CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Now "Honest Vince" plays fast and loose (Financial Times)

Vince Cable may be the people's choice for chancellor, but his tax plan is misleading the voters, says Philip Stephens. Only about 6 or 7 per cent of Cable's £16bn income-tax cut would go to the poorest 10 per cent.

2. For the incredible Mr Osborne this may be a zigzag too far (Guardian)

Meanwhile, Polly Toynbee argues that George Osborne will come to regret his extraordinary tax-cut promise. Few voters will believe that he can cut taxes and the deficit at the same time.

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3. Care for the elderly affects us all, and Labour would handle it best after the general election (Daily Telegraph)

Labour's plan for a national care service is a reminder of what politics is for, writes Mary Riddell. But the Tories, committed to an inheritance-tax cut for the richest estates, show no sign of favouring equality in old age.

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4. And I thought the Tories had changed (Independent)

The Tories' inconsistency exposes their lack of principle, writes Steve Richards. The party's latest, rushed tax plan compounds the sense of amateurishness around the leadership.

5. Tories are still failing the Bridget Jones test (Times)

Elsewhere, Rachel Sylvester says voters still feel that Labour represents their values better than the Conservaitves. The recession, which forced the Tories to call for austerity and public spending cuts, has damaged them more than Labour.

6. The euro's big fat failed wedding (Financial Times)

The euro increasingly resembles an unhappy marriage between incompatible partners, writes Gideon Rachman. The old European currencies may be less obsolete than we thought.

7. Why do our paranoid, anti-fun police seem to think they run the country? (Guardian)

The police disrupt peaceful festivals for no obvious purpose other than to spoil people's fun, writes George Monbiot. We need to reassert the right to gather in public spaces.

8. Winston Churchill: an unlikely adviser in the Afghan conflict (Times)

General Stanley McChrystal, commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, is right to return to Churchill's writings for guidance, writes Ben Macintyre.

9. If we're well, we simply don't need medicine (Daily Telegraph)

Pharmaceutical companies are cynically fuelling the demand for "lifestyle drugs", argues James Le Fanu.

10. When authority goes AWOL, savagery fills the gap (Independent)

The tragic murder of Sofyen Belamouadden proves the need to provide proper policing of transport hubs, writes Mary Dejevsky.

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Scottish Labour's defeat to the Tories confirms a political transformation

The defining divide is no longer between left and right but between unionist and nationalist.

It was Scotland where Labour's recovery was supposed to begin. Jeremy Corbyn's allies predicted that his brand of left-wing, anti-austerity politics would dent the SNP's hegemony. After becoming leader, Corbyn pledged that winning north of the border would be one of his greatest priorities. 

But in the first major elections of his leadership, it has proved to be Labour's greatest failure. A result that was long thought unthinkable has come to pass: the Conservatives have finished second (winning 31 seats). For the first time since the 1910 election, Labour has finished third (winning 24). Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale stood on a left-wing platform, outflanking the SNP on tax (pledging to raise the top rate to 50p and increase the basic rate by 1p), promising to spend more on public services and opposing the renewal of Trident. But rather than advancing, the party merely retreated.

Its fate confirms how Scottish politics has been realigned. The defining divide is no longer between left and right but between unionist and nationalist. With the SNP as the only major pro-independence party, the Tories, led by the pugnacious Ruth Davidson, framed themselves as the pro-UK alternative - and prospered. In contrast, Dugdale refused to rule out supporting a second referendum and suggested that MPs and MSPs would be free to campaign for secession. The result was that Scottish Labour was left looking dangerously irrelevant. "Identity politics. Labour doesn't get it," a shadow minister told me. Its socialist pitch counted for little in a country that remains ideologically closer to England than thought. The SNP has lost its majority (denying it a mandate for a second referendum) - an outcome that the electoral system was always designed to make impossible. But its rule remains unthreatened. 

Corbyn's critics will seek to pin the baleful result on him. "We turned left and followed Jeremy's politics in Scotland, which far from solving our problems, pushed us into third," a senior opponent told me. But others will contend that a still more left-wing leader, such as Neil Findlay, is needed. Dugdale is personally supportive of Trident and was critical of Corbyn before his election. Should she be displaced, the party will be forced to elect its sixth leader in less than five years. But no one is so short-sighted as to believe that one person can revive the party's fortunes. Some Corbyn critics believe that a UK-wide recovery is a precondition of recovery north of the border. At this juncture, they say, SNP defectors would look anew at the party as they contemplate the role that Scottish MPs could play in a Westminster government. But under Corbyn, having become the first opposition to lose local election seats since 1985, it is yet further from power. 

In Scotland, the question now haunting Labour is not merely how it recovers - but whether it ever can. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.