CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Prepare for a big progressive moment -- in the rematch (Guardian)

If Cameron and Clegg do a deal, says Jackie Ashley, Labour needs urgently to change leader, embrace voting reform and get ready to fight the next election, which could come as soon as this autumn.

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2. Lib Dems must talk to the Tories but they have more in common with Labour (Independent)

Andrew Grice points out that many Tories will not feel comfortable working with the Lib Dems, and the feeling is mutual. The party has more in common with Labour on the economy, Europe and constitutional reform.

3. Building bridges is the way to the future (Times)

Ken Macdonald argues that we need to look beyond modern parties to cleanse the political system of its toxins. This need not be frightening for the left -- there are now echoes of liberal values everywhere.

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4. Get Gordon Brown out of the bathroom and deal with the real problems (Daily Telegraph)

We need to avert our eyes from the soap opera and focus on the economy, argues Boris Johnson -- amid all the discussion of changing the voting system, there is a risk we will forget how it works.

5. The new MPs I'm glad to see (Independent)

The election delivered remarkably enlightened results, says Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. The number of black and Asian members of the House has gone up from 14 to 27.

6. The unappealing choices after an inconclusive election (Financial Times)

Niall Ferguson agrees that the economy is paramount, and looks at ways to deal with this simultaneously, fashioning a decent stretch of Conservative government from the unpromising result of this election.

7. The people have spoken. Don't let the markets shout them down (Guardian)

Gary Younge argues that the clash of democracy and capitalism is as acute as ever, as a discredited financial sector seeks to dictate political terms.

8. Just do it (Times)

The editorial argues that, for both David Cameron and Nick Clegg, the benefits of a deal far outweigh the risks. The national interest, and their own, demand that they reach an agreement.

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9. Mr Clegg should act in the national interest (Independent)

There is scope for agreement between the Tories and the Lib Dems, says the leading article, but Clegg should walk away from any deal that doesn't include a cast-iron commitment to comprehensive voting reform.

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10. America has good reason to worry about Greece (Financial Times)

Clive Crook discusses the Greek crisis. Until now, the US has treated Greece as a European problem that could be left to the EU to solve, but parts of that supposition have turned out to be wrong.

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David Cameron speaks at a press conference following an EU summit in Brussels. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Cameron's EU concessions show that he wants to avoid an illegitimate victory

The Prime Minister is confident of winning but doesn't want the result to be open to challenge. 

Jeremy Corbyn's remarkable surge has distracted attention from what will be the biggest political event of the next 18 months: the EU referendum. But as the new political season begins, it is returning to prominence. In quick succession, two significant changes have been made to the vote, which must be held before the end of 2017 and which most expect next year.

When the Electoral Commission yesterday recommended that the question be changed from “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” ("Yes"/"No") to "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?" ("Leave"/"Remain"), No.10 immediately gave way. The Commission had warned that "Whilst voters understood the question in the Bill some campaigners and members of the public feel the wording is not balanced and there was a perception of bias." 

Today, the government will table amendments which reverse its previous refusal to impose a period of "purdah" during the referendum. This would have allowed government departments to continue to publish promotional material relating to the EU throughout the voting period. But after a rebellion by 27 Tory eurosceptics (only Labour's abstention prevented a defeat), ministers have agreed to impose neutrality (with some exemptions for essential business). No taxpayers' money will be spent on ads or mailshots that cast the EU in a positive light. The public accounts commitee had warned that the reverse position would "cast a shadow of doubt over the propriety" of the referendum.

Both changes, then, have one thing in common: David Cameron's desire for the result to be seen as legitimate and unquestionable. The Prime Minister is confident of winning the vote but recognises the danger that his opponents could frame this outcome as "rigged" or "stitched-up". By acceding to their demands, he has made it far harder for them to do so. More concessions are likely to follow. Cameron has yet to agree to allow Conservative ministers to campaign against EU membership (as Harold Wilson did in 1975). Most Tory MPs, however, expect him to do so. He will be mocked and derided as "weak" for doing so. But if the PM can secure a lasting settlement, one that is regarded as legitimate and definitive, it will be more than worth it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.