Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Labour politics: the meh index (Guardian)

Miliband needs to find a persuasive alternative vision to the one Cameron has to begun to sketch out, says a Guardian editorial.

2. The left talks gibberish while Cameron racks up successes (Daily Telegraph)

After three years, the Tory-Lib Dem coalition’s daring reforms are starting to pay dividends, says Peter Oborne.

3. Cameron wants to reform the NHS. But it was his government that handed over the levers (Independent)

The labyrinthine management structures of the NHS and BBC stymie change, says Steve Richards.

4. Primary school tests follow the Piccadilly Circus rule (Guardian)

Wait long enough and every education policy comes round again, writes Peter Wilby. New exams for younger pupils is the latest example.

5. Britain's rentier society fit for a royal (Financial Times)

Never mind education, hard work or getting a good job – having the right ancestors matters, writes Chris Giles.

6. After Liverpool we need a better way of dying (Times)

My time on the review of the controversial ‘care pathway’ showed me how unprepared most of us are for our end, writes David Aaronovitch.

7. Unemployment: signs of recovery that leave too many behind (Independent)

With long-term joblessness on the rise, the auguries are far from promising, says an Independent editorial.

8. Does Whitehall need more party placemen? (Daily Telegraph)

Reform of the Civil Service is overdue, but its impartiality may be under threat, says Sue Cameron.

9. Ten years ago today, Dr Kelly's body was found. The subsequent cover-up is one of the great scandals of our age (Daily Mail)

We still do not know for certain why or how Dr Kelly died, writes Stephen Glover.

10.  A strong leader in Japan is not a minus (Financial Times)

Love him or loathe him, Abe is someone with whom his foreign counterparts can do business, writes David Pilling.

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PMQs review: Theresa May shows how her confidence has grown

After her Brexit speech, the PM declared of Jeremy Corbyn: "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue". 

The woman derided as “Theresa Maybe” believes she has neutralised that charge. Following her Brexit speech, Theresa May cut a far more confident figure at today's PMQs. Jeremy Corbyn inevitably devoted all six of his questions to Europe but failed to land a definitive blow.

He began by denouncing May for “sidelining parliament” at the very moment the UK was supposedly reclaiming sovereignty (though he yesterday praised her for guaranteeing MPs would get a vote). “It’s not so much the Iron Lady as the irony lady,” he quipped. But May, who has sometimes faltered against Corbyn, had a ready retort. The Labour leader, she noted, had denounced the government for planning to leave the single market while simultaneously seeking “access” to it. Yet “access”, she went on, was precisely what Corbyn had demanded (seemingly having confused it with full membership). "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue,” she declared.

When Corbyn recalled May’s economic warnings during the referendum (“Does she now disagree with herself?”), the PM was able to reply: “I said if we voted to leave the EU the sky would not fall in and look at what has happened to our economic situation since we voted to leave the EU”.

Corbyn’s subsequent question on whether May would pay for single market access was less wounding than it might have been because she has consistently refused to rule out budget contributions (though yesterday emphasised that the days of “vast” payments were over).

When the Labour leader ended by rightly hailing the contribution immigrants made to public services (“The real pressure on public services comes from a government that slashed billions”), May took full opportunity of the chance to have the last word, launching a full-frontal attack on his leadership and a defence of hers. “There is indeed a difference - when I look at the issue of Brexit or any other issues like the NHS or social care, I consider the issue, I set out my plan and I stick to it. It's called leadership, he should try it some time.”

For May, life will soon get harder. Once Article 50 is triggered, it is the EU 27, not the UK, that will take back control (the withdrawal agreement must be approved by at least 72 per cent of member states). With MPs now guaranteed a vote on the final outcome, parliament will also reassert itself. But for now, May can reflect with satisfaction on her strengthened position.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.