Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The scandal of millions not paid enough to live on (Observer)

Archbishop of York John Sentamu takes a stand on low wages.

2. Parliament needs to wake up about banking (Sunday Telegraph)

Liam Halligan wonders how vital reform of the financial sector has been shunted into the political silly season.

3. Ignore the hype, Britain's recovery is a fantasy (Observer)

A pitiful rise in GDP is nothing to celebrate. The economy is weak and dysfunctional, says Will Hutton.

4. The Tories are smiling but their problems haven't gone away (Observer)

Andrew Rawnsley finds Conservatives lurching from extreme despair to irrational exuberance.

5. On Trident, we're still fighting the Cold War (Independent on Sunday)

Danny Alexander restates the Lib Dem position of nuclear deterrance-lite, although he doesn't call it that.  

6. David Cameron, social reformer, takes on the web pornographers (Sunday Telegraph)

Matthew D'Ancona casts the Prime Minister as a moral crusader for the digital age.

7. David Cameron listens to Sam. Pity he won't give more women jobs. (Observer)

Gender descrimination is rife at Westminster, writes Catherine Bennett.

8. Google is a good target for Ed Miliband, Lynton Crosby isn't (Independent on Sunday)

Pick fights with people the voters have heard of, advises John Rentoul.

9. The Crosby show rekindles Tory fighting spirit (Sunday Times)

Adam Boulton joins the chorus of admiration for the galvanising powers of David Cameron's campaign strategist ...

10. The scandal of David Cameron's new spin doctor (Sunday Mirror)

... while John Prescott is unimpressed.

 

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Scottish Labour's defeat to the Tories confirms a political transformation

The defining divide is no longer between left and right but between unionist and nationalist.

It was Scotland where Labour's recovery was supposed to begin. Jeremy Corbyn's allies predicted that his brand of left-wing, anti-austerity politics would dent the SNP's hegemony. After becoming leader, Corbyn pledged that winning north of the border would be one of his greatest priorities. 

But in the first major elections of his leadership, it has proved to be Labour's greatest failure. A result that was long thought unthinkable has come to pass: the Conservatives have finished second (winning 31 seats). For the first time since the 1910 election, Labour has finished third (winning 24). Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale stood on a left-wing platform, outflanking the SNP on tax (pledging to raise the top rate to 50p and increase the basic rate by 1p), promising to spend more on public services and opposing the renewal of Trident. But rather than advancing, the party merely retreated.

Its fate confirms how Scottish politics has been realigned. The defining divide is no longer between left and right but between unionist and nationalist. With the SNP as the only major pro-independence party, the Tories, led by the pugnacious Ruth Davidson, framed themselves as the pro-UK alternative - and prospered. In contrast, Dugdale refused to rule out supporting a second referendum and suggested that MPs and MSPs would be free to campaign for secession. The result was that Scottish Labour was left looking dangerously irrelevant. "Identity politics. Labour doesn't get it," a shadow minister told me. Its socialist pitch counted for little in a country that remains ideologically closer to England than thought. The SNP has lost its majority (denying it a mandate for a second referendum) - an outcome that the electoral system was always designed to make impossible. But its rule remains unthreatened. 

Corbyn's critics will seek to pin the baleful result on him. "We turned left and followed Jeremy's politics in Scotland, which far from solving our problems, pushed us into third," a senior opponent told me. But others will contend that a still more left-wing leader, such as Neil Findlay, is needed. Dugdale is personally supportive of Trident and was critical of Corbyn before his election. Should she be displaced, the party will be forced to elect its sixth leader in less than five years. But no one is so short-sighted as to believe that one person can revive the party's fortunes. Some Corbyn critics believe that a UK-wide recovery is a precondition of recovery north of the border. At this juncture, they say, SNP defectors would look anew at the party as they contemplate the role that Scottish MPs could play in a Westminster government. But under Corbyn, having become the first opposition to lose local election seats since 1985, it is yet further from power. 

In Scotland, the question now haunting Labour is not merely how it recovers - but whether it ever can. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.