Comment Plus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from the Sunday papers.

1. Nick Clegg sets the test which will make or break this coalition (Observer)

Clegg's political survival depends on whether this government can implement spending cuts without the savagery of the Eighties, says Andrew Rawnsley.

2. How everyone could win from the "cuts" (Sunday Telegraph)

Elsewhere, Janet Daley says that the cuts should be part of a fundamental reconstruction of the way public services are funded and delivered.

3. Cable on manoeuvres (News of the World)

Vince Cable wants to be seen as the unofficial leader of the anti-Tory resistance, writes Fraser Nelson.

4. Labour's lads fight to be twice as nice (Sunday Times)

The next Labour leader needs to learn that niceness is a weapon of war in politics, writes Martin Ivens.

5. We were wrong to allow so many eastern Europeans into Britain (Observer)

Ed Balls says that Britain was wrong not to impose transitional controls on migration from the new EU member states in 2004.

6. Obama and the oil: from "Yes, we can" to "No, we can't" (Independent on Sunday)

Barack Obama's helplessness in the face of the oil spill shows a grim pessimism is taking hold in the US, writes Rupert Cornwell.

7. In the midst of horror, be amazed at the goodness of the survivors (Observer)

The dignity and strength of the people of Cumbria shows just how far from a broken Britain we are, argues Henry Porter.

8. Cameron's "Manny State" can wean us off big government (Sunday Telegraph)

Elsewhere, Matthew d'Ancona says that David Cameron's measured response to the Cumbria shootings proves how determined he is to end our reliance on the state.

9. The deadly closing of the Israeli mind (Independent on Sunday)

The international condemnation of Israel's assault on the Gaza flotilla will not prompt the country's leaders to think again, writes Ilan Pappé.

10. Fair pay can't be defined, but still the snoops are after our wallets (Sunday Times)

The publication of private-sector pay would be a dangerous attack on privacy and freedom, says Minette Marrin.

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The SNP thinks it knows how to kill hard Brexit

The Supreme Court ruled MPs must have a say in triggering Article 50. But the opposition must unite to succeed. 

For a few minutes on Tuesday morning, the crowd in the Supreme Court listened as the verdict was read out. Parliament must have the right to authorise the triggering of Article 50. The devolved nations would not get a veto. 

There was a moment of silence. And then the opponents of hard Brexit hit the phones. 

For the Scottish government, the pro-Remain members of the Welsh Assembly and Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, the victory was bittersweet. 

The ruling prompted Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to ask: “Is it better that we take our future into our own hands?”

Ever the pragmatist, though, Sturgeon has simultaneously released her Westminster attack dogs. 

Within minutes of the ruling, the SNP had vowed to put forward 50 amendments (see what they did there) to UK government legislation before Article 50 is enacted. 

This includes the demand for a Brexit white paper – shared by MPs from all parties – to a clause designed to prevent the UK reverting to World Trade Organisation rules if a deal is not agreed. 

But with Labour planning to approve the triggering of Article 50, can the SNP cause havoc with the government’s plans, or will it simply be a chorus of disapproval in the rest of Parliament’s ear?

The SNP can expect some support. Individual SNP MPs have already successfully worked with Labour MPs on issues such as benefit cuts. Pro-Remain Labour backbenchers opposed to Article 50 will not rule out “holding hands with the devil to cross the bridge”, as one insider put it. The sole Green MP, Caroline Lucas, will consider backing SNP amendments she agrees with as well as tabling her own. 

But meanwhile, other opposition parties are seeking their own amendments. Jeremy Corbyn said Labour will seek amendments to stop the Conservatives turning the UK “into a bargain basement tax haven” and is demanding tariff-free access to the EU. 

Separately, the Liberal Democrats are seeking three main amendments – single market membership, rights for EU nationals and a referendum on the deal, which is a “red line”.

Meanwhile, pro-Remain Tory backbenchers are watching their leadership closely to decide how far to stray from the party line. 

But if the Article 50 ruling has woken Parliament up, the initial reaction has been chaotic rather than collaborative. Despite the Lib Dems’ position as the most UK-wide anti-Brexit voice, neither the SNP nor Labour managed to co-ordinate with them. 

Indeed, the Lib Dems look set to vote against Labour’s tariff-free amendment on the grounds it is not good enough, while expecting Labour to vote against their demand of membership of the single market. 

The question for all opposition parties is whether they can find enough amendments to agree on to force the government onto the defensive. Otherwise, this defeat for the government is hardly a defeat at all. 


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