Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The rush to judgment on Syria is a catastrophic and deadly error (Daily Telegraph)

Britain and America show contempt for the lessons of the past in pressing for action, says Peter Oborne. 

2. Today Ed Miliband can speak for Britain on Syria (Guardian)

The UK parliament has more power than many realise, writes Martin Kettle. A Labour leader told to show boldness now has a chance to so.

3. Cameron risks a war with his own party (Daily Mail)

Despite his bellicose rhetoric, there are also serious reservations over the Prime Minister’s chosen course of action among his own cabinet ministers, writes Simon Heffer. 

4. The Syrian regime cannot use chemical weapons without being punished (Guardian)

If, as seems certain, the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons there is no choice but to take military action with or without a UN mandate, says Malcolm Rifkind. 

5. We need regime change, not a wrist slap (Times)

‘Punitive strikes’ don’t work, writes Roger Boyes. The only way to protect the suffering Syrian people is to rid them of Bashar Assad.

6. Syria - not quite like the run-up to Iraq... but not that different either (Independent)

The contrast ceases when it comes to the evasive justifications for military intervention, writes Steve Richards.

7. If our MPs still have any doubts, they've a moral duty to vote no (Daily Mail)

MPs should be asking themselves today and over the coming weekend if there’s a danger that attacking Syria will cause more suffering than it can possibly prevent, says a Daily Mail editorial.

8. Even if Assad used chemical weapons, the west has no mandate to act as a global policeman (Guardian)

By ordering air strikes against Syria without UN security council support, Obama will be doing the same as Bush in 2003, writes Hans Blix.

9. Without HS2 our railways will be full to bursting (Times)

The government will not suddenly spend on commuter lines, says Daniel Knowles. 

10. Whitehall offers transparency by the overstuffed truckload (Daily Telegraph)

The facts and figures of government are all there, if only we knew how to find them, writes Sue Cameron. 

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.