Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Tory free-market hurricane will blow our NHS apart (Guardian)

David Cameron's silken words won't hide the grim truth, writes Polly Toynbee. This week's Health and Social Care Bill will turn a unified health service into a purchasing agency.

2. The last thing the NHS needs is more reform (Daily Mirror)

Cameron promised to protect health service spending and to avoid "top-down reorganisations". He is about to break both promises, says Robert Winston.

3. Rushed reform can seriously damage health (Times) (£)

Even Cameron is jittery about his Health Secretary's plan to "throw a hand grenade" into the NHS, writes Rachel Sylvester.

4. US democracy has little to teach China (Financial Times)

The American system shows little appetite for dealing with long-term fiscal challenges, writes Francis Fukuyama.

5. A dangerous liaison for Cameron – an emerging Lib-Lab pact (Daily Telegraph)

Relations between Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg – and their parties – are thawing rapidly, says Mary Riddell.

6. "Alarm Clock Britain" is the new political label for hard-working ordinary people. How patronising (Daily Mail)

If you exclude rock stars and the unemployed, it's hard to think of anyone who is not an Alarm Clock Hero, writes John Humphrys.

7. Eco-terrorism: the non-existent threat we spend millions policing (Guardian)

Acpo is a state-sanctioned private militia, fighting public protest on behalf of corporations, writes George Monbiot.

8. A revolution that shows Cameron in his true colours (Independent)

Approve or disapprove of the coalition's reforms, the new health policy marks the end of the NHS, says Steve Richards.

9. Beijing feels that time is on its side (Financial Times)

Post-crisis, Americans are taking a less benign view of China, writes Gideon Rachman.

10. Yes, bonuses do work – but for fruit-pickers, not City bankers (Guardian)

The justification that banks need to fork out huge payouts to retain top talent is a fallacy, argues Aditya Chakrabortty.

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The trouble with a second Brexit referendum

A new vote risks coming too soon for Remainers. But there is an alternative. 

In any given week, a senior political figure will call for a second Brexit referendum (the most recent being David Miliband). It's not hard to see why. EU withdrawal risks proving an act of political and economic self-harm and Leave's victory was narrow (52-48). Had Remain won by a similar margin, the Brexiteers would have immediately demanded a re-run. 

But the obstacles to another vote are significant. Though only 52 per cent backed Brexit, a far larger number (c. 65 per cent) believe the result should be respected. No major party currently supports a second referendum and time is short.

Even if Remainers succeed in securing a vote, it risks being lost. As Theresa May learned to her cost, electorates have a habit of punishing those who force them to polls. "It would simply be too risky," a senior Labour MP told me, citing one definition of insanity: doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Were a second referendum lost, any hope of blocking Brexit, or even softening it, would be ended. 

The vote, as some Remainers note, would also come at the wrong moment. By 2018/19, the UK will, at best, have finalised its divorce terms. A new trade agreement with the EU will take far longer to conclude. Thus, the Brexiteers would be free to paint a false picture of the UK's future relationship. "It would be another half-baked, ill-informed campaign," a Labour MP told me. 

For this reason, as I write in my column this week, an increasing number of Remainers are attracted to an alternative strategy. After a lengthy transition, they argue, voters should be offered a choice between a new EU trade deal and re-entry under Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty. By the mid-2020s, Remainers calculate, the risks of Brexit will be clearer and the original referendum will be a distant memory. The proviso, they add, is that the EU would have to allow the UK re-entry on its existing membership terms (rather than ending its opt-outs from the euro and the border-free Schengen Area). 

Rather than publicly proposing this plan, MPs are wisely keeping their counsel. As they know, those who hope to overturn the Brexit result must first be seen to respect it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.