Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Miliband and Clegg's relationship is starting to thaw (Observer)

There has been a notable political climate change behind the scenes, with the Lib Dem and Labour leaders spending more time together, writes Andrew Rawnsley.

2. 'War on terror' is a tempting defence, but it isn't that simple (Independent on Sunday)

We must understand the strange alliances in Mali to unravel its complex, conflicting loyalties, says Patrick Cockburn.

3. David Cameron had to tackle the future before the past (Sunday Telegraph)

Al-Qaeda and its affiliates mutate faster than we work out how to defeat them, writes Matthew d'Ancona.

4. Dave puts EU policy in the hands of his indulgent auntie (Mail on Sunday)

Angela Merkel wants to keep Cameron in the EU family but her willingness to indulge him is not infinite, writes James Forsyth.

5. Scottish independence is fast becoming the only option (Observer)

Even to a unionist like me, an Alex Salmond-led government is preferable to one that rewards greed and corruption, says Kevin McKenna.

6. Obama’s handed them the rope. Will Iran or Israel hang itself first? (Sunday Times) (£)

If the US were slowly to distance itself from Jerusalem, Israelis may have second thoughts about their swerve to the extreme, writes Andrew Sullivan.

7. Will practice make perfect for the PM? (Independent on Sunday)

Cameron's response to the Algeria hostage crisis fitted fluently into an interventionist foreign policy, says John Rentoul.

8. Bankers must behave - or be shackled (Mail on Sunday)

Even the near-collapse of the world financial system has not curbed this sector’s bad habits, says a Mail on Sunday editorial.

9. British fair play lies dead and buried (Observer)

In the sporting arena and in other areas of our national life, gentlemanly conduct is now an alien concept, writes Nick Cohen.

10. Norway's 'fax democracy' is nothing for Britain to fear (Sunday Telegraph)

Britain might exercise more influence over the European single market outside the EU than in it, says Christopher Booker.

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Commons Confidential: What happened at Tom Watson's birthday party?

Finances, fair and foul – and why Keir Starmer is doing the time warp.

Keir Starmer’s comrades mutter that a London seat is an albatross around the neck of the ambitious shadow Brexit secretary. He has a decent political CV: he was named after Labour’s first MP, Keir Hardie; he has a working-class background; he was the legal champion of the McLibel Two; he had a stint as director of public prosecutions. The knighthood is trickier, which is presumably why he rarely uses the title.

The consensus is that Labour will seek a leader from the north or the Midlands when Islington’s Jeremy Corbyn jumps or is pushed under a bus. Starmer, a highly rated frontbencher, is phlegmatic as he navigates the treacherous Brexit waters. “I keep hoping we wake up and it’s January 2016,” he told a Westminster gathering, “and we can have another run. Don’t we all?” Perhaps not everybody. Labour Remoaners grumble that Corbyn and particularly John McDonnell sound increasingly Brexitastic.

To Tom Watson’s 50th birthday bash at the Rivoli Ballroom in south London, an intact 1950s barrel-vaulted hall generous with the velvet. Ed Balls choreographed the “Gangnam Style” moves, and the Brockley venue hadn’t welcomed so many politicos since Tony Blair’s final Clause IV rally 22 years ago. Corbyn was uninvited, as the boogying deputy leader put the “party” back into the Labour Party. The thirsty guests slurped the free bar, repaying Watson for 30 years of failing to buy a drink.

One of Westminster’s dining rooms was booked for a “Decent Chaps Lunch” by Labour’s Warley warrior, John Spellar. In another room, the Tory peer David Willetts hosted a Christmas reception on behalf of the National Centre for Universities and Business. In mid-January. That’s either very tardy or very, very early.

The Labour Party’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, is a financial maestro, having cleared the £25m debt that the party inherited from the Blair-Brown era. Now I hear that he has squirrelled away a £6m war chest as insurance against Theresa May gambling on an early election. Wisely, the party isn’t relying on Momentum’s fractious footsloggers.

The word in Strangers’ Bar is that the Welsh MP Stephen Kinnock held his own £200-a-head fundraiser in London. Either the financial future of the Aberavon Labour Party is assured, or he fancies a tilt at the top job.

Dry January helped me recall a Labour frontbencher explaining why he never goes into the Commons chamber after a skinful: “I was sitting alongside a colleague clearly refreshed by a liquid lunch. He intervened and made a perfectly sensible point without slurring. Unfortunately, he stood up 20 minutes later and repeated the same point, word for word.”

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era