Morning call: the pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from the morning papers.

1. Our parties must rid themselves of this stench of nepotism (Guardian)

This week's low turnouts show that the public is losing interest in politics. Westminster has to stop keeping it in the family, writes John Harris.

2. There’s nothing hip about avoiding your taxes (Times) (£)

Cool capitalists think they are sticking it to the Man. But doing your share is a timeless mark of good citizenship, argues Janice Turner. 

3. Police and crime commissioners are good politics, so why didn’t the Tories say so? (Telegraph)

Despite the fiasco of the low turnout, the public have at last got power over the police, says Charles Moore.

4. Patten should defy his Tory foes and stay as chairman (Independent)

Lord McAlpine, like some Tory MPs, is gunning for his old foe to be ousted from the BBC, writes Andrew Grice.

5. Green Tories were never sustainable (Financial Times) (£)

Economic gloom has encouraged the government to shelve environmental concerns, says Janan Ganesh.

6. We’ve never had it so bad. Rejoice, rejoice! (Times) (£)

If you can keep your head while all around are losing theirs and blaming it on you ... you must be British, my son, says Matthew Parris. 

7. Twilight is not feminist: it's female masochism (Guardian)

This saga is a teen version of Fifty Shades of Grey and illustrates the growth of the loving-slave fantasy in popular fiction, writes Tanya Gold. 

8. In the Tower of Babel that is Twitter, silence descends (Independent)

Tweeters used to shrug and say, "Well that's just the internet", but Lord McAlpine's solicitors may have just changed Twitter for ever, writes Grace Dent.

9. Saving Britain's universities: The brains go into battle (Telegraph)

Some of the country’s most brilliant and brightest minds set course this week to save our universities from the dead hand of interfering politicians and bureaucrats, says Melvyn Bragg.

10. X marks the clot: David Cameron couldn't organise a vote in a polling booth (Mirror)

David Cameron goes down in history as the Tory leader who replaced democracy with empty ballot boxes, writes Kevin Maguire.
 

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PMQs review: Theresa May shows how her confidence has grown

After her Brexit speech, the PM declared of Jeremy Corbyn: "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue". 

The woman derided as “Theresa Maybe” believes she has neutralised that charge. Following her Brexit speech, Theresa May cut a far more confident figure at today's PMQs. Jeremy Corbyn inevitably devoted all six of his questions to Europe but failed to land a definitive blow.

He began by denouncing May for “sidelining parliament” at the very moment the UK was supposedly reclaiming sovereignty (though he yesterday praised her for guaranteeing MPs would get a vote). “It’s not so much the Iron Lady as the irony lady,” he quipped. But May, who has sometimes faltered against Corbyn, had a ready retort. The Labour leader, she noted, had denounced the government for planning to leave the single market while simultaneously seeking “access” to it. Yet “access”, she went on, was precisely what Corbyn had demanded (seemingly having confused it with full membership). "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue,” she declared.

When Corbyn recalled May’s economic warnings during the referendum (“Does she now disagree with herself?”), the PM was able to reply: “I said if we voted to leave the EU the sky would not fall in and look at what has happened to our economic situation since we voted to leave the EU”.

Corbyn’s subsequent question on whether May would pay for single market access was less wounding than it might have been because she has consistently refused to rule out budget contributions (though yesterday emphasised that the days of “vast” payments were over).

When the Labour leader ended by rightly hailing the contribution immigrants made to public services (“The real pressure on public services comes from a government that slashed billions”), May took full opportunity of the chance to have the last word, launching a full-frontal attack on his leadership and a defence of hers. “There is indeed a difference - when I look at the issue of Brexit or any other issues like the NHS or social care, I consider the issue, I set out my plan and I stick to it. It's called leadership, he should try it some time.”

For May, life will soon get harder. Once Article 50 is triggered, it is the EU 27, not the UK, that will take back control (the withdrawal agreement must be approved by at least 72 per cent of member states). With MPs now guaranteed a vote on the final outcome, parliament will also reassert itself. But for now, May can reflect with satisfaction on her strengthened position.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.