CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Lab-Lib -- the only legitimate coalition (Guardian)

The legitimacy of a Lab-Lib coalition is based on the reality that Britain is a social-democratic, not a Conservative country, says Polly Toynbee. Most who voted Lib Dem would feel betrayed if Nick Clegg sided with the Tories.

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2. A good man, who wanted the top job too much (Times)

The real Gordon Brown possessed the qualities that make a great prime minister, writes Roy Hattersley. But during his 13 years in government, the real Brown was too often obsessed with political respectability and orthodoxy.

3. A Lib Dem pact risks Labour's survival (Guardian)

A rainbow coalition, propped up by unreliable nationalist parties, would result in a huge defeat for Labour at the next election, warns David Blunkett.

4. A resignation that changes everything (Independent)

But elsewhere, Steve Richards says that the Lib Dems must seize the chance to change the political landscape, rather than prop up a largely unreformed Conservative Party.

5. Britain too has to convince the markets (Financial Times)

If the next government is to have any chance of tackling the Budget deficit it must announce hefty tax increases in addition to unprecedented spending cuts, argues Philip Stephens.

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6. It's a fight for power: purists v pragmatists (Times)

The choice all parties now face is between compromising to win power and retaining the purity of opposition, says Rachel Sylvester.

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7. Locking out voters is not exactly democratic (Daily Telegraph)

The simplest way to reform the chaotic voting process is to move election day from Thursday to Sunday, writes Philip Johnston.

8. I share their despair, but I'm not quite ready to climb the Dark Mountain (Guardian)

The Dark Mountain Project wishes for the collapse of industrial civilisation, but it ignores the environmental technology that could prove our saviour, says George Monbiot.

9. A small nudge towards breaking the conservative grip on the judiciary (Independent)

Barack Obama's appointment of Elena Kagan to the US Supreme Court will begin to break the conservative grip on the judiciary, writes Rupert Cornwell.

10. Germany pays for Merkel's miscalculations (Financial Times)

Angel Merkel failed to prepare Germany for her U-turn on the Greek bailout and is now suffering the consequences, says Wolfgang Münchau.

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By refusing to stand down, Jeremy Corbyn has betrayed the British working classes

The most successful Labour politicians of the last decades brought to politics not only a burning desire to improve the lot of the working classes but also an understanding of how free market economies work.

Jeremy Corbyn has defended his refusal to resign the leadership of the Labour Party on the grounds that to do so would be betraying all his supporters in the country at large. But by staying on as leader of the party and hence dooming it to heavy defeat in the next general election he would be betraying the interests of the working classes this country. More years of Tory rule means more years of austerity, further cuts in public services, and perpetuation of the gross inequality of incomes. The former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Seema Malhotra, made the same point when she told Newsnight that “We have an unelectable leader, and if we lose elections then the price of our failure is paid by the working people of this country and their families who do not have a government to stand up for them.”

Of course, in different ways, many leading figures in the Labour movement, particularly in the trade unions, have betrayed the interests of the working classes for several decades. For example, in contrast with their union counterparts in the Scandinavian countries who pressurised governments to help move workers out of declining industries into expanding sectors of the economy, many British trade union leaders adopted the opposite policy. More generally, the trade unions have played a big part in the election of Labour party leaders, like Corbyn, who were unlikely to win a parliamentary election, thereby perpetuating the rule of Tory governments dedicated to promoting the interests of the richer sections of society.

And worse still, even in opposition Corbyn failed to protect the interests of the working classes. He did this by his abysmal failure to understand the significance of Tory economic policies. For example, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer had finished presenting the last budget, in which taxes were reduced for the rich at the expense of public services that benefit everybody, especially the poor, the best John McConnell could do – presumably in agreement with Corbyn – was to stand up and mock the Chancellor for having failed to fulfill his party’s old promise to balance the budget by this year! Obviously neither he nor Corbyn understood that had the government done so the effects on working class standards of living would have been even worse. Neither of them seems to have learnt that the object of fiscal policy is to balance the economy, not the budget.

Instead, they have gone along with Tory myth about the importance of not leaving future generations with the burden of debt. They have never asked “To whom would future generations owe this debt?” To their dead ancestors? To Martians? When Cameron and his accomplices banged on about how important it was to cut public expenditures because the average household in Britain owed about £3,000, they never pointed out that this meant that the average household in Britain was a creditor to the tune of about the same amount (after allowing for net overseas lending). Instead they went along with all this balanced budget nonsense. They did not understand that balancing the budget was just the excuse needed to justify the prime objective of the Tory Party, namely to reduce public expenditures in order to be able to reduce taxes on the rich. For Corbyn and his allies to go along with an overriding objective of balancing the budget is breathtaking economic illiteracy. And the working classes have paid the price.

One left-wing member of the panel on Question Time last week complained that the interests of the working classes were ignored by “the elite”. But it is members of the elite who have been most successful in promoting the interests of the working classes. The most successful pro-working class governments since the war have all been led mainly by politicians who would be castigated for being part of the elite, such as Clement Atlee, Harold Wilson, Tony Crosland, Barbara Castle, Richard Crossman, Roy Jenkins, Denis Healey, Tony Blair, and many others too numerous to list. They brought to politics not only a burning desire to improve the lot of the working classes (from which some of them, like me, had emerged) and reduce inequality in society but also an understanding of how free market economies work and how to deal with its deficiencies. This happens to be more effective than ignorant rhetoric that can only stroke the egos and satisfy the vanity of demagogues

People of stature like those I have singled out above seem to be much more rare in politics these days. But there is surely no need to go to other extreme and persist with leaders like Jeremy Corbyn, a certain election loser, however pure his motives and principled his ambitions.

Wilfred Beckerman is an Emeritus Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, and was, for several years in the 1970s, the economics correspondent for the New Statesman