Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Will Osborne dare to be radical when he appoints the next Governor of the Bank of England? (Independent)

The sheer power of modern Governors makes the Chancellor's decision momentous - which is why senior Lib Dems are so determined to have a say in it, writes Steve Richards.

2. On Trident, Miliband needs to be brave and jump ship (Guardian)

With the Tories and Lib Dems at odds over our cold-war nuclear defences, Labour has to forge a political third way, says Polly Toynbee.

3. An insidious threat to the right to know (Daily Mail)

The arrest of a Greek magazine editor for exposing allegations of tax dodging should alarm every democrat, says a Daily Mail editorial.

4. A day of judgment over the EU budget (Daily Telegraph)

The vote on the EU budget gives MPs a chance to follow in the steps of Margaret Thatcher, says Daniel Hannan.

5. Another good idea let down by neglect (Financial Times)

Reform of the police service is falling victim to an all too familiar sloppiness, writes Janan Ganesh.

6. Pilgrims’ Progress (Times) (£)

The Anglican tradition is a rich civic resource; a new Archbishop must not pit the Church against modernity, says a Times leader.

7. Hillsborough shows why we need a permanent truth commission (Guardian)

There's an urgent need for independent oversight of incidents of malpractice – and the Hillsborough panel could provide a model, writes Michael Mansfield.

8. Lebanon can heal divisions to deter Syria (Financial Times)

Assad’s attempt to exploit his neighbour’s divisions might have a unifying effect, writes David Gardner.

9. Dither and delay have put our forests at risk (Daily Telegraph)

The government is finally acting decisively against ash dieback disease, notes a Daily Telegraph editorial. Why not sooner?

10. John Prescott’s political survival is a miracle (Independent)

Despite his affair, incompetent policies and amateur boxing, the career of this former merchant navy seaman sails on, writes Dominic Lawson.

Nicola Sturgeon. Photo: Getty
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For the first time in decades, there is genuine dissent in Scottish Nationalist ranks

The First Minister is facing pressure to talk less about independence - and bring on new talent in her party.

She so recently seemed all-powerful, licensed to reign for as long as she chose, with the authority to pursue the return of our national sovereignty. We would then have the ability to strike our own deals on our own terms, a smaller, smarter, leaner nation freed from the stifling constraints of partnership with a much larger neighbour. There was, she repeatedly told us, nothing to be afraid of.

Now, suddenly, she is the victim of her own miscalculation: having misread the public mood, having raced too far ahead of moderate opinion, she finds herself at bay. The voters have delivered a public humiliation, while an opposition party until recently lampooned as unelectable is on the march. There is, suddenly, talk of her departure sooner rather than later.

Yes, this is a tough time to be Nicola Sturgeon…

Let’s not overstate it. The position of Scotland’s First Minister is considerably more secure than that of the UK’s Prime Minister. Theresa May wants out as soon as is feasible; Sturgeon, one suspects, will have to be dragged from Bute House. Sturgeon retains enough respect among the public and support among her colleagues to plough on for now. Nevertheless, things are not what they were before the general election and are unlikely ever to return to that happy state.

It’s all because of Scexit, of course. Sturgeon’s unseemly sprint for the indy finishing line left enough Scottish voters feeling… what? Mistreated, taken for granted, rushed, patronised, bullied… so much so that they effectively used June 8 to deliver a second No vote. With the idea of another referendum hanging around like a bad headache, the electorate decided to stage an intervention. In just two years, Sturgeon lost 40 per cent of her Westminster seats and displaced half a million votes. One could almost argue that, by comparison, Theresa May did relatively well.

For the first time in decades, there is genuine dissent in Nationalist ranks. Tommy Sheppard, a former Labour Party official who is now an influential left-wing SNP MP, published an article immediately after the general election calling on the First Minister to ‘park’ a second referendum until the Brexit negotiations are complete. There are others who believe the party should rediscover its talent for the long game: accept the public mood is unlikely to change much before the 2021 devolved elections, at which point, even if the Nats remain the single largest party, Holyrood might find itself with a unionist majority; concentrate on improving the public services, show what might be done with all the powers of an independent nation, and wait patiently until the numbers change.

There are others – not many, but some – who would go further. They believe that Sturgeon should take responsibility for the election result, and should be looking to hand over to a new generation before 2021. The old guard has had its shot and its time: a party with veterans such as Sturgeon, John Swinney and Mike Russell in the key jobs looks too much like it did 20 years ago. Even the new Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, has been on the scene for donkey’s. There are more who believe that the iron grip the First Minister and her husband, SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, have on the party is unhealthy – that Murrell should carry the can for the loss of 21 MPs, and that he certainly would have done so if he weren’t married to the boss.

The most likely outcome, given what we know about the First Minister’s nature, is that she will choose something like the Sheppard route: talk less about independence for the next 18 months, see what the Brexit deal looks like, keep an eye on the polls and if they seem favourable go for a referendum in autumn 2019. The question is, can a wearied and increasingly cynical public be won round by then? Will people be willing to pile risk upon risk?

As the hot takes about Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise election performance continue to flood in, there has been a lot of attention given to the role played by young Britons. The issues of intergenerational unfairness, prolonged austerity and hard Brexit, coupled with Corbyn’s optimistic campaigning style, saw a sharp rise in turnout among that demographic. Here, Scotland has been ahead of the curve. In the 2014 referendum, the Yes campaign and its can-do spirit of positivity inspired huge enthusiasm among younger Scots. Indeed, only a large and slightly panicked defensive response from over-65s saved the union.

That brush with calamity seems to have been close enough for many people: many of the seats taken from the Nats by the Scottish Tories at the general election were rural, well-to-do and relatively elderly. The modern electorate is a fickle thing, but it remains rational. The Corbynites, amid their plans for total world domination and their ongoing festival of revenge, might bear that in mind.

Chris Deerin is the New Statesman's contributing editor (Scotland). 

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