Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. On Europe, David Cameron is in danger of making himself a laughing stock (Guardian)

After Michael Gove's intervention, the question of an EU referendum has never been more serious for Cameron, writes Tim Bale.

2. Red Ed’s only hope...new ‘Blue Labour’ (Sun)

Ed Miliband’s party already has a tailor-made set of beliefs that tackle head on the alienation and anger behind the UKIP, writes Tom Newton Dunn.

3. Be warned George Osborne: more home owners just really means higher unemployment (Independent)

An increase in people acquiring property cuts labour mobility and the number of new firms, warns David Blanchflower.

4. The Bible Belt is becoming a force for good (Times)

Ignore the caricatures, says Tim Montgomerie. American Christianity is pushing the Republican elite to be more Walmart than Wall Street.

5. We must be ready to leave the EU if we don’t get what we want (Daily Telegraph)

There are pros and cons to staying in Europe – and it’s time to talk about them, says Boris Johnson.

6. Is Labour ready to turn the state upside down in 2015? (Guardian)

The party's policy review suggests fundamental changes to the public sector – to square the circle of cuts and growth, writes John Harris.

7. Cameron must show how arming Syria's opposition would secure a lasting peace (Independent)

Neither arming the rebels nor military strikes can guarantee peace in a country where sectarian, tribal and democratic impulses are all present, writes Douglas Alexander.

8. Lawson is right about the UK and Europe (Financial Times)

A departure need not be a disaster if the terms are negotiated with skill, writes Wolfgang Münchau.

9. Tory Euro shambles lets Labour off hook (Daily Mail)

Labour and the Lib Dems are escaping scrutiny of their own hopelessly out-of-touch positions, says a Daily Mail editorial.

10. Appeasing the Taleban would be a fatal error (Times)

The militants regard peace talks as weakness, writes Anatol Lieven. Pakistan’s new leaders must fight or surrender.

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It's not WhatsApp that was at fault in the Westminster attacks. It's our prisons

Britain's criminal justice system neither deterred nor rehabilitated Khalid Masood, and may even have facilitated his radicalisation. 

The dust has settled, the evidence has been collected and the government has decided who is to blame for the attack on Westminster. That’s right, its WhatsApp and their end-to-end encryption of messages. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, wants tech companies to install a backdoor into messages like these that the government can then access.

There are a couple of problems here, not least that Adrian Russell aka Khalid Masood was known to the security services but considered to be low-risk. Even if the government had had the ability to gain entry to his WhatsApp, they wouldn’t have used it. Then there’s the fact that end-to-end encryption doesn’t just protect criminals and terrorists – it protects users from criminals and terrorists. Any backdoor will be vulnerable to attack, not only from our own government and foreign powers, but by non-state actors including fraudsters, and other terrorists.

(I’m parking, also, the question of whether these are powers that should be handed to any government in perpetuity, particularly one in a country like Britain’s, where near-unchecked power is handed to the executive as long as it has a parliamentary majority.)

But the biggest problem is that there is an obvious area where government policy failed in the case of Masood: Britain’s prisons system.

Masood acted alone though it’s not yet clear if he was merely inspired by international jihadism – that is, he read news reports, watched their videos on social media and came up with the plan himself – or he was “enabled” – that is, he sought out and received help on how to plan his attack from the self-styled Islamic State.

But what we know for certain is that he was, as is a recurring feature of the “radicalisation journey”, in possession of a string of minor convictions from 1982 to 2002 and that he served jail time. As the point of having prisons is surely to deter both would-be offenders and rehabilitate its current occupants so they don’t offend again, Masood’s act of terror is an open-and-shut case of failure in the prison system. Not only he did prison fail to prevent him committing further crimes, he went on to commit one very major crime.  That he appears to have been radicalised in prison only compounds the failure.

The sad thing is that not so very long ago a Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice was thinking seriously about prison and re-offending. While there was room to critique some of Michael Gove’s solutions to that problem, they were all a hell of a lot better than “let’s ban WhatsApp”. 

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