Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Ban bonuses, and Fred Goodwin could have kept his knighthood (Guardian)

Even bankers want the bonus culture outlawed, says Simon Jenkins. It's a conspiracy to extract money from firms that properly belongs to others.

2. Don't penalise RBS just because we own it (Times) (£)

If its actions are targeted at individuals, not based on principle, the government will carry on blowing in the wind, warns Alistair Darling.

3. Occupy London's eviction is a failure for the church, not the camp (Guardian)

The protesters about to be removed from the steps of St Paul's could have helped the cathedral find a compelling new narrative, says Giles Fraser.

4. The Greeks will not be the last people to lose control of their fiscal policy (Independent)

Governments elected for four years must run fiscal policies sustainable for 40, writes Hamish McRae.

5. Our university revolution has only just begun (Daily Telegraph)

Students are now in the driving seat, but Britain is still at risk of being overtaken, says David Willetts.

6. David Cameron has allowed Europe to say FU to its people (Guardian)

The decision to let EU institutions police fiscal union is a massive missed opportunity for Cameron, and for Britain, argues Daniel Hannan.

7. Europe is stuck on life support (Financial Times)

The ECB has staved off a eurozone heart attack but its members face a long convalescence, writes Martin Wolf.

8. Reviving manufacturing is the key to our country's future prosperity (Daily Mirror)

Regulating and reforming banksters and hedge fund sharks is vital, writes Kevin Maguire. But a new industrial revolution is the way forward.

9. At long last, a fitting punishment for such arrogance (Daily Mail)

The removal of Fred Goodwin's knighthood will be a heavy blow to the man who led RBS into the abyss, says Stephen Glover.

10. The pound is a poison pill for an independent Scotland (Financial Times)

A currency union exists when people believe it does, says John Kay.

Photo: Martin Whitfield
Show Hide image

Labour MP for East Lothian Martin Whitfield: "I started an argument and ended up winning an election"

The former primary school teacher still misses home. 

Two months ago, Martin Whitfield was a primary school teacher in Prestonpans, a small town along the coast from Edinburgh. Then he got into an argument. It was a Saturday morning shortly after the snap election had been called, and he and other members of the local Labour party began discussing a rumour that the candidate would be an outsider.

“I started an argument that this was ridiculous, we couldn’t have a candidate helicoptered in,” he recalls. He pointed out that one of the main issues with the Scottish National Party incumbent, the economist and journalist George Kerevan, was that he was seen as an outsider.

“I kept arguing for an hour and a half and people started gently moving away,” he jokes. “About two days later I was still going on, and I thought enough’s enough.” 

He called Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour veteran, who interrupted him. “He said, 'Right Martin, are you going to put up or shut up?’ So I filled in the forms.

"Then I had to have a very interesting conversation with my wife.”

One successful election campaign later, he is sitting in the airy, glass-roofed atrium of Westminster’s Portcullis House. Whitfield has silver hair, glasses, and wears a Labour-red tie with his shirt. He looks every bit the approachable primary school teacher, and sometimes he forgets he isn’t anymore. 

I ask how the school reacted to his election bid, and he begins “I have”, and then corrects himself: “There is a primary four class I had the pleasure to teach.” The children wanted to know everything from where parliament was, to his views on education and independence. He took unpaid leave to campaign. 

“Actually not teaching the children was the hardest thing,” he recalls. “During the campaign I kept bumping into them when I was door-knocking.”

Whitfield was born in Newcastle, in 1965, to Labour-supporting parents. “My entire youth was spent with people who were socialists.”

His father was involved in the Theatre Workshop, founded by the left-wing director Joan Littlewood. “We were part of a community which supported each other and found value in that support in art and in theatre,” he says. “That is hugely important to me.” 

He trained as a lawyer, but grew disillusioned with the profession and retrained as a teacher instead. He and his wife eventually settled in Prestonpans, where they started a family and he “fought like mad” to work at the local school. She works as the marketing manager for the local theatre.

He believes he won his seat – one of the first to be touted as a possible Labour win – thanks to a combination of his local profile, the party’s position on independence and its manifesto, which “played brilliantly everywhere we discussed it”. 

It offered hope, he says: “As far as my doorstep discussion in East Lothian went, some people were for and against Jeremy Corbyn, some people were for and against Kezia Dugdale, but I didn’t find anyone who was against the manifesto.”

Whitfield’s new job will mean long commutes on the East Coast line, but he considers representing the constituency a “massive, massive honour”. When I ask him about East Lothian, he can’t stop talking.

“MPs do tend to say ‘my constituency’s a microcosm’, but it really is Scotland in miniature. We have a fishing industry, crabs and lobsters, the agricultural areas – the agricultural soil is second to none.” The area was also historically home to heavy industry. 

After his first week in Westminster, Whitfield caught the train back to Scotland. “That bit when I got back into East Lothian was lovely moment,” he says. “I was home.”

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

0800 7318496