Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The fracking dream which is putting Britain's future at risk (Observer)
George Osborne believes shale gas to be a bonaza of cheap energy. Where's the evidence? asks Andrew Rawnsley

2. How will the economy do? It's anybody's guess (Independent on Sunday)
Forecasters are always wrong, writes John Rentoul

3. George vs Ed: knock yourself out boys (Sunday Times)
The true political contest is between Balls and Osborne, writes Martin Ivens

4. The royal prank shows we're quick to judge, but slow to learn (Observer)
The tragic death of Jacintha Saldanha has highlighted a lack of compassion at too many levels, writes Yvonne Roberts

5. Nurse Russell knows what's killing the NHS (Sunday Times)
At last, the NHS has accepted that compassion is lacking from its wards, writes Jenni Russell

6. The NHS was forged from care, not box-ticking (Independent on Sunday)
The answer is not more targets or managers, says Paul Vallely

7. Fairness is at the heart of Osborne's radical strategy (Sunday Telegraph)
Voters may hate "scroungers", but they would recoil from cuts to benefits for those in work, says Matthew d'Ancona

8. Dave unveils his secret weapon: the welfare wedge (Mail on Sunday)
The Conservatives are starting to look towards the next election, says James Forsyth

9. End the drift in our relationship with Europe (Sunday Telegraph)
David Cameron needs to take charge, says the leader

10. This isn't the time to yield on drug laws (Mail on Sunday)
An impartial inquiry into drug law would be welcome, says the paper's leader

 

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.