Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The head will decide Scotland’s future (Financial Times)

Pragmatic arguments will be the decisive factor in the referendum, writes Janan Ganesh.

2. A Lib Dem double backflip now would be madness (Guardian)

A backroom deal to swap Tory-favouring boundary changes for reform of party funding would be suicidal for the Liberal Democrats, writes Polly Toynbee.

3. Scotland, fine. But an EU vote is a huge risk (Times) (£)

Asking the people did for Nick Clegg and may do for Alex Salmond, writes Rachel Sylvester. David Cameron should think twice.

4. Leaders cling to referendums for comfort (Independent)

Considering how few referendums are held, it would be healthier and more honest to stop offering them altogether, argues Steve Richards.

5. Julia Gillard is no feminist hero (Guardian)

She has been praised for standing up to sexism but Australia's prime minister is also rolling back rights, says John Pilger.

6. Cameron must commit to low-carbon economy (Financial Times)

Uncertainty over policy is deterring investment, warns Nicholas Stern.

7. A precious marriage that must survive (Daily Mail)

The Union between England and Scotland is the most mutually beneficial partnership between nations in human history, says a Daily Mail editorial.

8. Squeezed parents cannot afford childcare (Daily Telegraph)

Thanks to Labour, we have a system that is both far too costly and far too cumbersome, says

9. Spain, Britain and the forbidden fruits of independence (Financial Times)

No marriage can survive by declaring divorce illegal, writes Gideon Rachman.

10. Europhiles have only themselves to blame (Daily Telegraph)

Michael Gove speaks for many on the EU – Britain is tired of being pushed around, writes Philip Johnston.

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.