Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Tell them less, Ed. You'll only scare them (Times)

Matthew Parris doubts the Labour leader knows what he'd do in power and advises him to stay quiet about it.

2. David Cameron's lonely ministers have been abandoned (Daily Telegraph)

Charles Moore joins the chorus lamenting panic and cowardice in the No.10 machine.

3. Pope Benedict has to answer for his failure on child abuse (Guardian)

The retiring pontiff needs to be held to account - in this life, not the next - writes Jonathan Freedland.

4. The Liberal Democrats are the only fair tax party (Guardian)

Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander is unimpressed by Labour's late conversion to a Mansion Tax, among other things.

5. The horsemeat scandal shows how well our system works (Times)

A bit of rogue filly in the filet? No harm done, says Emma Duncan.

6. One more shambles, George, and you can kiss goodbye to the next election. (Daily Mail

Simon Heffer leans menacingly over the Chancellor as he does his fiscal homework.

7. More policies, Ed, you've misunderstood history (Independent)

By the equivalent stage in opposition, Blair and Brown had way more to say, according to Andrew Grice.

8. I have not felt the wrath of a special advisor - until this week (Independent)

Richard Garner agrees with the view that Michale Gove's political operation is ferocious.

9. Cyber-skullduggery threatens us all (Financial Times)

Misha Glenny on the disturbing implications of hi-tech crime.

10. Look up to anyone, just not sportsmen (Independent)

Philip Hensher is unimpressed by our athletic role models.


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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

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