CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. The best way to finance universities is to make the participants pay (Guardian)

Simon Jenkins says that Vince Cable was right to take aim at universities, but wrong about a graduate tax that will make them more chained to the state.

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2. A proposal worthy of exploration (Independent)

The Indie's leading article notes the shortcomings of the graduate tax, but says that these objections are not overwhelming -- there could be substantial benefits to social equity.

3. Big players take all in the philanthropy game (Times)

Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre, discusses arts spending cuts. Big houses such as the National will be OK, but smaller theatres will struggle if American-style patronage is rushed through.

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4. Come clean about torture (Guardian)

Richard Norton-Taylor urges former ministers to speak up at the judicial inquiry over rendition of British citizens. They should be shamed into doing so.

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5. Now Cameron jilts the environment (Independent)

The Prime Minister is opening the oceans off the Shetland Islands to deep-sea drilling, says Johann Hari, and promising Big Oil tax breaks to drill, baby, drill.

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6. Allies may fret but Obama understands America's role (Financial Times)

Philip Stephens outlines the tribulations of the president's foreign policy. He was elected partly for his demonstrable personal global appeal, but has yet to persuade Americans of his description of the world.

7. Now end this Darfur denial (Guardian)

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, says that it has laid charges for genocide. The UN must seize the moment to act for the victims of Sudan.

8. Why this murderer matters (Independent)

The tributes to Raoul Moat reflect a world very different from that of the Prime Minister, says Mary Dejevsky, but they spill far beyond Moat's stamping ground on the wrong side of the tracks.

9. Create jobs -- make it easier to sack people (Times)

Redundancy is the most painful process, says Camilla Cavendish. But firms have no incentive to hire if it's almost impossible to fire people.

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10. Europe's stress test is no short cut to stability (Financial Times)

Mohamed el-Erian considers next week's announcement of stress test results for European banks -- they might not have the same positive effect that similar tests in America did last year.

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Labour's establishment suspects a Momentum conspiracy - they're right

Bernie Sanders-style organisers are determined to rewire the party's machine.  

If you wanted to understand the basic dynamics of this year’s Labour leadership contest, Brighton and Hove District Labour Party is a good microcosm. On Saturday 9 July, a day before Angela Eagle was to announce her leadership bid, hundreds of members flooded into its AGM. Despite the room having a capacity of over 250, the meeting had to be held in three batches, with members forming an orderly queue. The result of the massive turnout was clear in political terms – pro-Corbyn candidates won every position on the local executive committee. 

Many in the room hailed the turnout and the result. But others claimed that some in the crowd had engaged in abuse and harassment.The national party decided that, rather than first investigate individuals, it would suspend Brighton and Hove. Add this to the national ban on local meetings and events during the leadership election, and it is easy to see why Labour seems to have an uneasy relationship with mass politics. To put it a less neutral way, the party machine is in a state of open warfare against Corbyn and his supporters.

Brighton and Hove illustrates how local activists have continued to organise – in an even more innovative and effective way than before. On Thursday 21 July, the week following the CLP’s suspension, the local Momentum group organised a mass meeting. More than 200 people showed up, with the mood defiant and pumped up.  Rather than listen to speeches, the room then became a road test for a new "campaign meetup", a more modestly titled version of the "barnstorms" used by the Bernie Sanders campaign. Activists broke up into small groups to discuss the strategy of the campaign and then even smaller groups to organise action on a very local level. By the end of the night, 20 phonebanking sessions had been planned at a branch level over the following week. 

In the past, organising inside the Labour Party was seen as a slightly cloak and dagger affair. When the Labour Party bureaucracy expelled leftwing activists in past decades, many on went further underground, organising in semi-secrecy. Now, Momentum is doing the exact opposite. 

The emphasis of the Corbyn campaign is on making its strategy, volunteer hubs and events listings as open and accessible as possible. Interactive maps will allow local activists to advertise hundreds of events, and then contact people in their area. When they gather to phonebank in they will be using a custom-built web app which will enable tens of thousands of callers to ring hundreds of thousands of numbers, from wherever they are.

As Momentum has learned to its cost, there is a trade-off between a campaign’s openness and its ability to stage manage events. But in the new politics of the Labour party, in which both the numbers of interested people and the capacity to connect with them directly are increasing exponentially, there is simply no contest. In order to win the next general election, Labour will have to master these tactics on a much bigger scale. The leadership election is the road test. 

Even many moderates seem to accept that the days of simply triangulating towards the centre and getting cozy with the Murdoch press are over. Labour needs to reach people and communities directly with an ambitious digital strategy and an army of self-organising activists. It is this kind of mass politics that delivered a "no" vote in Greece’s referendum on the terms of the Eurozone bailout last summer – defying pretty much the whole of the media, business and political establishment. 

The problem for Corbyn's challenger, Owen Smith, is that many of his backers have an open problem with this type of mass politics. Rather than investigate allegations of abuse, they have supported the suspension of CLPs. Rather than seeing the heightened emotions that come with mass mobilisations as side-effects which needs to be controlled, they have sought to joins unconnected acts of harassment, in order to smear Jeremy Corbyn. The MP Ben Bradshaw has even seemed to accuse Momentum of organising a conspiracy to physically attack Labour MPs.

The real conspiracy is much bigger than that. Hundreds of thousands of people are arriving, enthusiastic and determined, into the Labour party. These people, and their ability to convince the communities of which they are a part, threaten Britain’s political equilibrium, both the Conservatives and the Labour establishment. When the greatest hope for Labour becomes your greatest nightmare, you have good call to feel alarmed.