CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from the Sunday papers.

1. The country's renewal is being betrayed by cheap, paltry politics (Observer)

The interminable row over National Insurance is a sideshow, says Will Hutton. Instead, we need an honest discussion about how to rebalance the economy away from financial services.

2. Cameron is cheeky, but right (Independent on Sunday)

David Cameron's pitch for the Guardian vote may be cheeky but it is clever, writes John Rentoul. His plan to introduce a public-sector pay multiple is a small step in the right direction.

3. Joker David Cameron is having a laugh (Sunday Mirror)

Elsewhere, the New Statesman editor, Jason Cowley, says that Cameron's repeated claim that Britain is "broken" proves that the Tory leader is behind the curve. Labour must continue to chip away at the façade of Tory moderation.

4. Who's more honest: voters or politicians? (Sunday Times)

Many have written that voters deserve more honesty from the politicians on the economy but this ignores the inconsistency of public opinion, says Martin Ivens. Everyone applauded George Osborne for the honesty of his austerity message, but voters soon became uneasy about "Tory cuts".

5. Will someone please tell us the truth? (Sunday Telegraph)

But elsewhere, Janet Daley argues that voters are desperate for a politician to admit that tax-and-spend has well and truly reached its endgame.

6. It's not the answers that will win this election, it's the questions (Observer)

The parties are launching their manifestos this week but they will offer us little guidance on what they would do in power, says Andrew Rawnsley. None of them will be honest about spending cuts and they cannot anticipate great events such as 9/11.

7. Obama -- the idealist turns assassin (Independent on Sunday)

Barack Obama's decision to authorise the "targeted killing" of the Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki shows how he has changed since his days as a civil rights lawyer, says Joan Smith.

8. Tories turn up the heat in week one (Sunday Times)

The Tories may be evasive, but they recognise that business leaders and the electorate are tired of paying ever more tax to fund a bloated public sector, argues a leader in the Sunday Times.

9. Out of one nation's catastrophe comes a clarion call for honesty (Observer)

Iceland's plan to create a safe haven for investigative journalism is a huge boost for free speech, writes Henry Porter.

10. Supreme Court will miss its impish inquisitor-in-chief
(Independent on Sunday)

The retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens leaves Obama with the political headache of finding a worthy replacement, writes Rupert Cornwell.

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Metro mayors can help Labour return to government

Labour champions in the new city regions can help their party at the national level too.

2017 will mark the inaugural elections of directly-elected metro mayors across England. In all cases, these mayor and cabinet combined authorities are situated in Labour heartlands, and as such Labour should look confidently at winning the whole slate.

Beyond the good press winning again will generate, these offices provide an avenue for Labour to showcase good governance, and imperatively, provide vocal opposition to the constraints of local government by Tory cuts.

The introduction of the Mayor of London in 2000 has provided a blueprint for how the media can provide a platform for media-friendly leadership. It has also demonstrated the ease that the office allows for attribution of successes to that individual and party – or misappropriated in context of Boris Bikes and to a lesser extent the London Olympics.

While without the same extent of the powers of the sui generis mayor of the capital, the prospect of additional metro-mayors provide an opportunity for replicating these successes while providing experience for Labour big-hitters to develop themselves in government. This opportunity hasn’t gone unnoticed, and after Sadiq Khan’s victory in London has shown that the role can grow beyond the limitations – perceived or otherwise - of the Corbyn shadow cabinet while strengthening team Labour’s credibility by actually being in power.

Shadow Health Secretary and former leadership candidate Andy Burnham’s announcement last week for Greater Manchester was the first big hitter to make his intention known. The rising star of Luciana Berger, another member of Labour’s health team, is known to be considering a run in the Liverpool City Region. Could we also see them joined by the juggernaut of Liam Byrne in the West Midlands, or next-generation Catherine McKinnell in the North East?

If we can get a pantheon of champions elected across these city regions, to what extent can this have an influence on national elections? These new metro areas represent around 11.5 million people, rising to over 20 million if you include Sadiq’s Greater London. While no doubt that is an impressive audience that our Labour pantheon are able to demonstrate leadership to, there are limitations. 80 of the 94 existing Westminster seats who are covered under the jurisdiction of the new metro-mayors are already Labour seats. While imperative to solidify our current base for any potential further electoral decline, in order to maximise the impact that this team can have on Labour’s resurgence there needs to be visibility beyond residents.

The impact of business is one example where such influence can be extended. Andy Burnham for example has outlined his case to make Greater Manchester the creative capital of the UK. According to the ONS about 150,000 people commute into Greater Manchester, which is two constituency’s worth of people that can be directly influenced by the Mayor of Greater Manchester.

Despite these calculations and similar ones that can be made in other city-regions, the real opportunity with selecting the right Labour candidates is the media impact these champion mayors can make on the national debate. This projects the influence from the relatively-safe Labour regions across the country. This is particularly important to press the blame of any tightening of belts in local fiscal policy on the national Tory government’s cuts. We need individuals who have characteristics of cabinet-level experience, inspiring leadership, high profile campaigning experience and tough talking opposition credentials to support the national party leadership put the Tory’s on the narrative back foot.

That is not to say there are not fine local council leaders and technocrats who’s experience and governance experience at vital to Labour producing local successes. But the media don’t really care who number two is, and these individuals are best serving the national agenda for the party if they support A-listers who can shine a bright spotlight on our successes and Tory mismanagement.

If Jeremy Corbyn and the party are able to topple the Conservatives come next election, then all the better that we have a diverse team playing their part both on the front bench and in the pantheon of metro-mayors. If despite our best efforts Jeremy’s leadership falls short, then we will have experienced leaders in waiting who have been able to afford some distance from the front-bench, untainted and able to take the party’s plan B forward.