CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Forget protecting pensioner benefits. We need to prioritise real hardship (Guardian)

Older people in Britain have never been so well off, says Peter Wilby: because of their voting power, politicians are scared to upset them.

2. Resignation is not an option for the Pope (Times)

It is Benedict XVI's duty to implement worldwide the reforms already made by Catholic leaders in Britain, says William Rees-Mogg. But he cannot resign -- the last time a pope did so was in the year 1415. A resignation under pressure would not be the Church's last.

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3. Obama throws out the political rules (Financial Times)

Clive Crook discusses the passing of the US health-care bill. Elated Democrats feel they have the upper hand, but now they need to get the public behind what they have done.

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4. Parliament's wash-up's a stitch-up (Guardian)

Martin Bell argues that due democratic process is lost in the secretive pre-election horse-trading to decide which bills will survive. Electoral reform is a potential casualty.

5. Shock, horror . . . America places its own interests first (Independent)

Bruce Anderson says there is only one certainty in foreign policy: that there will be regular proclamations of the death of the special relationship, but the hearse will never arrive.

6. The special relationship has been a myth for decades (Times)

Anthony Eden wondered whether we should have taken a leaf from de Gaulle's book and treated the Americans mean to keep them keen. Better late than never, says John Charmley.

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7. Refugees for settlers is the way forward for Israel (Financial Times)

Israel is unlikely to abandon the Jewish settlements, writes Eugene Rogan. The only way forward is to put a real price on settlements that might make the Israeli government pause before expanding them -- giving right of return to Palestinian refugees.

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8. A rate for the rich (Guardian)

Twenty years after the poll-tax riots, John Andrew argues that reform is needed for council tax that benefits the wealthy. The longer the tax stays unreformed, the more unfair it will become.

9. Europe has resolved nothing over Greece (Financial Times)

Last Thursday's agreement sounded significant, says Wolfgang Münchau, but the deal was mostly smoke and mirrors -- it is hard to imagine even a hypothetical scenario in which the European Union would disburse the emergency aid.

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10. This is one utopian vision that need not be so far from reality (Independent)

Charles Leadbeater of the Young Foundation makes the case for greater citizen engagement, to create a high-energy politics based on constitutional convention which could replace the exhausted parliamentary system.

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Paul Nuttall is like his party: sad, desperate and finished

The party hope if they can survive until March 2019, they will grow strong off disillusionment with Brexit. They may not make it until then. 

It’s a measure of how far Ukip have fallen that while Theresa May faced a grilling over her social care U-Turn and Jeremy Corbyn was called to account over his past, the opening sections of Andrew Neill’s interview with Paul Nuttall was about the question of whether or not his party has a future.

The blunt truth is that Ukip faces a battering in this election. They will be blown away in the seats they have put up a candidate in and have pre-emptively retreated from numerous contests across the country.

A party whose leader in Wales once said that climate change was “ridiculous” is now the victim of climate change itself. With Britain heading out of the European Union and Theresa May in Downing Street, it’s difficult to work out what the pressing question in public life to which Ukip is the answer.

Their quest for relevance isn’t helped by Paul Nuttall, who at times tonight cast an unwittingly comic figure. Pressing his case for Ukip’s burka ban, he said earnestly: “For [CCTV] to work, you have to see people’s faces.” It was if he had intended to pick up Nigel Farage’s old dogwhistle and instead put a kazoo to his lips.

Remarks that are, written down, offensive, just carried a stench of desperation. Nuttall’s policy prescriptions – a noun, a verb, and the most rancid comment underneath a Mail article – came across as a cry for attention. Small wonder that senior figures in Ukip expect Nuttall to face a move on his position, though they also expect that he will see off any attempt to remove him from his crown.

But despite his poor performance, Ukip might not be dead yet. There was a gleam of strategy amid the froth from Nuttall in the party’s pledge to oppose any continuing payment to Brussels as part of the Brexit deal, something that May and Corbyn have yet to rule out.

If May does manage to make it back to Downing Street on 8 June, the gap between campaign rhetoric – we’ll have the best Brexit, France will pay for it – and government policy – we’ll pay a one-off bill and continuing contributions if need be – will be fertile territory for Ukip, if they can survive as a going concern politically and financially, until March 2019.

On tonight’s performance, they’ll need a better centre-forward than Paul Nuttall if they are to make it that far. 

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

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