CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. A two-faced coalition is hard to fight but Labour needs to find a way, quick (Guardian)

Jonathan Freedland offers some advice to Labour: the opposition can best do its job by getting over the Blair-Brown rift -- and nailing Conservative claims that it caused the present crisis.

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2. You remember Labour's downfall -- or do you? (Times)

Our recollection of political events is more fallible than we realise, says Daniel Finkelstein. Labour is winning the battle of narratives, and much depends on whether the party can keep it up.

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3. We have to plan for a bigger population (Independent)

The population is growing, says Hamish McRae, so we must plan for it both physically and socially. The first involves more spending on infrastructure; the second is to do with defining rights and responsibilities.

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4. The war on greed begins at the dinner table (Financial Times)

Max Hastings argues that our bankers would be rash to ignore public sentiment, which will make political intervention inevitable unless they accept a culture change.

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5. The prison system is too big to fail, and too big to succeed (Guardian)

Anne Owers, the retiring chief inspector of prisons, discusses the pressures on the system. With our correctional institutions overcrowded, resources have been sucked from the agencies that could prevent reoffending.

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6. My undemocratic survival plan for the euro (Times)

If Europe can avoid financial breakdown at the end of this month, the single currency will probably pull through, says Anatole Kaletsky. But only a full-scale federal Europe will keep it secure.

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7. Sarkozy's summer of scandal (Independent)

John Lichfield looks at the financial scandal engulfing Nicolas Sarkozy. He came to power promising to be a new kind of politician, but the French president is now beset by old-fashioned troubles. Can he survive?

8. Three years and new fault lines threaten (Financial Times)

Martin Wolf points out that the challenge of returning to stability after the financial crash while maintaining an open global economy is enormous. Leaders of the world's main economies must reform co-operatively and deeply.

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9. Is Google just the start? (Guardian)

As the global giant loses out in China, western firms fear the odds may be stacked against them. Isabel Hilton discusses the perception of a growing policy of state-led discrimination in favour of Chinese firms.

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10. Let's defend our way of life, not just our lives (Times)

Total safety is incompatible with an open society. The Conservative MP David Davis says that is why he can't support 28-day detention -- the longest in the civilised world.

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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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