Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten best comment pieces from today's papers.

1. Mali needs more than a call to arms (Guardian)

West Africa's al-Qaida clones are neither religious nor political. The world is facing viral mutations of the human psyche, writes Wole Soyinka.

2. Britain in knots over infrastructure (Financial Times)

Big projects need clear plans and honesty about who pays, writes Dieter Helm.

3. Vote ‘no’ and you will blush to remember it (Times)

MPs who opposed civil partnerships are now all for them. The Right will soon embrace same-sex marriage too, writes Matthew Parris.

4. Man made our landscape. He can change it (Times)

Those who bemoan the arrival of HS2 should remember there is nothing primeval left in the British countryside, writes Alan Garner.

5.  The one thing plotters hate more than coalition is the PM (Independent)

Cameron lacks the authority that an outright win in 2010 would have given him, writes Andrew Grice.

6. Can you succeed if you go to a comp? (Times

So much for social mobility: 80 per cent of Britain’s leaders went to an elite school, writes Janice Turner.

7. Hilary Mantel: author in tune with the times (Financial Times)

The novelist brings a modern sensibility to a pivotal point in history, writes Peter Aspden.

8. The Lib Dems abandon a founding father of voting reform (Telegraph)

When Nick Clegg opposed a Bill for fair votes, he cut all political ties to an illustrious predecessor, says Graeme Archer.

9. I don’t envy the Rebecca Adlingtons of sport – they peak too soon (Telegraph)

Never mind jobs for life - athletes barely have their jobs for a quarter of their lives, writes Bryony Gordon.

10.  If the Chinese dragon is so mighty, why is it trembling inside? (Guardian)

 Beijing's alleged hacking of the New York Times is a sign of both the regime's huge power – and its fear of a Chinese spring, writes Jonathan Freedland.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.