Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Surveillance in the US and UK: Spreading national insecurity (Guardian)

Where legislatures and judges fail, whistleblowers keep open the only channel left for public accountability, says a Guardian editorial.

2. Erdogan is confronting a new Sixties spirit (Times)

European leaders can help the cause of reform by bringing Turkey into the EU fold, says Jack Straw.

3. Hail the honest about Greece's bailout (Financial Times)

The IMF’s admission is welcome but the hard part will be acting on it, says Wolfgang Münchau.

4. Ahmadinejad’s successor is supposed to be chosen by the people, not guardians (Independent)

This is not a real election for Iran but a competition between clerical favourites, writes Robert Fisk.

5. The People's Assembly will cohere the left - and finally give Labour some real competition (Independent)

The anti-austerity gathering will not only be a show of force, but a launchpad for a missing force in British politics, says Owen Jones.

6. At last, the parties get serious on spending (Daily Telegraph)

Ed Balls’s conversion over pension costs has thrown down the gauntlet to the Tories, says Andrew Haldenby.

7. Churches must fight to keep their freedom (Times)

The campaign against gay marriage was a mistake, writes Tim Montgomerie. Religious liberty itself is under threat from a new intolerance.

8. The bedroom tax has made huge problems even worse (Guardian)

The government's housing benefit changes are a mess, ramping up arrears and emptying out streets, writes John Harris. But what would Labour do differently?

9. Can Osborne defuse our debt timebomb? (Sun)

A nudge towards devaluation, without real evidence that the UK is serious about cutting debt, could trigger a full-blown currency crisis, writes Trevor Kavanagh. 

10. The proud moment when I realised I was worth hacking (Daily Telegraph)

A strange, late-night message confirmed my suspicions – internet privacy doesn’t exist, writes Boris Johnson.

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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