Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Why the world faces climate chaos (Financial Times)

We will watch the rise in greenhouse gases until it is too late to do anything about it, writes Martin Wolf.

2. Will Ed Miliband be the Doctor Who of politics? (Daily Telegraph)

Labour must decide its policy on welfare soon or be forced to dance to the Chancellor’s tune, says Mary Riddell.

3. A Tory-led Europe exit would unleash a carnival of reaction (Guardian)

The nationalist right has long set the agenda, writes Seumas Milne. Labour should back a referendum and make the progressive case.

4. Which part of your manifesto is for real? (Times)

Politicians will be pressed to say which of their promises are non-negotiable in the event of another coalition, writes Daniel Finkelstein.

5. Cameron and his party conspire to create a European shambles (Daily Telegraph)

The Prime Minister’s concessions over the EU referendum have eroded his authority, says Iain Martin.

6. Data geeks are going to change the way we live (Times)

Clever information will cut crime, reduce surgery costs and create billions of new wealth, says Stephan Shakespeare.

7. The UK could reshape the EU if it would only try (Financial Times)

Political leaders must show they want and expect to stay in the EU, writes Charles Grant.

8. This rebellion is Cameron's Maastricht. He should have seen it coming (Guardian)

Every Tory leader should expect a revolt over Europe, writes Melissa Kite. But this time the rebels' anger goes much deeper.

9. Afghan exit - or is it a very long goodbye? (Daily Mail)

The US appetite for interference on a global scale continues to unsettle the world, writes Andrew Alexander.

10. The awful prevalence of grooming gangs (Independent)

Such crimes would be distressing enough in isolation, says an Independent editorial. What is worse is that the authorities could have done something about them so much earlier.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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