Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. A Mitt Romney win would merely reward Republicans for bad behaviour (Guardian)

Obama's presidency may have been too timid, but let's not forget who's been responsible for the US's political gridlock, says Gary Younge.

2. Obama is the wiser bet for crisis-hit US (Financial Times)

There remains a need for intelligent, reformist US governance, says an FT editorial. Obama looks the better choice.

3. Vote Mitt: the world needs this deal-maker (Times) (£)

Obama has proved that he can’t reach across party lines, says Tim Montgomerie.

4. If only we had a real choice like America (Daily Mail)

While Obama and Romney offer two entirely different visions of the US's future, our parties have become ever more similar, writes Simon Heffer.

5. The Tories are emasculating the Equality and Human Rights Commission (Independent)

The government is attempting to frame human rights and equality as a fringe concern, but these are issues that should matter to us all, writes Yasmin Alibhai Brown.

6. We’re on our way out of EU but PM must rein in the rebels (Sun)

Britain is surely heading for the EU exit, but it cannot afford to be blamed for bringing the roof down as it goes, says Trevor Kavanagh.

7. Labour must not let Britain drift into a European exit (Guardian)

After last week's political opportunism, Ed Miliband has to ensure his party counters the nation's growing anti-EU sentiment, writes Jackie Ashley.

8. The Taliban's main fear is not drones but educated girls (Guardian)

If Pakistan really wants to combat the fundamentalists, it should be protecting its children and their teachers, writes Mohammed Hanif.

9. There is no place for French-style protectionism in UK (Financial Times)

France’s approach to takeovers has not helped its economy, writes Geoff Owen.

10. Listen up, Mitt – because I’ve got the key to the White House (Daily Telegraph)

Planet Earth is rooting for Obama, but his rival can change that with one simple gesture, writes Boris Johnson.

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Leader: The divisions within Labour

Labour’s divisions have rendered it unfit for government at a moment of profound political change.

Labour is a party torn between its parliamentary and activist wings. Since Jeremy Corbyn, who this week appealed desperately for unity, was re-elected by a landslide last September, Labour has become the first opposition in 35 years to lose a ­by-election to the governing party and has continually trailed the Conservatives by a double-digit margin. Yet polling suggests that, were Mr Corbyn’s leadership challenged again, he would win by a comfortable margin. Meanwhile, many of the party’s most gifted and experienced MPs refuse to serve on the front bench. In 2015 Mr Corbyn made the leadership ballot only with the aid of political opponents such as Margaret Beckett and Frank Field. Of the 36 MPs who nominated him, just 15 went on to vote for him.

Having hugely underestimated the strength of the Labour left once, the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) will not do so again. In the contest that will follow Mr Corbyn’s eventual departure, the centrists could lock out potential successors such as the shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey. Under Labour’s current rules, candidates require support from at least 15 per cent of the party’s MPs and MEPs.

This conundrum explains the attempt by Mr Corbyn’s supporters to reduce the threshold to 5 per cent. The “McDonnell amendment” (named after the shadow chancellor, who failed to make the ballot in 2007 and 2010) is being championed by the Bennite Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and Jon Lansman of Momentum, who is interviewed by Tanya Gold on page 34. “For 20 years the left was denied a voice,” he tweeted to the party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, on 19 March. “We will deny a voice to no one. We face big challenges, and we need our mass membership to win again.”

The passage of the amendment at this year’s Labour conference would aid Mr Lansman’s decades-long quest to bring the party under the full control of activists. MPs have already lost the third of the vote they held under the electoral college system. They face losing what little influence they retain.

No Labour leader has received less support from his MPs than Mr Corbyn. However, the amendment would enable the election of an even more unpopular figure. For this reason, it should be resolutely opposed. One should respect the motivation of the members and activists, yet Labour must remain a party capable of appealing to a majority of people, a party that is capable of winning elections.

Since it was founded, Labour has been an explicitly parliamentary party. As Clause One of its constitution states: “[The party’s] purpose is to organise and maintain in Parliament and in the country a political Labour Party.” The absurdity of a leader opposed by as much as 95 per cent of his own MPs is incompatible with this mission. Those who do not enjoy the backing of their parliamentary colleagues will struggle to persuade the voters that they deserve their support.

Labour’s divisions have rendered it unfit for government at a moment of profound political change. Rather than formalising this split, the party needs to overcome it – or prepare for one of the greatest defeats in its history.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution