CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Novelty won't sustain this alliance (Independent)

David Cameron has always been a brilliant choreographer, and he will manage the Tory right and the Lib Dem left with attentive charm. However, Steve Richards points out, ideology does matter, and the coalition cannot last long.

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2. Cameron's daring will change politics for ever (Times)

Daniel Finkelstein argues that a Tory partnership with the Liberal Democrats has wiped out the anti-Conservative majority at a stroke. Cameron now has the potential to lift himself and the party above normal partisan politics.

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3. The political infighting won't be over until we have another election (Daily Telegraph)

Simon Heffer predicts that the coalition government will be unsatisfactory and short-lived. The parties have agreed to the pact, but neither will like what it means in practice.

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4. Congratulations, Mr Cameron. Now learn the lessons of a dismal campaign (Guardian)

Tim Montgomerie looks back at the Conservative election campaign. The Tory leader is No 10-bound, but a sensible strategy would have put him there last week with no need for alliances

5. A coalition with the Tories comes with huge risks for Clegg (Independent)

One of the paradoxes of the third party is that it wanted and yet feared a hung parliament, observes Andrew Grice, who explores the negotiating process of the past few days. Was Nick Clegg's true intention always to do a deal with the Tories?

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6. Brace yourself, Britain, for higher taxation (Financial Times)

The British have no appetite for fewer public services, but, as John Kay points out, Britain cannot aspire to continental European levels of public services with lower tax rates. Much of the rebalancing of public finances will come from higher taxes.

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7. As a fraught Tory-Lib Dem era begins, Labour must renew itself once more (Guardian)

Cameron has limped into No 10 and Clegg may pay heavily in vote losses for the Lib Dems. But now, argues Jonathan Freedland, Labour, recast as truly progressive, can forge a bright future for itself.

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8. Labour's leadership needs the stamp of a genuinely new era (Independent)

Donald Macintyre argues that Labour needs to occupy the opposition benches with its taste for power intact, as it failed to do after Margaret Thatcher's victory in 1979.

9. Stop making sacrifices to the market gods (Times)

Anatole Kaletsky warns that politicians are being bullied into making rash decisions to satisfy arbitrary deadlines laid down by supposedly implacable financial markets. Instead, more attention should be paid to deeper economic and business interests.

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10. Governments up the stakes in their fight with markets (Financial Times)

The eurozone must create a system that recognises and responds to reality, writes Martin Wolf. In the eurozone's first crisis, governments must confront big choices -- including the need for greater integration or disintegration.

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Shadow Scottish secretary Lesley Laird: “Another week would have won us more seats”

The Labour MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath on the shadow cabinet – and campaigning with Gordon Brown in his old constituency.

On the night of 8 June 2017, Lesley Laird, a councillor from Fife and the Labour candidate for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, received a series of texts from another activist about the count. Then he told her: “You’d better get here quick.”

It was wise advice. Not only did Laird oust the Scottish National Party incumbent, but six days later she was in the shadow cabinet, as shadow Scottish secretary. 

“It is not just about what I’d like to do,” Laird says of her newfound clout when I meet her in Portcullis House, Westminster. “We have got a team of great people down here and it is really important we make use of all the talent.

“Clearly my role will be facing David Mundell across the dispatch box but it is also to be an alternative voice for Scotland.”

At the start of the general election campaign, the chatter was whether Ian Murray, Labour’s sole surviving MP from 2015, would keep his seat. In the end, though, Labour shocked its own activists by winning seven seats in Scotland (Murray kept his seat but did not return to the shadow cabinet, which he quit in June 2016.)

A self-described optimist, Laird is calm, and speaks with a slight smile.

She was born in Greenock, a town on the west coast, in November 1958. Her father was a full-time trade union official, and her childhood was infused with political activity.

“I used to go to May Day parades,” she remembers. “I graduated to leafleting and door knocking, and helping out in the local Labour party office.”

At around the age of seven, she went on a trip to London, and was photographed outside No 10 Downing Street “in the days when you could get your picture outside the front door”.

Then life took over. Laird married and moved away. Her husband was made redundant. She found work in the personnel departments of start-ups that were springing up in Scotland during the 1980s, collectively termed “Silicon Glen”. The work was unstable, with frequent redundancies and new jobs opening, as one business went bust and another one began. 

Laird herself was made redundant three times. With her union background, she realised workers were getting a bad deal, and on one occasion led a campaign for a cash settlement. “We basically played hardball,” she says.

Today, she believes a jobs market which includes zero-hours contracts is “fundamentally flawed”. She bemoans the disappearance of the manufacturing sector: “My son is 21 and I can see how limited it is for young people.”

After semiconductors, Laird’s next industry was financial services, where she rose to become the senior manager for talent for RBS. It was then that Labour came knocking again. “I got fed up moaning about politics and I decided to do something about it,” she says.

She applied for Labour’s national talent programme, and in 2012 stood and won a seat on Fife Council. By 2014, she was deputy leader. In 2016, she made a bid to be an MSP – in a leaked email at the time she urged Labour to prioritise “rebuilding our credibility”. 

This time round, because of the local elections, Laird had already been campaigning since January – and her selection as a candidate meant an extended slog. Help was at hand, however, in the shape of Gordon Brown, who stood down as the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath in 2015.

“If you ever go out with Gordon, the doors open and people take him into their living room,” says Laird. Despite the former prime minister’s dour stereotype, he is a figure of affection in his old constituency. “People are just in awe. They take his picture in the house.”

She believes the mood changed during the campaign: “I do genuinely believe if the election had run another week we would have had more seats."

So what worked for Labour this time? Laird believes former Labour supporters who voted SNP in 2015 have come back “because they felt the policies articulated in the manifesto resonated with Labour’s core values”. What about the Corbyn youth surge? “It comes back to the positivity of the message.”

And what about her own values? Laird’s father died just before Christmas, aged 91, but she believes he would have been proud to see her as a Labour MP. “He and I are probably very similar politically,” she says.

“My dad was also a great pragmatist, although he was definitely on the left. He was a pragmatist first and foremost.” The same could be said of his daughter, the former RBS manager now sitting in Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet.

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

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