CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Speed up (Times)

Lord Adonis's plans for a new high-speed rail network have been a long time coming, says the Times leader, and the benefits far outweigh the costs.

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2. Rail: high-speed vision (Daily Telegraph)

Telegraph View agrees that, despite our indebtedness, this will show that Britain has not lost the ambition exemplified by such a national project.

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3. High-speed rail is the right investment for Britain's future (Independent)

It's a full hat-trick -- the Independent's leading article is also in favour of high-speed rail, arguing that to see the economic and social benefits, we need only look at our European neighbours.

4. The British election that both sides deserve to lose (Financial Times)

The electorate has to choose between a government about which it knows far too much and an opposition about which it knows far too little. Neither side is convincing, writes Martin Wolf.

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5. The bankers lied. And Darling, a mere puppet on their string, knows it (Guardian)

Britain has paid a horrendous price for allowing the City to dictate credit policy, says Simon Jenkins. If the banking bailout was worth it, we should see the account. If not, someone should pay. Yet there is no inquiry, no questioning, only silence.

6. Generals must keep their noses out of politics (Times)

Vernon Bogdanor asks whether our armed forces are becoming politicised. Heads of the armed forces have made some outspoken criticisms of government -- but they cannot escape their share of the blame if soldiers do not have the right equipment.

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7. Palestinians should now declare their independence (Independent)

Johann Hari says that the Palestinians should make a unilateral declaration of independence, and we -- the watching billions -- must pressure our governments to make it a reality.

8. It's defeatist nonsense to talk of a crisis of left-wing thinking (Guardian)

The New Statesman senior editor, Mehdi Hasan, argues that progressives have been vindicated. The public is far ahead, and to the left, of government on the reforms that we need.

9. Turkey needs more from Atatürk's heirs (Financial Times)

Turkey lacks an effective opposition, says David Gardner. It desperately needs a regrouping of secular, liberal and social-democratic forces into an electable political party.

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10. A Democrat disgrace (Guardian)

Michael Tomasky discusses Barack Obama's health-care reform. It is stomach-churning, but because it is election year, some congressmen will sabotage the health bill to keep their seats.

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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.