Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

  1. Mass surveillance wouldn't have saved the life of Drummer Rigby (Observer)

    The introduction of a communications data bill wouldn't have prevented last week's shocking murder of Lee Rigby, writes Henry Porter.

  2. Yes, I’m a smartphone Nazi, so stop that tippety-tap now (Sunday Times)

    The older I get the more that silence seems far more eloquent and articulate than the frenzied voices that crowd it out, writes Andrew Sullivan

  3. David Cameron isn't even among friends in his own cabinet now (Observer)

    Already wounded by battles with backbenchers, the prime minister is faced with a revolt by ministers over cuts, writes Andrew Rawnsley.

  4. Angela Merkel is David Cameron's new best friend for ever (Independent on Sunday)

    Beyond her general competence, most British people know very little of the German Chancellor, writes John Rentoul.

  5. Twitter at its worst is not Bercow, but the braying mob (**)

    The Twitter villains are the bullies who feel scant responsibility and a lack of interest in fairness, writes Barbara Ellen.

  6. Doctors took the easy option, and lost our respect (Sunday Telegraph)

    GPs have changed, but the government is partly to blame, writes Anthony Daniels.

  7. Why Cameron told MI5: ‘I know you are not to blame’ (Mail on Sunday)

    Inside Number 10, the view is that some reassurance can actually be drawn from the fact that the attackers were known to the authorities, and might even have been contacted by them, writes James Forsyth.

  8. Even for liberals, Obama has crossed a line (Sunday Telegraph)

    Those who have spoken out against the President’s expansion of government power have been investigated and intimidated, writes Janet Daley.

  9. Did we learn so little about jihadism from the 7/7 bombings? (Independent on Sunday)

    In Woolwich, the police were too slow off the mark and the politicians got the wrong end of the stick. Both groups need to focus hard, writes Crispin Black.

  10. A tip for the untaxables: give your cash away (Sunday Times)

    In these straitened times the mood has changed to recrimination. I pay my taxes. You avoid yours. They — the rich or big business — are doing evil, writes Adam Boulton.

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

Getty
Show Hide image

Has Arlene Foster saved power-sharing in Northern Ireland?

The DUP leader's decision to attend Martin McGuinness' funeral was much more than symbolic. But is Gerry Adams willing to make a deal?

After some prevarication, DUP leader Arlene Foster chose to attend the funeral of Martin McGuinness in Derry today. Her decision to do so cannot have been an easy one.

A substantial part of her loyalist base has noisily resisted attempts to memorialise the late deputy first minister as anything other than an inveterate killer. Foster herself notes in today’s Belfast Telegraph that the former IRA commander was responsible for the deaths of “many neighbours and friends”. And in 1979 – aged just eight – she bore witness to the bloody aftermath of an IRA attack in her own home: her father, a reservist police officer, was shot in the head by a gunman later eulogised by McGuinness.

Her attendance at today’s funeral is thus noteworthy and has been the subject of due praise. She was twice applauded by the congregation: as she took her seat, and after Bill Clinton singled her out in his eulogy. It is, however, much more than the symbolic gesture it might appear.

Last month’s election, which saw the DUP lose 10 seats and unionist parties lose their Stormont majority for the first time in nearly a century, proved Foster to be damaged goods. She was – and remains – tarnished by the RHI scandal but also by her crass behaviour towards the nationalist community, particularly on Irish language issues.

Her carelessly won reputation as a truculent bigot will therefore not be easily lost. Her departure remains a red line for Sinn Fein. But with just four days until the deadline for a new devolution settlement, Foster’s presence at McGuinness’ funeral is the clearest indication yet of the DUP’s carefully calculated strategy. It isn’t quite a resignation, but is nonetheless indicative of the new manner in which Foster has carried herself since her party’s chastening collapse.

She has demonstrated some contrition and offered tacit acknowledgement that her election shtick was misjudged and incendiary. Her statement on McGuinness’ death was delicately pitched and made only oblique reference to his IRA past. In the absence of a willingness to allow Foster to step down, the decision instead has been taken to detoxify her brand.

The conciliatory Foster the DUP will nominate for First Minister on Monday will as such at least appear to be apart from the dogwhistling Foster who fought the election – and her attendance today is the superlative indication of that careful transition. There has been talk that this increases the chance of a deal on a new executive. This is premature – not least because the onus is now almost entirely on Sinn Fein.

Theirs is just as much a mandate to reject Stormont as we know it as it is to return and right the DUP’s wrongs. Gerry Adams, the last member of the Armalite generation standing, has made this abundantly clear – and has hardened his line just as Foster has made sure to be seen magnanimously softening hers. He said last night that he would not tolerate any extension of power-sharing talks beyond Monday’s deadline, and called on Dublin to prevent the UK government from re-instating direct rule.

Though Adams also maintained a deal was still possible in the coming days, his statement augurs badly. As the former UUP leader Lord Empey told me on the day McGuinness died, the Sinn Fein president – the ideologue to McGuinness’ Stormont pragmatist – is now entirely without equal within his party. Though he has set the transition to a new generation of female leaders in train, he remains in total control. His demand for Dublin’s involvement is also telling: as the leader of the third-biggest party in the Dail, his is an all-Ireland long game. Enda Kenny will soon depart, offering Fianna Fail – riding high in the polls – a useful pretext to renegotiate or scrap their confidence and supply arrangement with his minority government. Sinn Fein are on course to make gains, but implementing Brexit and austerity as partners in a Stormont executive would undermine their populist anti-austerity platform.

As such, Empey predicted McGuinness’ death would allow Adams to exert a disruptive influence on the talks to come. “I don’t think it’ll be positive because for all his faults, Martin was actually committed to making the institutions work,” he said. “I don’t think Gerry Adams is as committed – and it was obvious from the latter part of last year that Gerry was reinstating his significant influence in the party. For that reason I think it will make matters more difficult.  I hope I’m wrong, but that’s my sense.”

He is not alone. There was, earlier this week, growing confidence in Westminster that some fudge could be reached on the most contentious issues. It isn't impossible - but Adams’ renewed dominance and rejection of the extended timeframe such negotiations would undoubtedly require suggests a new executive is as unlikely a prospect as it has ever been. With Foster quietly reinventing herself, the DUP could be the big winners come the next election (which could come this year and reinstate a unionist majority) – and the resurgent republicans might well rue the day they squandered their big chance.

Patrick Maguire writes about politics and is the 2016 winner of the Anthony Howard Award.