Web Only: the best of the blogs

The five must-read posts from today, on Amnesty, the Taliban and Northern Ireland.

1. "Scum-sucking pig" -- how it compares with the great political insults

Following the Labour MP David Wright's foolhardy description of the Tories as "scum-sucking pigs", Andrew Sparrow of the Guardian looks at how it stacks up against the great political insults.

2. This campaign to undermine Amnesty is shameful

Over at Pickled Politics, Sunny Hundal revisits the evidence and defends the human rights group's decision to work with Moazzam Begg and suspend Gita Sahgal.

3. The sting in the tail of the fight against the Taliban

Channel 4's Alex Thomson says the arrest of the Taliban's Mullah Baradar is a significant coup for Nato, but warns that defeating the Taliban remains a formidable challenge.

4. Mo Mowlam and the politics of private lives

Daniel Finkelstein argues, in opposition to David Aaronovitch, that the example of Mo Mowlam strengthens the case for greater disclosure about politicians' health.

5. Recognising the role of Irish Londoners

Ken Livingstone looks back at the Northern Ireland peace process in a guest blog on Left Foot Forward, ahead of a debate at the TUC on Saturday.


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PMQs review: Theresa May shows again that Brexit means hard Brexit

The Prime Minister's promise of "an end to free movement" is incompatible with single market membership. 

Theresa May, it is commonly said, has told us nothing about Brexit. At today's PMQs, Jeremy Corbyn ran with this line, demanding that May offer "some clarity". In response, as she has before, May stated what has become her defining aim: "an end to free movement". This vow makes a "hard Brexit" (or "chaotic Brexit" as Corbyn called it) all but inevitable. The EU regards the "four freedoms" (goods, capital, services and people) as indivisible and will not grant the UK an exemption. The risk of empowering eurosceptics elsewhere is too great. Only at the cost of leaving the single market will the UK regain control of immigration.

May sought to open up a dividing line by declaring that "the Labour Party wants to continue with free movement" (it has refused to rule out its continuation). "I want to deliver on the will of the British people, he is trying to frustrate the British people," she said. The problem is determining what the people's will is. Though polls show voters want control of free movement, they also show they want to maintain single market membership. It is not only Boris Johnson who is pro-having cake and pro-eating it. 

Corbyn later revealed that he had been "consulting the great philosophers" as to the meaning of Brexit (a possible explanation for the non-mention of Heathrow, Zac Goldsmith's resignation and May's Goldman Sachs speech). "All I can come up with is Baldrick, who says our cunning plan is to have no plan," he quipped. Without missing a beat, May replied: "I'm interested that [he] chose Baldrick, of course the actor playing Baldrick was a member of the Labour Party, as I recall." (Tony Robinson, a Corbyn critic ("crap leader"), later tweeted that he still is one). "We're going to deliver the best possible deal in goods and services and we're going to deliver an end to free movement," May continued. The problem for her is that the latter aim means that the "best possible deal" may be a long way from the best. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.