Web Only: the best of the blogs

The five must-read blogs from today on Unite, Ken Clarke and the Vatican.

1. Purnell, Milburn, Kelly, Hewitt, Jowell: all members of Unite

The Conservatives' claim that New Labour figures such as James Purnell and Alan Miliburn have been replaced with union stooges isn't convincing, writes the FT's Jim Pickard. Almost all of the Blairites in question belong to . . . the Unite union.

2. Clarke calls for £30bn in additional cuts

Left Foot Forward's Will Straw discovers that Kenneth Clarke's pledge to reduce the Budget deficit to below 3 per cent of national income implies an extra £30bn in spending cuts.

3. Labour's collapse in Stoke

Over at Liberal Conspiracy, Phil BC looks at why Labour is struggling in its former stronghold of Stoke-on-Trent.

4. Civil servants told Tony Blair a Catholic could not be ambassador to Vatican

Nicholas Watt blogs about Blair's explanation of his role in breaking protocol and allowing a Catholic to serve as Britain's envoy to the Vatican.

5. Will the Indepenski give the Tories a fairer deal?

Finally, ConservativeHome's Tim Montgomerie looks at what Alexander Lebedev's imminent acquisition of the Independent means for the paper's political stance.

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Italian PM Matteo Renzi resigns after referendum No vote

Europe's right-wing populists cheered the result. 

Italy's centrist Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was forced to resign late on Sunday after he lost a referendum on constitutional change.

With most ballots counted, 60 per cent of Italians voted No to change, according to the BBC. The turn out was nearly 70 per cent. 

Voters were asked whether they backed a reform to Italy's complex political system, but right-wing populists have interpreted the referendum as a wider poll on the direction of the country.

Before the result, former Ukip leader Nigel Farage tweeted: "Hope the exit polls in Italy are right. This vote looks to me to be more about the Euro than constitutional change."

The leader of France's far-right Front National, Marine Le Pen, tweeted "bravo" to her Eurosceptic "friend" Matteo Salvini, a politician who campaigned for the No vote. She described the referendum result as a "thirst for liberty". 

In his resignation speech, Renzi told reporters he took responsibility for the outcome and added "good luck to us all". 

Since gaining office in 2014, Renzi has been a reformist politician. He introduced same-sex civil unions, made employment laws more flexible and abolished small taxes, and was known by some as "Europe's last Blairite".

However, his proposed constitutional reforms divided opinion even among liberals, because of the way they removed certain checks and balances and handed increased power to the government.


Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.