Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

  1. More spending? The coalition may as well build a bridge to the moon (Guardian)
    David Cameron and Vince Cable are both wrong. Infrastructure isn't the answer and nor is QE – money in pockets is, writes Simon Jenkins.
  2. Pay up for Nato or shut it down (Financial Times)
    Being prepared for new threats requires military capabilities but no one wants to pick up the bill, argues Philip Stephens.
  3. The crumbling Coalition is being torn apart by the post-Budget Public Spending Review (Telegraph)
    Deciding the contents of George Osborne's Budget has been relatively straightforward. How to divide the shrinking budgets is a battle that has taken on Bosnian complexity, says Fraser Nelson.
  4. David Cameron's very own magic money tree (Guardian)
    This speech outlines Cameron's strategic gamble of ploughing on with austerity and using quantitative easing as a palliative, writes Richard Seymour.
  5. Benefit tourists are just political phantoms (Times)
    It’s a myth that lazy foreigners are sponging off our welfare state. Our leaders ought to be straight with us, says Philip Collins.
  6. The man at Number 10 is not for turning (Financial Times)
    If the British government’s plan is working, what would a failing one look like, asks Martin Wolf.
  7. Ministerial rows over cuts show how much weaker Cameron and Osborne have become (Independent)
    The Tories now see the reality of public-spending cuts—and they don't like it, writes Steve Richards.
  8. It’s plain what George Osborne needs to do – so just get on and do it (Telegraph)
    The politics are tricky, but the Budget must confront some hard economic choices, insists Jeremy Warner.
  9. The Market Speaks (New York Times)
    Yes, the Dow Jones industrial average has been setting new records this week, but the message from the markets is actually not a happy one, says Paul Krugman.
  10. MPs reading the news? Pigs (and bats) might fly (Independent)
    There was a curious absence at DEFRA questions, writes Donald MacIntyre.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Emily Thornberry heckled by Labour MPs as tensions over Trident erupt

Shadow defence secretary's performance at PLP meeting described as "risible" and "cringeworthy". 

"There's no point trying to shout me down" shadow defence secretary Emily Thornberry declared midway through tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting. Even by recent standards, the 70-minute gathering was remarkably fractious (with PLP chair John Cryer at one point threatening to halt it). Addressing MPs and peers for the first time since replacing Maria Eagle, Thornberry's performance did nothing to reassure Trident supporters. 

The Islington South MP, who voted against renewal in 2007, said that the defence review would be "wide-ranging" and did not take a position on the nuclear question (though she emphasised it was right to "question" renewal). She vowed to listen to colleagues as well as taking "expert advice" and promised to soon visit the Barrow construction site. But MPs' anger was remorseless. Former shadow defence minister Kevan Jones was one of the first to emerge from Committee Room 14. "Waffly and incoherent, cringeworthy" was his verdict. Another Labour MP told me: "Risible. Appalling. She compared Trident to patrolling the skies with spitfires ... It was embarrassing." A party source said afterwards that Thornberry's "spitfire" remark was merely an observation on changing technology. 

"She was talking originally in that whole section about drones. She'd been talking to some people about drones and it was apparent that it was absolutely possible, with improving technology, that large submarines could easily be tracked, detected and attacked by drones. She said it is a question of keeping your eye on new technology ... We don't have the spitfires of the 21st century but we do have some quite old planes, Tornadoes, but they've been updated with modern technology and modern weaponry." 

Former first sea lord and security minister Alan West complained, however, that she had failed to understand how nuclear submarines worked. "Physics, basic physics!" he cried as he left. Asked how the meeting went, Neil Kinnock, who as leader reversed Labour's unilateralist position in 1989, simply let out a belly laugh. Thornberry herself stoically insisted that it went "alright". But a shadow minister told me: "Emily just evidently hadn't put in the work required to be able to credibly address the PLP - totally humiliated. Not by the noise of the hecklers but by the silence of any defenders, no one speaking up for her." 

Labour has long awaited the Europe split currently unfolding among the Tories. But its divide on Trident is far worse. The majority of its MPs are opposed to unilateral disarmament and just seven of the shadow cabinet's 31 members share Jeremy Corbyn's position. While Labour MPs will be given a free vote when the Commons votes on Trident renewal later this year (a fait accompli), the real battle is to determine the party's manifesto stance. 

Thornberry will tomorrow address the shadow cabinet and, for the first time this year, Corbyn will attend the next PLP meeting on 22 February. Both will have to contend with a divide which appears unbridgeable. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.