Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The left should learn about plain speaking from George Galloway (Independent)

The right is better at communicating because it uses stories so much, writes Owen Jones.

2. All good Tories should support a mansion tax (Times) 

The job of a pro-free market party should not be unquestioningly to defend the interests of the super-rich, says Tim Montgomerie.

3. Why the free market fundamentalists think 2013 will be the best year ever (Guardian)

As communists once did, today's capitalists blame any failures on their system being 'impurely' applied, writes Slavoj Žižek.

4. Obama is right to resist the Syria hawks (Financial Times)

The president’s lack of diplomatic creativity, rather than his sense of caution, is his real Achilles heel, says Edward Luce.

5. We shouted loudest over Sri Lanka’s abuses. Three years on and we’re arming the regime (Independent)

No matter how much red tape we put in place, we have no control over how such weaponry is used, writes Jerome Taylor.

6. Politicians and income tax: 10p or not 10p - that is the irrelevant question (Guardian)

Politicians of all parties often claim income tax cuts are the solution to many problems, but true progressives need to be much smarter, says a Guardian editorial.

7. Europe’s budget deal is flawed (Financial Times)

I cannot and will not accept what amount to unbalanced budgets, writes the president of the EU parliament, Martin Schulz.

8. I'd be overjoyed if this was the end of the foreign criminals fiasco- but don't hold your breath (Daily Mail)

Theresa May is just tinkering with the detail of human rights law, says Melanie Phillips. 

9. Labour shows its true colours with this spiteful tax on homes (Daily Telegraph)

If the two Eds get their way, an Englishman’s home will not be a castle, but a leaky ruin, says Boris Johnson.

The Tories aren't meant to be the nice party, they are meant to be the competent party, writes Geoffrey Wheatcroft.

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Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.