Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Cameron’s incurable European headache (Financial Times)

This is where the irresistible force of rising Tory europhobia meets the immovable object of geopolitical reality, writes Philip Stephens.

2. It’s too early for the Tories to assume defeat is inevitable in 2015 (Daily Telegraph)

David Cameron could be a transformative leader if he had more faith in his power to change minds, says Fraser Nelson.

3. Algeria spills more blood (Guardian)

The violent end to this standoff is only the start of a new chapter in the country's savage history, writes Nabila Ramdani.

4. Don’t reject a referendum, Ed. Fast-track it (Times) (£)

The Labour leader should seize his chance to appeal to British business and voters, says Philip Collins. He must offer an in-out vote now.

5. Mali is not a global conflict. It doesn't require a global response (Independent)

The notion of a global threat from a revived al-Qa'ida should be familiar by now; it's the same flawed reasoning the led the US to launch its "war against terror", says Adrian Hamilton.

6. A living wage, or a much higher minimum wage, is worth paying (Daily Telegraph)

As City profits soar, the low-skilled, service areas of the economy continue to suffer a fall in income, writes Jeremy Warner. Radical action might avoid a social catastrophe.

7. A funny way of firing up the locomotive (Financial Times)

Now and in the interwar period, austerity policies have often failed in their own terms as they have made deficits worse, writes Samuel Brittan.

8. Mr Cameron and the speech that never was (Daily Mail)

The Prime Minister is confronting one of the most crucial issues of our times while Ed Miliband has nothing useful to say, argues a Daily Mail editorial.

9. Hugh Gaitskell: New Labour's old roots (Guardian)

Tony Blair never acknowledged the influence of his most like-minded predecessor, who died 50 years ago this week, says a Guardian editorial.

10. Why today’s American presidents need a third term (Independent)

There are compelling reasons why two four-year terms may not be enough for a competent and popular US president today, writes Mary Dejevsky.

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.