Morning Call: pick of the comment

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

1. After 1929 a generation leapt leftward. Not today. Socialism has been buried (Guardian)

Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes that Europe has witnessed a remarkable shift to the right since the WWII. The Wall Street crash drove a whole generation leftward but the latest financial crisis has only strengthened the right.

2. How Amnesty chose the wrong poster-boy (Times)

David Aaronovitch argues that Amnesty International's partnership with the former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg and the Muslim group Cageprisoners was a huge misjudgement.

3. Two cheers for the new crying game (Independent)

We should welcome emotional displays such as Alastair Campbell's, writes Steve Richards. They invite voters to consider the human side of politics and the nerve-racking judgements leaders must make.

4. It is too soon for Cameron's Tories to panic (Financial Times)

David Cameron has little to fear from Labour at the election, writes Philip Stephens. The Tories are likely to perform well in the marginals and win a comfortable majority. Cameron's biggest enemy is the incompetence of some of those running his campaign.

5. Tory cuts pave the way for a return to Eighties dole queues (Guardian)

Elsewhere, Polly Toynbee warns that Conservative plans to axe long-term support for the jobless suggest they still think unemployment is a price worth paying.

6. Labour's Puritans should let us live our lives (Financial Times)

Andy Burnham's latest anti-smoking proposals embody the illiberal streak in New Labour, writes Richard Reeves. With its hands full running the economy, the government should abandon its zeal for interfering in personal behaviour.

7. Ukraine is at last throwing off the shackles of the cold war (Independent)

Mary Dejevsky welcomes the way the Ukrainian election was free of outside meddling. Finally, everyone is getting used to the idea of an independent nation.

8. They're all ignoring political climate change (Times)

Rachel Sylvester writes that Labour and the Tories speak the langugage of change, but seem unable to face what that means. David Cameron promises transparency, but not in the case of Lord Ashcroft, and Gordon Brown has failed to support major parliamentary reform.

9. General Election 2010: Trust is in tatters -- and the best we can hope for is transparency (Daily Telegraph)

Mary Riddell says that Cameron's priority appears to be attacking Brown, not constitutional reform. His mockery of Brown's conversion to electoral reform masks the fact that the status quo, which he defends, is worse.

10. A bully and liar who played the system (Times)

Andy Hayman argues that the guilty verdict against Ali Dizaei shows that the police can be less frightened now about dealing with racially sensitive issues.


Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The Liberal Democrats are back - and the Tories should be worried

A Liberal revival could do Theresa May real damage in the south.

There's life in the Liberal Democrats yet. The Conservative majority in Witney has been slashed, with lawyer and nominative determinism case study Robert Courts elected, but with a much reduced majority.

It's down in both absolute terms, from 25,155 to 5,702, but it's never wise to worry too much about raw numbers in by-elections. The percentages tell us a lot more, and there's considerable cause for alarm in the Tory camp as far as they are concerned: the Conservative vote down from 60 per cent to 45 per cent.

(On a side note, I wouldn’t read much of anything into the fact that Labour slipped to third. It has never been a happy hunting ground for them and their vote was squeezed less by the Liberal Democrats than you’d perhaps expect.)

And what about those Liberal Democrats, eh? They've surged from fourth place to second, a 23.5 per cent increase in their vote, a 19.3 swing from Conservative to Liberal, the biggest towards that party in two decades.

One thing is clear: the "Liberal Democrat fightback" is not just a hashtag. The party has been doing particularly well in affluent Conservative areas that voted to stay in the European Union. (It's worth noting that one seat that very much fits that profile is Theresa May's own stomping ground of Maidenhead.)

It means that if, as looks likely, Zac Goldsmith triggers a by-election over Heathrow, the Liberal Democrats will consider themselves favourites if they can find a top-tier candidate with decent local connections. They also start with their by-election machine having done very well indeed out of what you might call its “open beta” in Witney. The county council elections next year, too, should be low hanging fruit for 

As Sam Coates reports in the Times this morning, there are growing calls from MPs and ministers that May should go to the country while the going's good, calls that will only be intensified by the going-over that the PM got in Brussels last night. And now, for marginal Conservatives in the south-west especially, it's just just the pressure points of the Brexit talks that should worry them - it's that with every day between now and the next election, the Liberal Democrats may have another day to get their feet back under the table.

This originally appeared in Morning Call, my daily guide to what's going on in politics and the papers. It's free, and you can subscribe here. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.