Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must read pieces from the Sunday papers.

1. David Cameron is the prisoner of his own rhetoric about the banks (Sunday Telegraph)

The PM's recent talk of 'moral markets' and appeals to fairness make Stephen Hester's bonus that much harder to defend, says Matthew d'Ancona.

2. Fairness for the rich, nothing for the poor (Independent on Sunday)

The government is adopting the language of the playground when it talks about being fair, says Paul Vallely -- let's talk about being just instead.

3. Pay fair tax and you can keep your bonus (Sunday Times) (£)

It is easy to villify Hester, says Martin Ivens, but marrying economic efficiency with fairness will be far harder.

4. Who most wants independence for Scotland? The English... (Observer)

Andrew Rawnsley argues that if the Union referendum were held south of the border, Alex Salmond would be more likely to get his way.

5. The BBC is like the Titanic -- going down fast (Independent on Sunday)

Janet-Street-Porter asks who should replace Mark Thompson when he steps down as director-general of the BBC, and what they should earn.

6. I beg you, Mr Gove, bring back thinking (Sunday Times)

Jenni Russell criticises our education system, which has become preoccupied with delivering exam passes rather than an educated population.

7. Attacking the church is a cheap shot (Observer)

Has everyone forgotten these are men of God, asks Victoria Coren. It's actually their job to stand up for the poor.

8. The Cardiff police scandal is not over (Independent on Sunday)

This leading article argues that the police who stood trial for corruption should be retried in the light of rediscovered files.

9. Barack Obama is trying to make the US a more socialist state (Sunday Telegraph)

The State of the Union speech was based on the very model that is causing the EU to implode, warns Janet Daley.

10. Globalisation can work, but only with a unified international plan (Observer)

Will Hutton says that we desperately need economic and social institutions working across national borders.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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