Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Massacres are the inevitable result of foreign occupation (Guardian)

The latest slaughter in Afghanistan is part of a decade of savage civilian killing: until Nato leaves, it is certain to continue, says Seumas Milne.

2. This is the age of the 'Start the War' march (Times) (£)

The Kony 2012 campaign is easy to mock, but it shows that there is no longer such a thing as a faraway country, says Daniel Finkelstein.

3. Americans seem to be spending again - that's good news for us all (Independent)

Cameron goes to a country that is showing, week by week, more pluses than minuses on the economic front, says Hamish McRae.

4. How to be a better steward of our assets (Financial Times)

Britain has allowed ownership to become too monolithic, writes Will Hutton.

5. Sorry Cameron, but Air Force One is no place for a British prime minister (Guardian)

While David Cameron enjoys some portentous posing in Obama's jet, mice gnaw at the fabric of his government, writes Simon Jenkins.

6. Words alone won't uphold marriage (Daily Mail)

The Tories' long-promised tax allowances for married couples seem no closer to materialising, notes a Daily Mail editorial.

7. Our folly is to think of houses as dreams, not places to live in (Independent)

Some people think that if they made money through their home they earned it, writes Christina Patterson.

8. The European court of human rights needs these British reforms (Guardian)

The Strasbourg court is in a mess, says Anthony Lester. It doesn't help human rights to damn our eminently sensible reforms as reactionary.

9. A patched-up peace is all we can hope for (Daily Mail)

Once the coalition forces are out, Afghanistan will revert to its normal form of regional conflict, the northern tribes in rivalry with southern, says Andrew Alexander.

10. Nigel Lawson, Terry Jones and the attraction of the older man (Daily Telegraph)

To a woman 'with a history of dating older men', the mature alpha male has a certain allure, writes Petronella Wyatt.

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Commons Confidential: What happened at Tom Watson's birthday party?

Finances, fair and foul – and why Keir Starmer is doing the time warp.

Keir Starmer’s comrades mutter that a London seat is an albatross around the neck of the ambitious shadow Brexit secretary. He has a decent political CV: he was named after Labour’s first MP, Keir Hardie; he has a working-class background; he was the legal champion of the McLibel Two; he had a stint as director of public prosecutions. The knighthood is trickier, which is presumably why he rarely uses the title.

The consensus is that Labour will seek a leader from the north or the Midlands when Islington’s Jeremy Corbyn jumps or is pushed under a bus. Starmer, a highly rated frontbencher, is phlegmatic as he navigates the treacherous Brexit waters. “I keep hoping we wake up and it’s January 2016,” he told a Westminster gathering, “and we can have another run. Don’t we all?” Perhaps not everybody. Labour Remoaners grumble that Corbyn and particularly John McDonnell sound increasingly Brexitastic.

To Tom Watson’s 50th birthday bash at the Rivoli Ballroom in south London, an intact 1950s barrel-vaulted hall generous with the velvet. Ed Balls choreographed the “Gangnam Style” moves, and the Brockley venue hadn’t welcomed so many politicos since Tony Blair’s final Clause IV rally 22 years ago. Corbyn was uninvited, as the boogying deputy leader put the “party” back into the Labour Party. The thirsty guests slurped the free bar, repaying Watson for 30 years of failing to buy a drink.

One of Westminster’s dining rooms was booked for a “Decent Chaps Lunch” by Labour’s Warley warrior, John Spellar. In another room, the Tory peer David Willetts hosted a Christmas reception on behalf of the National Centre for Universities and Business. In mid-January. That’s either very tardy or very, very early.

The Labour Party’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, is a financial maestro, having cleared the £25m debt that the party inherited from the Blair-Brown era. Now I hear that he has squirrelled away a £6m war chest as insurance against Theresa May gambling on an early election. Wisely, the party isn’t relying on Momentum’s fractious footsloggers.

The word in Strangers’ Bar is that the Welsh MP Stephen Kinnock held his own £200-a-head fundraiser in London. Either the financial future of the Aberavon Labour Party is assured, or he fancies a tilt at the top job.

Dry January helped me recall a Labour frontbencher explaining why he never goes into the Commons chamber after a skinful: “I was sitting alongside a colleague clearly refreshed by a liquid lunch. He intervened and made a perfectly sensible point without slurring. Unfortunately, he stood up 20 minutes later and repeated the same point, word for word.”

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era