour's legacy -- ironic, given the government's focus on quantifiable targets.

7. Weak questioning gets answers it deserves (Independent)

Simon Carr is unimpressed by the panel at the Chilcot inquiry. If members are unable to stop politicians regurgitating this drivel, he says, they shouldn't be on the committee.

8. When nations turn into hoarders (Financial Times)

Across the world, major powers are moving to secure access to energy, food and, in some cases, water. Gideon Rachman says that the system of globalised trade and open markets is at risk.

9. In the fight for Labour's soul, this is the day of reckoning (Guardian)

Polly Toynbee discusses electoral reform. Will it be the old tribalists or the dynamic pluralists who carry the day? In the short time before May, Labour can still do one important thing: let people choose a fairer voting system.

10. The Edlington boys are not beyond redemption (Times)

This is a politicised moment for our discussion of the family, says David Aaronovitch. We treat child-raising as a matter of intense privacy for ourselves, but of overt public interest when it comes to others.

 

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Who really controls the Labour Party now?

Jeremy Corbyn's allies will struggle to achieve their ambition to remove general secretary Iain McNicol.

Jeremy Corbyn's advance at the general election confirmed his place as Labour leader. Past opponents recognise not only that Corbyn could not be defeated but that he should not be.

They set him the test of winning more seats – and he passed. From a position of strength, Corbyn was able to reward loyalists, rather than critics, in his shadow cabinet reshuffle. 

But what of his wider control over the party? Corbyn allies have restated their long-held ambition to remove Labour general secretary Iain McNicol, and to undermine Tom Watson by creating a new post of female deputy leader (Watson lost the honorific title of "party chair" in the reshuffle, which was awarded to Corbyn ally Ian Lavery).

The departure of McNicol, who was accused of seeking to keep Corbyn off the ballot during the 2016 leadership challenge, would pave the way for the removal of other senior staff at Labour HQ (which has long had an acrimonious relationship with the leader's office). 

These ambitions are likely to remain just that. But Labour figures emphasise that McNicol will remain general secretary as long he retains the support of the GMB union (of which he is a former political officer) and that no staff members can be removed without his approval.

On the party's ruling National Executive Committee, non-Corbynites retain a majority of two, which will grow to three when Unite loses a seat to Unison (now Labour's biggest affiliate). As before, this will continue to act as a barrier to potential rule changes.

The so-called "McDonnell amendment", which would reduce the threshold for Labour leadership nominations from 15 per cent of MPs to 5 per cent, is still due to be tabled at this year's party conference, but is not expected to pass. After the election result, however, Corbyn allies are confident that a left successor would be able to make the ballot under the existing rules. 

But Labour's gains (which surprised even those close to the leader) have reduced the urgency to identify an heir. The instability of Theresa May's government means that the party is on a permanent campaign footing (Corbyn himself expects another election this year). For now, Tory disunity will act as a force for Labour unity. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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