Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Could Cameron be a bit frit about facing Miliband in TV debates? (Observer)

David Cameron's cold feet about televised leaders' debates suggest a new respect for his Labour opposite number, writes Andrew Rawnsley.

2. America: Too many guns, too little will to change (Independent on Sunday)

Newtown, Connecticut, joins a rollcall of towns whose names become synonymous with violent death, writes Rupert Cornwell. The President has a fight on his hands.

3. American fantasies that lead to massacre (Sunday Times) (£)

The ideal of guns as self-protection owes little to evidence and much to cultural fears, writes David Frum.

4. Where does Danny Boyle’s Britain go from here? (Sunday Telegraph)

We inhabit a pluralistic society – and identifying the common ground is the most pressing challenge for the 21st-century politician, says Matthew d'Ancona.

5. The coalition's in good cheer - so the hangover will be terrible (Mail on Sunday)

The subject on which Cameron and Clegg most disagree - Europe - cannot be avoided much longer, says James Forsyth.

6. Secular Britain is ruled by religious bureaucrats (Observer)

Why is the church still such a force in our society when most of us disregard its clerics' teachings, asks Nick Cohen.

7. Is Scotland in Europe? The SNP doesn’t even know (Sunday Telegraph)

The Scottish Nationalist Party is offering us a one-way ticket to a deeply uncertain future, says Alistair Darling.

8. Clegg has a mind-altering plan for power (Independent on Sunday)

The Liberal Democrat leader has to look for what he might call niche demographics – on an industrial scale, writes John Rentoul.

9. What a week that was for idiotic politics (Sunday Telegraph)

The commitment to gay marriage is seen as some sort of analogue with the Blairite renunciation of Labour’s Clause Four, writes Janet Daley.

10. Never has London seemed more like a city state apart (Observer)

The census suggests a huge gap between the lives and concerns of Londoners and their fellow Britons, says Catherine Bennett.

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The SNP thinks it knows how to kill hard Brexit

The Supreme Court ruled MPs must have a say in triggering Article 50. But the opposition must unite to succeed. 

For a few minutes on Tuesday morning, the crowd in the Supreme Court listened as the verdict was read out. Parliament must have the right to authorise the triggering of Article 50. The devolved nations would not get a veto. 

There was a moment of silence. And then the opponents of hard Brexit hit the phones. 

For the Scottish government, the pro-Remain members of the Welsh Assembly and Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, the victory was bittersweet. 

The ruling prompted Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to ask: “Is it better that we take our future into our own hands?”

Ever the pragmatist, though, Sturgeon has simultaneously released her Westminster attack dogs. 

Within minutes of the ruling, the SNP had vowed to put forward 50 amendments (see what they did there) to UK government legislation before Article 50 is enacted. 

This includes the demand for a Brexit white paper – shared by MPs from all parties – to a clause designed to prevent the UK reverting to World Trade Organisation rules if a deal is not agreed. 

But with Labour planning to approve the triggering of Article 50, can the SNP cause havoc with the government’s plans, or will it simply be a chorus of disapproval in the rest of Parliament’s ear?

The SNP can expect some support. Individual SNP MPs have already successfully worked with Labour MPs on issues such as benefit cuts. Pro-Remain Labour backbenchers opposed to Article 50 will not rule out “holding hands with the devil to cross the bridge”, as one insider put it. The sole Green MP, Caroline Lucas, will consider backing SNP amendments she agrees with as well as tabling her own. 

But meanwhile, other opposition parties are seeking their own amendments. Jeremy Corbyn said Labour will seek amendments to stop the Conservatives turning the UK “into a bargain basement tax haven” and is demanding tariff-free access to the EU. 

Separately, the Liberal Democrats are seeking three main amendments – single market membership, rights for EU nationals and a referendum on the deal, which is a “red line”.

Meanwhile, pro-Remain Tory backbenchers are watching their leadership closely to decide how far to stray from the party line. 

But if the Article 50 ruling has woken Parliament up, the initial reaction has been chaotic rather than collaborative. Despite the Lib Dems’ position as the most UK-wide anti-Brexit voice, neither the SNP nor Labour managed to co-ordinate with them. 

Indeed, the Lib Dems look set to vote against Labour’s tariff-free amendment on the grounds it is not good enough, while expecting Labour to vote against their demand of membership of the single market. 

The question for all opposition parties is whether they can find enough amendments to agree on to force the government onto the defensive. Otherwise, this defeat for the government is hardly a defeat at all. 

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.