Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. There's no need for all this economic sadomasochism (Guardian)

If Reinhart and Rogoff's 'error' has discredited the prevailing policy dogma, now is the time for an alternative that works, says David Graeber.

2. Our shameful hierarchy - some deaths matter more than others (Independent)

Why is the slaughter in Boston more shocking or newsworthy than the deaths in Iraq, asks Owen Jones.

3. To beat the Left, Tories must aim for its heart (Times)

It is not enough to win the policy argument, says Tim Montgomerie. Conservatives need to show their thinking has a moral dimension too.

4. Case for a Little England stance on Syria (Financial Times)

Heed the lessons from interventions that turned bad, writes Max Hastings.

5. Atrocities such as the Boston bombing are hard to tackle, but gun crime isn't (Guardian)

The greatest threat to US citizens is not one-off terror attacks, but the menace that comes with mass gun-ownership, says Gary Younge.

6. It’s hard to tell jihad from immature rage (Times)

The Boston bombers may have been driven more by a warped desire for notoriety than by real fanaticism, writes Gaby Hinsliff.

7. We can’t afford to ignore our dynamic friends in the East (Daily Telegraph)

The Gulf is booming, its people love Britain and they want to invest here, writes Boris Johnson. Let’s encourage them.

8. Labour and Scotland: a tie that binds (Guardian)

If the rhetoric of one nation is to mean something, much is to be said for caution over cutting such a strong link, says a Guardian editorial. 

9. IMF boss turns on the Chancellor to hide her own sins (Daily Mail)

Lagarde and the IMF are engaged in a huge effort to play down, or at least distract attention from, the catastrophic state of economic affairs in France – and indeed the eurozone as a whole, says Alex Brummer. 

10. The wrong way on child poverty (Independent)

More discussion about definitions of poverty would be welcome, says an Independent editorial. But it must not become an excuse for cynically moving the goalposts.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Why Theresa May can't end speculation of an early general election

Both Conservative and Labour MPs regard a contest next year as the solution to their problems. 

One of Theresa May’s first acts as a Conservative leadership candidate was to rule out an early general election. After a tumultuous 2015 contest and the EU referendum, her view was that the country required a period of stability (a view shared by voters). Many newly-elected Tory MPs, fearful of a Brexit-inspired Ukip or Liberal Democrat surge, supported her on this condition.

After entering Downing Street, May reaffirmed her stance. “The Prime Minister could not have been clearer,” a senior source told me. “There won’t be an early election.” Maintaining this pledge is an important part of May’s straight-talking image.

But though No.10 has wisely avoided publicly contemplating an election (unlike Gordon Brown), the question refuses to die. The Conservatives have a majority of just 12 - the smallest of any single-party government since 1974 - and, as David Cameron found, legislative defeats almost inevitably follow. May’s vow to lift the ban on new grammar schools looks to many like an unachievable task. Former education secretary Nicky Morgan and former business minister Anna Soubry are among the Tories leading the charge against the measure (which did not feature in the 2015 Conservative manifesto).  

To this problem, an early election appears to be the solution. The Tories retain a substantial opinion poll lead over Labour, the most divided opposition in recent history. An election victory would give May the mandate for new policies that she presently lacks.

“I don’t believe Theresa May wishes to hold an early election which there is evidence that the country doesn’t want and which, given the current state of the Labour Party, might be seen as opportunistic,” Nigel Lawson told today’s Times“If, however, the government were to find that it couldn’t get its legislation through the House of Commons, then a wholly new situation would arise.”

It is not only Conservatives who are keeping the possibility of an early election alive. Many Labour MPs are pleading for one in the belief that it would end Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. An early contest would also pre-empt the boundary changes planned in 2018, which are forecast to cost the party 23 seats.

For Corbyn, the possibility of an election is a vital means of disciplining MPs. Allies also hope that the failed revolt against his leadership, which Labour members blame for the party’s unpopularity, would allow him to remain leader even if defeated.

Unlike her predecessors, May faces the obstacle of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (under which the next election will be on 7 May 2020). Yet it is not an insurmountable one. The legislation can be suspended with the backing of two-thirds of MPs, or through a vote of no confidence in the government. Alternatively, the act could simply be repealed or amended. Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who have demanded an early election, would struggle to resist May if she called their bluff.

To many, it simply looks like an offer too good to refuse. Which is why, however hard May swats this fly, it will keep coming back. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.