Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Welcome, Mr Carney – Britain needs you (Financial Times)

The next BoE governor must chart a voyage back to something close to normality, writes Martin Wolf.

2. On Leveson, David Cameron's dilemma is that the press can still ruin careers (Guardian)

Coverage of the Leveson inquiry proves why the press must be reformed – but it also shows the risk involved in doing so, says Peter Wilby.

3. Don’t force the press into politicians’ arms (Times) (£)

Newspapers have forfeited the right to self-regulation, but state regulation is dangerous, argues Times editor James Harding.

4. Tories should take on Nigel Farage, not woo him (Independent)

Cameron knows that an electoral pact would be mad, impracticable, and philosophically incoherent, writes Steve Richards.

5. Obama should end his reticence on rights (Financial Times)

The US president would surely like his foreign policy legacy to be about more than success in a war on terror, says Gideon Rachman.

6. Europe's €50bn bung that enriches landowners and kills wildlife (Guardian)

The EU's farm subsidies are a modern equivalent of feudal aid, writes George Monbiot. As Europe suffers under austerity, it's right to call for reform.

7. It has taken the left years, but finally the press is at its mercy (Daily Telegraph)

Whatever low opinion the country has of its press, it has even less confidence in politicians as invigilators, says Benedict Brogan.

8. Ukip are not closet racists – but we’ve had enough (Daily Telegraph)

The adoption case in Rotherham has become a wake-up call from Ukip to Westminster, writes Nigel Farage.

9. It would make a mockery of justice if foreign judges start to overrule our own institutions (Daily Mail)

It’s time to face up to the issue and pull out of the European Court’s jurisdiction altogether, argues former justice minister Nick Herbert.

10. Binyamin Netanyahu's fig leaf could be back (Guardian)

Retirement might not stop Ehud Barak playing a key role in any Israeli plans to attack Iran, writes Aluf Benn.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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