Morning Call: pick of the comment

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

1. Ignore the propaganda and spin -- the Tory party hasn't changed (Independent)

Johann Hari attacks David Cameron's claim to have "changed" the Conservative Party. Even if we assume the Tory leader is sincerely committed to a modernising agenda, he will not be able to defy his party's core instincts for long, especially not with a small Commons majority.

2. World economists join UK fiscal fray (Financial Times)

A leader in the FT says that today's letters to the paper from two groups of economists are an embarrassment for the Tories. The government is right to cut public spending no sooner than it currently plans.

3. Clegg's coalition ruling is one more nail in Labour's coffin (Guardian)

Martin Kettle says that, given Nick Clegg's decision to rule out a coalition between the Liberal Democrats and either Labour or the Tories, a hung parliament will almost certainly produce a minority Conservative government.

4. Look further than the fads and fashions of geopolitics (Financial Times)

We should shun the geopolitical seers who offer us grand predictions about the future international order, writes Philip Stephens. We can draw only tentative conclusions from the rise of China, India, Brazil and the rest.

5. Studying history is vital -- there are obvious lessons for Cameron (Daily Telegraph)

Jeff Randall argues that Cameron should learn from Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher that caution and moderation do not win elections.

6. The car in front will probably still be a Toyota (Times)

Toyota's reputation for quality and reliability is unlikely to be damaged permanently by the current crisis, writes Richard Headland. On the ground, the company managed to mobilise its dealers and design new parts with extraordinary speed.

7. Juries show society at its fairest (Independent)

The absence of racial prejudice in jury trials is an extraordinary discovery, says Andreas Whittam Smith. The finding shows that racism in this country, though deeply unpleasant, is superficial.

8. Troubled waters (Times)

A leader in the Times argues that Argentina's attempt to prevent Britain drilling for oil in the Falklands is harming its own interests.

9. The murder of al-Mabhouh is an insult to our intelligence (Daily Telegraph)

The Dubai killing has jeopardised Anglo-Israeli co-operation in the war against terrorism, writes Con Coughlin.

10. Spiritual leader deserves full honour (Independent)

Adrian Hamilton argues that governments should defy China and treat the Dalai Lama as a political leader, rather than merely a religious figurehead.

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Sadiq Khan is probably London's new mayor - what will happen in a Tooting by-election?

There will be a by-election in the new mayor's south London seat.

At the time of writing, Sadiq Khan appears to have a fairly comfortable lead over Zac Goldsmith in the London mayoral election. Which means (at least) two (quite) interesting things are likely to happen: 1) Sadiq Khan is going to be mayor, and 2) there is going to be a by-election in Tooting.

Unlike the two parliamentary by-elections in Ogmore and Sheffield that Labour won at a canter last night, the south London seat of Tooting is a genuine marginal. The Conservatives have had designs on the seat since at least 2010, when the infamous ‘Tatler Tory’, Mark Clarke, was the party’s candidate. Last May, Khan narrowly increased his majority over the Tories, winning by almost 3,000 votes with a majority of 5.3 per cent. With high house prices pushing London professionals further out towards the suburbs, the seat is gentrifying, making Conservatives more positive about the prospect of taking the seat off Labour. No government has won a by-election from an opposition party since the Conservative Angela Rumbold won Mitcham and Morden from a Labour-SDP defector in June 1982. In a nice parallel, that seat borders Tooting.

Of course, the notion of a Tooting by-election will not come as a shock to local Conservatives, however much hope they invested in a Goldsmith mayoral victory. Unusually, the party’s candidate from the general election, Dan Watkins, an entrepreneur who has lived in the area for 15 years, has continued to campaign in the seat since his defeat, styling himself as the party’s “parliamentary spokesman for Tooting”. It would be a big surprise if Watkins is not re-anointed as the candidate for the by-election.

What of the Labour side? For some months, those on the party’s centre-left have worried with varying degrees of sincerity that Ken Livingstone may see the by-election as a route back into Parliament. Having spent the past two weeks muttering conspiratorially about the relationship between early 20th-Century German Jews and Adolf Hitler before having his Labour membership suspended, that possibility no longer exists.

Other names talked about include: Rex Osborn, leader of the Labour group on Wandsworth Council; Simon Hogg, who is Osborn’s deputy; Rosena Allin-Khan, an emergency medicine doctor who also deputises for Osborn; Will Martindale, who was Labour’s defeated candidate in Battersea last year; and Jayne Lim, who was shortlisted earlier in the year for the Sheffield Brightside selection and used to practise as a doctor at St George’s hospital in Tooting.

One thing that any new Labour MP would have to contend with is the boundary review reporting in 2018, which will reduce the number of London constituencies by 5. This means that a new Tooting MP could quickly find themselves pitched in a selection fight for a new constituency with their neighbours Siobhan McDonagh, who currently holds Mitcham and Morden, and/or Chuka Umunna, who is the MP for Streatham. 

According to the Sunday Times, Labour is planning to hold the by-election as quickly as possible, perhaps even before the EU referendum on June 23rd.

It's also worth noting that, as my colleague Anoosh Chakelian reported in March, George Galloway plans to stand as well.

Henry Zeffman writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2015.