Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Cameron's absurd behaviour over EU membership (Guardian)

Placing a question mark over Britain's European Union membership and its benefits is economically disastrous, says Peter Mandelson

2. US joins misguided pursuit of austerity (Financial Times)

Governments have pushed themselves into a corner where austerity is the default choice, writes Wolfgang Münchau.

3. The PM should have more respect for Ukip (Daily Telegraph)

It is counterproductive for Cameron to mock voters who don’t want a Miliband government, argues Paul Goodman.

4. The Tories intend going on and on. Labour needs a radical alternative (Independent)

A Tory government at a time of economic crisis is a national tragedy, says Owen Jones. Cameron’s hopes of another term must be destroyed.

5. Tea Party’s moment of maximum leverage (Financial Times)

The question is whether they dive into their own political abyss in unison or in pieces, says Edward Luce.

6. What a relief! The madness of child benefit for all ends today (Daily Telegraph)

It makes no sense for the affluent middle classes to be showered with taxpayers’ cash, says Boris Johnson.

7. There is no soft option for our leaders now (Times) (£)

Cameron and Clegg should tell us that austerity is a necessary evil, writes Tim Montgomerie. Just look at the French ‘alternative’.

8. The Tory crisis that's keeping Balls smirking (Daily Mail)

The Conservatives can’t find a candidate to stand against Ed Balls at the next election, writes Andrew Pierce.

9. Westminster and welfare: the politics of 'them and us' (Guardian)

Over the second half of this parliament, ministers will have a hard time keeping up an increasingly false distinction, says a Guardian editorial.

10. We are wallowing in Labour’s debt so why is Ed blocking cuts? (Sun)

As long as Miliband continues to stay silent on how to cut his government’s debt, he has no right to suggest voters must spend more, writes Trevor Kavanagh.

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Jeremy Corbyn fares well in his toughest interview yet

Labour will be relieved that Corbyn's encounter with Andrew Neil was less painful than Theresa May's. 

Jeremy Corbyn's half-hour BBC1 interview with Andrew Neil was the toughest grilling he has faced since becoming Labour leader. Neil sought to cause Corbyn maximum discomfort by confronting him with his past views on the IRA, NATO and Trident (which he never anticipated having to defend from his current position). 

"I didn't support the IRA, I don't support the IRA," Corbyn said in response to the first. After Neil countered that Corbyn "invited convicted IRA terrorists to tea in the Commons a few weeks after the Brighton bomb," the Labour leader replied: "I never met the IRA. I obviously did meet people from Sinn Fein" (a distinction without a difference, some will say). But after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, Corbyn is aided by the reduced toxicity of the subject (New Labour dealt with terrorists) and the fact that for some voters, the young most of all, "the troubles" are a distant memory.

NATO, Neil recalled, had been described by Corbyn as "'a very dangerous Frankenstein of an organisation', 'a danger to world peace'. Two years ago you said it should be 'wound up'." It is to Corbyn's credit, in some respects, that he struggles to disguise his sincere views, and he did on this occasion. "NATO exists," he observed at one point, eventually conceding after much prodding: "I will be a committed member of that alliance in order to promote peace, justice, human rights and democracy". But nearly 30 years after the end of the Cold War, the subject will seem esoteric to many voters.

Trident, however, is another matter. "My views on nuclear weapons are well-known," Corbyn correctly noted, making it clear that the Labour manifesto committed to full renewal against his wishes. "I voted against the renewal," he said. "Everybody knows that because I wanted to go in a different direction." That the opposition is divided on such a profound issue - and that Corbyn's stance is at odd with the electorate's - is undoubtedly a drag on Labour's support.

But under forensic examination, Corbyn emerged stronger than many predicted. There were few moments of intemperance and no disastrous gaffes. Corbyn successfully dodged a question on whether Labour would cut immigration by replying that the numbers would "obviously reduce" if more workers were trained. Indeed, compared with Theresa May's painful encounter with Neil last Monday, Corbyn's team will be relieved by his performance. Though the Labour leader cannot escape his past, he avoided being trapped by it tonight. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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