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: Jeremy Corbyn turns "the nasty party" back on Theresa May

The Labour leader exploited Conservative splits over disability benefits.

It didn't take long for Theresa May to herald the Conservatives' Copeland by-election victory at PMQs (and one couldn't blame her). But Jeremy Corbyn swiftly brought her down to earth. The Labour leader denounced the government for "sneaking out" its decision to overrule a court judgement calling for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to be extended to those with severe mental health problems.

Rather than merely expressing his own outrage, Corbyn drew on that of others. He smartly quoted Tory backbencher Heidi Allen, one of the tax credit rebels, who has called on May to "think agan" and "honour" the court's rulings. The Prime Minister protested that the government was merely returning PIPs to their "original intention" and was already spending more than ever on those with mental health conditions. But Corbyn had more ammunition, denouncing Conservative policy chair George Freeman for his suggestion that those "taking pills" for anxiety aren't "really disabled". After May branded Labour "the nasty party" in her conference speech, Corbyn suggested that the Tories were once again worthy of her epithet.

May emphasised that Freeman had apologised and, as so often, warned that the "extra support" promised by Labour would be impossible without the "strong economy" guaranteed by the Conservatives. "The one thing we know about Labour is that they would bankrupt Britain," she declared. Unlike on previous occasions, Corbyn had a ready riposte, reminding the Tories that they had increased the national debt by more than every previous Labour government.

But May saved her jibe of choice for the end, recalling shadow cabinet minister Cat Smith's assertion that the Copeland result was an "incredible achivement" for her party. "I think that word actually sums up the Right Honourable Gentleman's leadership. In-cred-ible," May concluded, with a rather surreal Thatcher-esque flourish.

Yet many economists and EU experts say the same of her Brexit plan. Having repeatedly hailed the UK's "strong economy" (which has so far proved resilient), May had better hope that single market withdrawal does not wreck it. But on Brexit, as on disability benefits, it is Conservative rebels, not Corbyn, who will determine her fate.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.