Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Putin's veto sets Russia apart (Guardian)

Ignore Russia's public relations machine, says David Hearst: Putin has misread the turmoil in Syria as much as he has the protests at home.

2. It's time to support the opposition in the Syrian civil war (Financial Times)

Thanks to Russia and China, there is no guarantee Syria can avoid a bloody fate, write Malcolm Rifkind and Shashank Joshi.

3. Moral Blindness (Times) (£)

Russia and China acted for self-serving motives in vetoing the Security Council's condemnation of the bloodshed in Syria, says this leading article.

4. Oxford should refuse the Iron Lady this honour (Independent)

Baroness Thatcher's ideas should be freely taught, says Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, but a centre bearing her name would be a sign of undisputed greatness.

5. How Britain's migrants sewed the fabric of the nation (Guardian)

History shows it's hard to pick out which migrants will be good for the UK, says Robert Winder. It is risky for the state to try.

6. Britain won't create a Facebook until we learn to praise success (Daily Telegraph)

Unemployment is falling in the US, where wealth-creators are applauded, rather than denounced, writes Boris Johnson.

7. This 11-year exercise in self-delusion must end (Times) (£)

Our intervention in Afghanistan has been disastrous. Let's make the final months count, says Paddy Ashdown.

8. The how-to guide to toppling tyrants (Financial Times)

George B. N. Ayittey, an expert in the nature and flaws of tyranny, explains why undermining dictators is a science that requires time and thought.

9. What Whitehall could learn from Washington (Independent)

This leading article argues that ministers should introduce fresh blood into a service whose signal defect remains its institutional aversion to change.

10. The Iron Professor has one year to save Italy (Times) (£)

Mario Monti is trying to shock his country out of decline, says Bill Emmott -- but will he survive strikes and recession?

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The Lib Dems' troubled start doesn't bode well for them

Rows over homosexuality and anti-Semitism are obscuring the party's anti-Brexit stance.

Tim Farron has broken his silence on the question of whether or not gay sex is a sin. (He doesn't.)

Frankly, this isn't the start to the general election campaign that the Liberal Democrats would have wanted. Time that they hoped would be spent talking about how their man was the only one standing up to Brexit has instead been devoted to what Farron thinks about homosexuality.

Now another row may be opening up, this time about anti-Semitism in the Liberal Democrats after David Ward, the controversial former MP who among other things once wrote that "the Jews" were "within a few years of liberation from the death camps...inflicting atrocities on Palestinians" has been re-selected as their candidate in Bradford East. That action, for many, makes a mockery of Farron's promise that his party would be a "warm home" for the community.

Politically, my hunch is that people will largely vote for the Liberal Democrats at this election because of who they're not: a Conservative party that has moved to the right on social issues and is gleefully implementing Brexit, a riven Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn, etc. But both rows have hobbled Farron's dream that his party would use this election.

More importantly, they've revealed something about the Liberal Democrats and their ability to cope under fire. There's a fierce debate ongoing about whether or not what Farron's beliefs should matter at all. However you come down on that subject, it's been well-known within the Liberal Democrats that there were questions around not only Farron's beliefs but his habit of going missing for votes concerning homosexuality and abortion. It was even an issue, albeit one not covered overmuch by the press, in the 2015 Liberal Democrat leadership election. The leadership really ought to have worked out a line that would hold long ago, just as David Cameron did in opposition over drugs. (Readers with long memories will remember that Cameron had a much more liberal outlook on drugs policy as an MP than he did after he became Conservative leader.)

It's still my expectation that the Liberal Democrats will have a very good set of local elections. At that point, expect the full force of the Conservative machine and their allies in the press to turn its fire on Farron and his party. We've had an early stress test of the Liberal Democrats' strength under fire. It doesn't bode well for what's to come.

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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