Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Do we sit back and let Homs burn? (Financial Times)

Nations should impose a comprehensive quarantine of Syria, argues Michael Ignatieff.

2. The anger is right. It doesn't make cuts wrong (Times) (£)

When you tighten up benefits, there will be painful injustices, writes Daniel Finkelstein. But we cannot afford our old welfare system.

3. Leveson's phone-hacking show trial has a cruel virtue (Guardian)

My Leveson scepticism is fading, says Simon Jenkins. Public humiliation of Murdoch and co is where its value lies, not judgments on media reform.

4. Whisper it, but things are looking up for Britain Plc (Daily Mail)

The Chancellor has new reasons to be optimistic in his March Budget, says Alex Brummer.

5. China is right to open up slowly (Financial Times)

Discussion is needed for a successful timetable of reform, writes Martin Wolf.

6. Hit Argentina where it hurts - in the wallet (Daily Telegraph)

Despite the Falklands sabre-rattling, British aid to Buenos Aires continues to flow, writes Nancy Soderberg.

7. Let us never forget the stench of this rank corruption (Independent)

Leveson is no evil plot to stifle genuine reporting, says Matthew Norman. We're staring at a tornado of organised crime.

8. The fight for democratic change can't be left to Occupy (Guardian)

This Occupy movement isn't only for heretics, write Naomi Colvin and George Barda. We need a world where citizens and activists are the same.

9. British students deserve better from Alex Salmond (Daily Telegraph)

Scotland's unfair university system discriminates against the rest of the UK, says Michael Forsyth.

10. How ECB's big bazooka saved eurozone's banks - and may again (Independent)

A central bank's job is to meet a liquidity crisis by producing unlimited cash, writes Hamish McRae.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Theresa May knows she's talking nonsense - here's why she's doing it

The Prime Minister's argument increases the sense that this is a time to "lend" - in her words - the Tories your vote.

Good morning.  Angela Merkel and Theresa May are more similar politicians than people think, and that holds true for Brexit too. The German Chancellor gave a speech yesterday, and the message: Brexit means Brexit.

Of course, the emphasis is slightly different. When May says it, it's about reassuring the Brexit elite in SW1 that she isn't going to backslide, and anxious Remainers and soft Brexiteers in the country that it will work out okay in the end.

When Merkel says it, she's setting out what the EU wants and the reality of third country status outside the European Union.  She's also, as with May, tilting to her own party and public opinion in Germany, which thinks that the UK was an awkward partner in the EU and is being even more awkward in the manner of its leaving.

It's a measure of how poor the debate both during the referendum and its aftermath is that Merkel's bland statement of reality - "A third-party state - and that's what Britain will be - can't and won't be able to have the same rights, let alone a better position than a member of the European Union" - feels newsworthy.

In the short term, all this helps Theresa May. Her response - delivered to a carefully-selected audience of Leeds factory workers, the better to avoid awkward questions - that the EU is "ganging up" on Britain is ludicrous if you think about it. A bloc of nations acting in their own interest against their smaller partners - colour me surprised!

But in terms of what May wants out of this election - a massive majority that gives her carte blanche to implement her agenda and puts Labour out of contention for at least a decade - it's a great message. It increases the sense that this is a time to "lend" - in May's words - the Tories your vote. You may be unhappy about the referendum result, you may usually vote Labour - but on this occasion, what's needed is a one-off Tory vote to make Brexit a success.

May's message is silly if you pay any attention to how the EU works or indeed to the internal politics of the EU27. That doesn't mean it won't be effective.

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

0800 7318496