Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The hidden truth of local cuts will soon be revealed (Guardian)

It is worse than under Margaret Thatcher, writes David Blunkett. As living standards fall and services are slashed, revolutionary fervour may return.

2. Until David Cameron learns to explain himself, voters will not trust him (Daily Telegraph)

Many natural Tories are losing faith in a party that appears to ignore their opinions, says Bruce Anderson.

3. Seismic events will shape the Middle East (Financial Times

The region offers no respite to international or local actors, writes David Gardner.

4. End this failed marriage of Church and State (Times) (£)

Even the Archbishop can see the benefits, writes Philip Collins. It’s Anglicans who have most to gain from disestablishment.

5. Welfare reform: history today (Guardian)

The newly released cabinet papers from the fourth year of the first Thatcher government are a prequel to the 2012 welfare reforms, says a Guardian editorial.

6. It's time for America to do the right thing (Daily Telegraph)

Economic stability appears to have been abandoned in favour of infighting and point-scoring over the "fiscal cliff", says a Telegraph editorial.

7. Why have the Tories rejected the spirit of 2012? (Independent)

The Conservatives’ new tactic is a betrayal of all that Cameron stood for when he became leader, writes Mary Ann Sieghart.

8. An apprenticeship will soon match all a degree has to offer (Daily Telegraph)

New routes are rapidly opening into valuable and highly paid professional careers, says Matthew Hancock.

9. Mr Clegg's contempt for democracy on EU (Daily Mail)

The deputy PM demonstrated how he remains as detached from the views of the electorate on Europe as ever, says a Daily Mail leader.

10. Why it's good to walk (Guardian

Strolling around the neighbourhood is an antidote to ignorance, and empowering too, says Lynsey Hanley.

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There's something missing from our counter-terrorism debate

The policy reckoning that occured after the 2005 terrorist attacks did not happen after the one in 2016. 

“Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department, says Wernher von Braun.” That satirical lyric about Nazi rocket scientists has come to mind more than few times watching various tech giants give testimony in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee, one of the underreported sub-plots of life at Westminster.

During their ongoing inquiry into hate crime in the United Kingdom, committee chair Yvette Cooper has found a staggering amount of hate speech being circulated freely on the largest and most profitable social media platform. Seperately, an ongoing investigation by the Times has uncovered how advertising revenue from Google and YouTube makes its way straight into the coffers of extremist groups, ranging from Islamist extremists to white supremacists and anti-Semites.

One of the many remarkable aspects of the inquiry has been the von Braunesque reaction by the movers and shakers at these tech companies. Once the ad revenue is handed out, who cares what it pays for? That’s not my department is the overwhelming message of much of the testimony.

The problem gains an added urgency now that the perpetrator of the Westminster attacks has been named as Khalid Masood, a British-born 52-year-old with a string of petty convictions across two decades from 1982 to 2002. He is of the same generation and profile as Thomas Mair, the white supremacist behind the last act of domestic terrorism on British shores, though Mair’s online radicalisation occurred on far-right websites, while Masood instead mimicked the methods of Isis attacks on the continent.  Despite that, both fitted many of the classic profiles of a “lone wolf” attack, although my colleague Amelia explains well why that term is increasingly outmoded.

One thing that some civil servants have observed is that it is relatively easy to get MPs to understand anti-terror measures based around either a form of electronic communication they use themselves – like text messaging or email, for instance – or a physical place which they might have in their own constituencies. But legislation has been sluggish in getting to grips with radicalisation online and slow at cutting off funding sources.

As I’ve written before, though there  are important differences between these two ideologies, the radicalisation journey is similar and tends to have the same staging posts: petty criminality, a drift from the fringes of respectable Internet sub-cultures to extremist websites, and finally violence.  We don’t yet know how closely Masood’s journey follows that pattern – but what is clear is that the policy rethink about British counter-terror after the July bombings in 2005 has yet to have an equivalent echo online. The success of that approach is shown in that these attacks are largely thwarted in the United Kingdom. But what needs to happen is a realisation that what happens when the rockets come down is very much the department of the world’s communication companies. 

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