Morning Call: pick of the papers

Ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers

1. The BBC's real crime was to act like the Catholic Church (Guardian)

The Corporation's instincts when confronted with allegations of child abuse were all wrong, writes Jonathan Freedland.

2. Alex Salmond faces a sceptical nation (FT)

Kiran Stacey profiles the SNP leader.

3. Slowly the Tories are embracing ever looser union (Telegraph)

Charles Moore welcomes the tendency for leading Conservatives to flirt with quitting the European Union.

4. 'If the economy comes right, we'll sail home' (Telegraph)

Revealing interview with Ken Clarke, minister for giving revealing interviews.

5. No escape from energy firm bullies (Daily Mail

Mail editorial gets frothy about dysfunctional consumer energy market, without failing to note foreign ownership of companies in question.

6. Our plans for the next election (ConservativeHome)

Tory chairman Grant Shapps breaks with his past by revealing a winning strategy online under his own name.

7. The benefits of being in this together (FT)

Brisk, insightful guide to tax and benefit changes causing George Osborne a political headache, by Tim Harford

8. Too much poverty and joblessness? Blame newborn babies (Guardian)

Tory plans to limit child benefit wilfully and vindictiely miss the point, says Tanya Gold.

9. How scared should you be of President Romney (Independent)

Indie editorial generously decides that the Republican candidate might not turn out to be a monster.

10. Sadly a hung parliament has no oomph! (Independent)

Chris Bryant MP complains about the state of the legislature, among other things, not for the first time.

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Europe's elections show why liberals should avoid fatalism

France, Germany and the Netherlands suggest there is nothing inevitable about the right's advance.

Humans are unavoidably pattern-seeking creatures. We give meaning to disparate events where little or none may exist. So it is with Brexit and Donald Trump. The proximity of these results led to declarations of liberalism's demise. After decades of progress, the tide was said to have unavoidably turned.

Every election is now treated as another round in the great duel between libralism and populism. In the Netherlands, the perennial nativist Geert Wilders was gifted outsize attention in the belief that he could surf the Brexit-Trump wave to victory. Yet far from triumphing, the Freedom Party finished a distant second, increasing its seats total to 20 (four fewer than in 2010). Wilders' defeat was always more likely than not (and he would have been unable to form a government) but global events gifted him an aura of invincibility.

In France, for several years, Marine Le Pen has been likely to make the final round of the next presidential election. But it was only after Brexit and Trump's election that she was widely seen as a potential victor. As in 2002, the front républicain is likely to defeat the Front National. The winner, however, will not be a conservative but a liberal. According to the post-Trump narrative, Emmanuel Macron's rise should have been impossible. But his surge (albeit one that has left him tied with Le Pen in the first round) suggests liberalism is in better health than suggested.

In Germany, where the far-right Alternative für Deutschland was said to be remorselessly advancing, politics is returning to traditional two-party combat. The election of Martin Schulz has transformed the SPD's fortunes to the point where it could form the next government. As some Labour MPs resign themselves to perpeutal opposition, they could be forgiven for noting what a difference a new leader can make.

2016 will be forever remembered as the year of Brexit and Trump. Yet both events could conceivably have happened in liberalism's supposed heyday. The UK has long been the EU's most reluctant member and, having not joined the euro or the Schengen Zone, already had one foot outside the door. In the US, the conditions for the election of a Trump-like figure have been in place for decades. For all this, Leave only narrowly won and Hillary Clinton won three million more votes than her opponent. Liberalism is neither as weak as it is now thought, nor as strong as it was once thought.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.