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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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.