Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Do people get Osborne and co yet? Even Thatcher wouldn't have gone this far (Guardian)

Many still don't realise how far this government is bent on dismantling the public realm, says Polly Toynbee. Labour has to show us a way out.

2. Our fortunes rest on the Bank’s great money-printing machine (Daily Telegraph)

There were two Budgets delivered this week – and it’s the second one involving the Bank of England that really matters, says Fraser Nelson.

3. Homes ruse will not rebuild the economy (Financial Times)

The market cannot sensibly finance such high loan-to-value ratios, says Martin Wolf.

4. Osborne should stick to what he does best . . . (Times)

... and that’s not being Chancellor, says Philip Collins. This government badly needs a full-time political strategist to stop the rot.

5. Barack Obama's mission for Israel (Guardian)

The US president has learned from his first-year follies, writes Aluf Benn. But are we Israelis smart enough to listen to his message?

6. If Cyprus falls into Putin's grip, the West will have lost the first battle in the new Cold War (Daily Mail)

The Russian president sees the humiliation of the hated west as the prime goal in his desire to restore his country's greatness, writes Edward Lucas.

7. Erdogan should pursue lasting truce with the PKK (Independent)

The conflict between Turkey's government and its Kurdish population will only get worse if no agreement is reached, writes Patrick Cockburn. A ceasefire might last this time.

8. Middle East needs more than fine words (Financial Times)

John Kerry’s good intentions are worthless if the US president is not ready to take risks, writes Philip Stephens.

9. An ambiguous Archbishop (Independent)

Dr Welby knows that changing views within the Anglican Communion is akin to turning an oil tanker, says an Independent editorial.

10. George Osborne's sugar pills won't heal the pain, but Julia Gillard's may (Guardian)

The placebo effect has its place beyond medicine – as long as those who soothe us do so with our best interests at heart, writes Gaby Hinsliff.

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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