Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. For failed asylum seekers, life on section 4 is a nightmare worse than Kafka (Guardian)

Britain's ability to offer sanctuary is being stifled by a home secretary eager to back up her tough talk on human rights, says Zoe Williams. 

2. We must shine a light into our secret state's dark corners (Daily Telegraph)

Britain's complicity in torture must be disguised by the new Justice and Security Bill, says Peter Oborne.

3. The guilty secret behind a private education (Times) (£)

Why do public school heads feel hated? Because they offer an immoral advantage that is getting ever more exclusive, says David Aaronovitch.

4. Mali could make France governable (Financial Times)

Intervention may benefit the beleaguered François Hollande, writes Dominique Moisi.

5. Why fixed terms parliaments are a nightmare for leaders and a gift for rebel MPs (Independent)

Conservative MPs can plot and stir because the next election is still years away, writes Steve Richards.

6. Dangerous mission creep in Mali (Independent)

With barely a blink and certainly no debate in Parliament – nearly 400 British military personnel are to be sent to the region, notes an Independent leader.

7. The SAS: a very special force (Daily Telegraph)

Cameron has promised to increase rather than cut defence spending after 2015, writes Con Coughlin. That’s just as well, because he needs his special forces more than ever.

8. Theresa May has simply got on with the job of police reform (Guardian)

The home secretary has seen through serious reforms of the police that others dodged, says Martin Kettle. If her luck holds the rewards could be great.

9. Yes, Poles are wonderful, but for Tony Blair to be feted for letting them flood into Britain is a sick joke (Daily Mail)

Blair should receive a badge of dishonour for undermining British workers, weakening public services and ignoring the interests of his own people, says Stephen Glover.

10. Corporate tax posturing should stop (Financial Times)

Companies are complying with laws that governments could change if they wished, writes John Gapper.

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David Blunkett compares Labour membership to failed revolution “from Ukraine to Egypt”

The Labour peer and former home secretary says new members need a “meaningful political education”, and accuses unions of neglecting their “historic balance”.

There are three sorts of opposition. There’s the civil society opposition, with people campaigning in their own specific areas, people who’ve got an interest group or are delivering social enterprise or a charity. I don’t think we should underestimate that because we're going to have to hang on to it as part of the renewal of civil society.

The second is the opposition formally, within the House of Commons: those who have agreed to serve as the formal shadow ministerial teams. Because of what I’d describe as the turmoil over the last two years, they’ve either not been able to be impressive – ie. they’re trying very hard but they don't have the coherent leadership or backing to do it – or they’ve got completely different interests to what it is they’re supposed to be doing, and therefore they’re not engaged with the main task.

Then there’s the third, which is the informal opposition – Labour linked sometimes to the Lib Dems and the SNP in Parliament on the opposition benches as a whole. They’re not doing a bad job with the informal opposition. People getting on with their work on select committees, the departmental committees beginning to shape policy that they can hopefully feed to the National Executive Committee, depending on the make-up of the National Executive Committee following this year’s conference. That embryo development of coherent policy thinking will be the seed-bed for the future.

I lived through, worked through, and was integrally involved with, what happened in the early Eighties, so I know it well. And people were in despair after the ‘83 election. Although it took us a long time to pull round, we did. It’s one reason why so many people, quite rightly in my view, don't want to repeat the split of 1931 or the split of 1981.

So they are endeavouring to stay in to argue to have some vision of a better tomorrow, and to persuade those of goodwill who have joined the party – who genuinely believe in a social movement and in extra-parliamentary non-violent activity, which I respect entirely – to persuade them that they’ll only be effective if they can link up with a functioning political process at national level, and at townhall and county level as well.

In other words, to learn the lessons of what’s happened across the world recently as well as in the past, from the Ukraine to Egypt, that if the groundswell doesn’t connect to a functioning party leadership, then, with the best will in the world, it’s not going to achieve its overall goals.

How do we engage with meaningful political education within the broader Labour party and trade union movement, with the substantially increased rank-and-file membership, without being patronising – and without setting up an alternative to Momentum, which would allow Momentum to justify its existence as a party within a party?

That's the challenge of the next two years. It's not just about someone with a vision, who’s charismatic, has leadership qualities, coming forward, that in itself won’t resolve the challenge because this isn't primarily, exclusively about Jeremy Corbyn. This is about the project being entirely on the wrong trajectory.

A lot depends on what the trade unions do. They command effectively the majority on the National Executive Committee. They command the key votes at party conference. And they command the message and resources that go out on the policy or programmes. It’s not just down to personality and who wins the General Secretary of Unite; it’s what the other unions are doing to actually provide their historic balance, because they always have – until now – provided a ballast, foundation, for the Labour party, through thick and thin. And over the last two years, that historic role has diminished considerably, and they seem to just be drifting.

I don’t think anybody should expect there to be a party leadership challenge any time soon. It may be that Jeremy Corbyn might be persuaded at some point to stand down. I was against the challenge against him last year anyway, purely because there wasn't a prepared candidate, there wasn't a policy platform, and there hadn’t been a recruitment drive to back it up.

People shouldn’t expect there to be some sort of white charger out there who will bring an immediate and quick end to the pain we’re going through. I think it’s going to be a readjustment, with people coming to conclusions in the next two years that might lead the party to be in a position to fight a credible general election in 2020. I’ve every intention of laying down some good red wine and still being alive to drink it when the Labour party is elected back to power.

David Blunkett is a Labour peer and former home secretary and education secretary.

As told to Anoosh Chakelian.

This article first appeared in the 30 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Wanted: an opposition