Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Falkirk has revealed the rotten state of all our political parties (Guardian)

Falling membership has allowed small cliques to control our politics, writes John Harris. It's a failed model, but the powerful like it that way.

2. This attack on Labour’s union links must not succeed (Independent)

These union-bashers are beholden to private interests, and want Labour to be, too, says Owen Jones.

3. Abu Qatada’s case shows the human rights system works (Times)

Could you bear your country sending a man to a torture chamber, asks Adam Wagner. 

4. Weary US consumer shoulders a big load (Financial Times)

With China slowing, Europe still stuck and Japan in doubt, America has a heroic task, says Edward Luce.

5. Andy Murray: a victory which is his alone (Guardian)

He referred to himself as a British champion while Alex Salmond rather unnecessarily waved the saltire from the royal box, notes a Guardian editorial.

6. Who wants a PM who has no fight in him? (Times)

In dealing with unions Ed Miliband settled for a quiet life, writes Tim Montgomerie. But voters won’t stand for high taxes and a bloated state.

7. We British go out of our way to avoid using the word ‘Muslim’ (Independent)

If reporters avoid using the word, we also risk missing out on the positive side of religious identity, says Robert Fisk. 

8. As Britain dithers, the rest of the world is getting things done (Daily Telegraph)

Our great projects are being stalled by endless consultations and grinding bureaucracy, writes Boris Johnson.

9. What makes a 'real African'? (Guardian)

Too often the continent's writers are quizzed about their identity rather than the world they create, says Maaza Mengiste. 

10. Help business by taxing  profits abroad (Financial Times)

The US should eliminate the distinction between foreign corporate profits, writes Lawrence Summers.

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Emily Thornberry heckled by Labour MPs as tensions over Trident erupt

Shadow defence secretary's performance at PLP meeting described as "risible" and "cringeworthy". 

"There's no point trying to shout me down" shadow defence secretary Emily Thornberry declared midway through tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting. Even by recent standards, the 70-minute gathering was remarkably fractious (with PLP chair John Cryer at one point threatening to halt it). Addressing MPs and peers for the first time since replacing Maria Eagle, Thornberry's performance did nothing to reassure Trident supporters. 

The Islington South MP, who voted against renewal in 2007, said that the defence review would be "wide-ranging" and did not take a position on the nuclear question (though she emphasised it was right to "question" renewal). She vowed to listen to colleagues as well as taking "expert advice" and promised to soon visit the Barrow construction site. But MPs' anger was remorseless. Former shadow defence minister Kevan Jones was one of the first to emerge from Committee Room 14. "Waffly and incoherent, cringeworthy" was his verdict. Another Labour MP told me: "Risible. Appalling. She compared Trident to patrolling the skies with spitfires ... It was embarrassing." A party source said afterwards that Thornberry's "spitfire" remark was merely an observation on changing technology. 

"She was talking originally in that whole section about drones. She'd been talking to some people about drones and it was apparent that it was absolutely possible, with improving technology, that large submarines could easily be tracked, detected and attacked by drones. She said it is a question of keeping your eye on new technology ... We don't have the spitfires of the 21st century but we do have some quite old planes, Tornadoes, but they've been updated with modern technology and modern weaponry." 

Former first sea lord and security minister Alan West complained, however, that she had failed to understand how nuclear submarines worked. "Physics, basic physics!" he cried as he left. Asked how the meeting went, Neil Kinnock, who as leader reversed Labour's unilateralist position in 1989, simply let out a belly laugh. Thornberry herself stoically insisted that it went "alright". But a shadow minister told me: "Emily just evidently hadn't put in the work required to be able to credibly address the PLP - totally humiliated. Not by the noise of the hecklers but by the silence of any defenders, no one speaking up for her." 

Labour has long awaited the Europe split currently unfolding among the Tories. But its divide on Trident is far worse. The majority of its MPs are opposed to unilateral disarmament and just seven of the shadow cabinet's 31 members share Jeremy Corbyn's position. While Labour MPs will be given a free vote when the Commons votes on Trident renewal later this year (a fait accompli), the real battle is to determine the party's manifesto stance. 

Thornberry will tomorrow address the shadow cabinet and, for the first time this year, Corbyn will attend the next PLP meeting on 22 February. Both will have to contend with a divide which appears unbridgeable. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.