Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Cameron does not deserve this B-team (Daily Telegraph)

The Tory leader David Cameron can do nothing to satisfy his selfish MPs, says Peter Oborne. The only winner is Ed Miliband.

2. Is plebgate a product of the push for police reform? (Guardian)

The Mitchell affair is a reminder that relations between this government and the force are as bad as any in living memory, writes Martin Kettle.

3. Damned and cast out prematurely. No wonder Mitchell is angry (Independent)

Sometimes in these storms spin doctors can make mistakes, says Steve Richards. Mitchell's apology, in staged public circumstances, seemed an implicit acceptance of guilt.

4. I am not a leftie bank-basher, but why has no one been jailed for their criminality? (Daily Mail)

Without the awareness of fault that a proper inquiry would bring, bankers will repeat their sins, says Stephen Glover.

5. Cameron is wrong to take on the Tory party (Financial Times)

The prime minister’s tactics appear disastrous, says Tessa Keswick.

6. A referendum on Europe? Bring it on, for all our sakes (Guardian)

Cameron, Clegg and Miliband all fear a public vote - but they should go for it nonetheless, says Timothy Garton Ash. Let the people decide.

7. Who Dares Wins (Times) (£)

Obama needs to insist on gun control, not just ask for it, says a Times editorial.

8. Confusion reigns when the police won’t talk (Daily Telegraph)

For the Metropolitan Police, press briefings are a thing of the past – and it’s the public that is losing out, says John Yates.

9. Europe must be sold on shale’s merits (Financial Times)

If the argument is not won, the region could miss out on a huge opportunity, writes Noe van Hulst.

10. The Church is being reborn in cafes and homes (Independent)

New congregations are being created for the benefit of people who’ve never been to Church, writes Andreas Whittam Smith.

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A progressive alliance in the Richmond by-election can scupper hard Brexit

Labour and the Greens should step aside. 

There are moments to seize and moments to let go. The Richmond by-election, triggered by Zac Goldsmith's decision to quit over a third runway at Heathrow, could be a famous turning point in the politics of our nation. Or it could be another forgettable romp home for a reactionary incumbent.

This isn’t a decision for the Tories and their conscientious objector, Goldsmith, who is pretending he isn’t the Tory candidate when he really is. Nor is it a decision for the only challenger in the seat – the Liberal Democrats.

No, the history making decision lies with Labour and the Greens. They can’t get anywhere near Zac. But they can stop him. All they need to do is get out of the way. 

If the Lib Dems get a clear run, they could defeat Zac. He is Theresa May's preferred candidate and she wants the third runway at Heathrow. He is the candidate who was strongly Leave when his voters where overwhelming Remain. And while the Tories might be hypocrites, they aren’t stupid – they won't stand an official candidate and split their vote. But will Labour and the Greens?

The case to stand is that it offers an opportunity to talk nationally and build locally. I get that – but sometimes there are bigger prizes at stake. Much bigger. This is the moment to halt "hard" Brexit in its tracks, reduce the Tories' already slim majority and reject a politician who ran a racially divisive campaign for London mayor. It’s also the moment to show the power of a progressive alliance. 

Some on the left feel that any deal that gives the Lib Dems a free run just means a Tory-lite candidate. It doesn’t. The Lib Dems under Tim Farron are not the Lib Dems under Nick Clegg. On most issues in the House of Commons, they vote with Labour.

And this isn’t about what shade of centrism you might want. It is about triggering a radical, democratic earthquake, that ensures the Tories can never win again on 24 per cent of the potential vote and that our country, its politics and institutions are democratised for good.

A progressive alliance that starts in Richmond could roll like thunder across the whole country. The foundation is the call for proportional representation. The left have to get this, or face irrelevance. We can’t fix Britain on a broken and undemocratic state. We cant impose a 21st century socialism through a left Labour vanguard or a right Labour bureaucracy. The society we want has to be built with the people – the vast majority of them. Anyway, the days of left-wing majority governments have come and gone. We live in the complexity of multi-party politics. We must adapt to it or die. 

If the Labour leadership insists on standing a candidate, then the claims to a new kind of politics turn to dust. Its just the same old politics – which isn’t working for anyone but the Tories. 

It is not against party rules to not stand a candidate – it is to promote a candidate from another party. So the way is clear. And while such an arrangement can't just be imposed on local parties, our national leaders, in all the progressive parties, have a duty to lead and be brave. Some in Labour, like Lisa Nandy, Clive Lewis and Jonathan Reynolds, are already being brave.

We can wake up the Friday after the Richmond Park by-election to Goldsmith's beaming smile. Or we can wake up smiling ourselves – knowing we did what it took to beat the Tories, and kickstart the democratic and political revolution this country so desperately needs.


Neal Lawson is chair of the pressure group Compass, which brings together progressives from all parties and none. His views on internal Labour matters are personal ones.