CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Bloody Sunday: Saville missed the chance of deeper healing -- seeing killers admit the truth (Guardian)

Northern Ireland's justice system now must try to balance priorities of peace and justice. But, says Jonathan Freedland, that dilemma would have been avoided if the inquiry had been less more like South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

2. For many, Saville has fallen short (Independent)

The report addresses some of the demands of the victims' families, says Henry Patterson. But there will be disappointment that the terms "murder" and "unlawful killing" don't appear.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

3. The truth. And anything but the whole truth (Times)

Yes, says Daniel Finkelstein, soldiers were guilty on Bloody Sunday. But the price of peace is that they must get the same leniency as the IRA.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

4. A programme to horrify politicians, but save Britain (Daily Telegraph)

Simon Heffer makes the case for extreme measures on the economy, endorsing a specimen Budget by the think tank Reform that calls for VAT on food and severe NHS cuts.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

5. We need new means to control deficits (Independent)

What is happening here is an attempt to recast government decision-making on fiscal policy, Hamish McRae explains. We're moving towards an extra-democratic body taking a long view of fiscal responsibility.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

6. Oil addiction is suicidal. It's also pointless (Times)

BP's real crime is wasting billions on risky exploration when new technologies are obviously the future, says Anatole Kaletsky.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

7. We should all have a say in how banks are reformed (Financial Times)

John Kay maintains that the value of banks lies in what they do for the rest of the economy, not for themselves. The separation of retail from investment banking would be a prelude to addressing the conflicts within investment banking itself.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

8. Football: a dear friend to capitalism (Guardian)

Terry Eagleton argues that if the Cameron government is bad news for those seeking radical change, the World Cup is even worse. The opium of the people is now football.

9. Too many forms to fill in? Welcome to our world, MPs (Times)

MPs are complaining about the hassle inflicted on them buy the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. Alice Thomson points out that we've put up with bureaucracy and incompetence for years.

10. Merkel's paralysis (Guardian)

Sabine Rennefanz describes how Germans are awaiting the fate of their hopeless coalition -- similar to Britain's, though it never had a honeymoon period. The obituaries are in.

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Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan are both slippery self-mythologisers – so why do we rate one more than the other?

Their obsessions with their childhoods have both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

Andy Burnham is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s widely seen as an unprincipled flip-flopper.

Sadiq Khan is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s the hugely popular mayor of London, the voice of those who’d be proud to think of themselves as the metropolitan liberal elite, and is even talked of as a possible future leader of the Labour party.

Oh, and also they were both born in 1970. So that’s a thing they have in common, too.

Why it is this approach to politics should have worked so much better for the mayor of London than the would-be mayor of Manchester is something I’ve been trying to work out for a while. There are definite parallels between Burnham’s attempts to present himself as a normal northern bloke who likes normal things like football, and Sadiq’s endless reminders that he’s a sarf London geezer whose dad drove a bus. They’ve both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

And yes, Burnham apparent tendency to switch sides, on everything from NHS privatisation to the 2015 welfare vote to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, has given him a reputation for slipperiness. But Sadiq’s core campaign pledge was to freeze London transport fares; everyone said it was nonsense, and true to form it was, and you’d be hard pressed to find an observer who thought this an atypical lapse on the mayor’s part. (Khan, too, has switched sides on the matter of Jeremy Corbyn.)

 And yet, he seems to get away with this, in a way that Burnham doesn’t. His low-level duplicity is factored in, and it’s hard to judge him for it because, well, it’s just what he’s like, isn’t it? For a long time, the Tory leadership’s line on London’s last mayor was “Boris is Boris”, meaning, look, we don’t trust him either, but what you gonna do? Well: Sadiq is Sadiq.

Even the names we refer to them by suggest that one of these two guys is viewed very differently from the other. I’ve instinctively slipped into referring to the mayor of London by his first name: he’s always Sadiq, not Khan, just as his predecessors were Boris and Ken. But, despite Eoin Clarke’s brief attempt to promote his 2015 leadership campaign with a twitter feed called “Labour Andy”, Burnham is still Burnham: formal, not familiar. 

I’ve a few theories to explain all this, though I’ve no idea which is correct. For a while I’ve assumed it’s about sincerity. When Sadiq Khan mentions his dad’s bus for the 257th time in a day, he does it with a wink to the audience, making a crack about the fact he won’t stop going on about it. That way, the message gets through to the punters at home who are only half listening, but the bored lobby hacks who’ve heard this routine two dozen times before feel they’re in the joke.

Burnham, it seems to me, lacks this lightness of touch: when he won’t stop banging on about the fact he grew up in the north, it feels uncomfortably like he means it. And to take yourself seriously in politics is sometimes to invite others to make jokes at your expense.

Then again, perhaps the problem is that Burnham isn’t quite sincere enough. Sadiq Khan genuinely is the son of a bus-driving immigrant: he may keep going on about it, but it is at least true. Burnham’s “just a northern lad” narrative is true, too, but excludes some crucial facts: that he went to Cambridge, and was working in Parliament aged 24. Perhaps that shouldn’t change how we interpret his story; but I fear, nonetheless, it does.

Maybe that’s not it, though: maybe I’m just another London media snob. Because Burnham did grow up at the disadvantaged end of the country, a region where, for too many people, chasing opportunities means leaving. The idea London is a city where the son of a bus driver can become mayor flatters our metropolitan self-image; the idea that a northerner who wants to build a career in politics has to head south at the earliest opportunity does the opposite. 

So if we roll our eyes when Burnham talks about the north, perhaps that reflects badly on us, not him: the opposite of northern chippiness is southern snobbery.

There’s one last possibility for why we may rate Sadiq Khan more highly than Andy Burnham: Sadiq Khan won. We can titter a little at the jokes and the fibs but he is, nonetheless, mayor of London. Andy Burnham is just the bloke who lost two Labour leadership campaigns.

At least – for now. In six weeks time, he’s highly likely to the first mayor of Greater Manchester. Slipperiness is not the worst quality in a mayor; and so much of the job will be about banging the drum for the city, and the region, that Burnham’s tendency to wear his northernness on his sleeve will be a positive boon.

Sadiq Khan’s stature has grown because the fact he became London’s mayor seems to say something, about the kind of city London is and the kind we want it to be. Perhaps, after May, Andy Burnham can do the same for the north – and the north can do the same for Andy Burnham.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.