CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Forget football. The coalition's game is different (Times)

The parties' differing attitudes to football reveal much about their wider social outlook, writes Rachel Sylvester. While Labour is obsessed with football, a tribal, collective and team-based sport, the Lib-Con government is focused on harnessing individual talent.

2. As the pain begins, Labour must again become the people's party (Daily Telegraph)

Of the four potential Labour leaders, the one who best explains how austerity can shape the common good will win, says Mary Riddell.

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3. Bus pass test for Cameron's mettle (Financial Times)

The PM's willingness or otherwise to remove unjustified perks from wealthy pensioners is a test of his commitment to fairness, says Philip Stephens.

4. The most perilous of cuts is to sever the historical record (Guardian)

Whether or not the government abandons the highly valuable birth cohort studies will tell us a lot about its true intentions, writes Polly Toynbee.

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5. Cameron can't blame it all on Labour (Independent)

David Cameron is determined to suggest that every unpleasant thing the coalition needs to do is the fault of its predecessor, writes Dominic Lawson. But this card will not remain trumps for long.

6. Cameron must address his rhetorical deficit (Times)

Elsewhere, Ben Macintrye says that Cameron must emulate Winston Churchill and use words not merely to explain and persuade, but to inspire and soothe.

7. The oil firms' profits ignore the real costs (Guardian)

Like the banks, the energy industry has long made scant provision against disaster, says George Monbiot. Oil companies should now be forced to pay in to a decommissioning fund.

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8. ID cards were a bad idea from the start (Daily Telegraph)

It was always clear that the passport could act perfectly well as an identity document, writes Philip Johnston.

9. Time to plan for post-Keynesian era (Financial Times)

Jeffrey Sachs administers the last rites to Keynesianism and argues that investment, not stimulus, must be our watchword.

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10. Not so much progressive as painful (Independent)

Cameron and Clegg are genuinely united in their approach to cuts, writes Steve Richards. But the impact of their vision of a smaller state could be damaging.

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The trouble with a second Brexit referendum

A new vote risks coming too soon for Remainers. But there is an alternative. 

In any given week, a senior political figure will call for a second Brexit referendum (the most recent being David Miliband). It's not hard to see why. EU withdrawal risks proving an act of political and economic self-harm and Leave's victory was narrow (52-48). Had Remain won by a similar margin, the Brexiteers would have immediately demanded a re-run. 

But the obstacles to another vote are significant. Though only 52 per cent backed Brexit, a far larger number (c. 65 per cent) believe the result should be respected. No major party currently supports a second referendum and time is short.

Even if Remainers succeed in securing a vote, it risks being lost. As Theresa May learned to her cost, electorates have a habit of punishing those who force them to polls. "It would simply be too risky," a senior Labour MP told me, citing one definition of insanity: doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Were a second referendum lost, any hope of blocking Brexit, or even softening it, would be ended. 

The vote, as some Remainers note, would also come at the wrong moment. By 2018/19, the UK will, at best, have finalised its divorce terms. A new trade agreement with the EU will take far longer to conclude. Thus, the Brexiteers would be free to paint a false picture of the UK's future relationship. "It would be another half-baked, ill-informed campaign," a Labour MP told me. 

For this reason, as I write in my column this week, an increasing number of Remainers are attracted to an alternative strategy. After a lengthy transition, they argue, voters should be offered a choice between a new EU trade deal and re-entry under Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty. By the mid-2020s, Remainers calculate, the risks of Brexit will be clearer and the original referendum will be a distant memory. The proviso, they add, is that the EU would have to allow the UK re-entry on its existing membership terms (rather than ending its opt-outs from the euro and the border-free Schengen Area). 

Rather than publicly proposing this plan, MPs are wisely keeping their counsel. As they know, those who hope to overturn the Brexit result must first be seen to respect it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.