Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Royal Mail has no future without a return to some Victorian values (Daily Telegraph)

The trade unions destroyed its ability to harness technology and provide a public service, claims former Telegraph editor Charles Moore. This privatisation is necessary and overdue, but a bit sad.

2. I'm getting older. So am I becoming more rightwing? (Guardian)

Conservatism isn't necessarily an inevitable part of ageing, writes Jonathan Freedland.

3. I salute Ed Miliband’s big, brave mission (Times) (£)

For different reasons Blairites and Tories want Labour’s leader to fail in his bid to reform the union link, writes Matthew Parris.

4. Don't believe Chancellor's 'mission accomplished' rhetoric, we need a recovery that lasts, for all (Independent)

The Chancellor's "recovery" is neither stable, nor investment-driven, not equal, writes Prateek Buch.

5. We have abandoned our children to the internet (Guardian)

Young people are addicted to a virtual world that is designed to keep them hooked with little care for collateral damage, writes Beeban Kidron.

6. Pressure on children is getting too cruel for school (Mirror)

Parental and school-inflicted pressure has resulted in more mental health issues, such as anxiety and ­depression, than ever before, writes Fiona Phillips.

7. Esther Rantzen: Why I’m setting up a 'ChildLine’ for old people (Daily Telegraph)

Esther Rantzen on her new charity, The Silver Line, which aims to bring conversation to the silent lives of elderly Britons.

8. If the Syrian talks are to progress, the US will have to include Iran (Guardian)

Diplomatic imperatives require that Iran, Syria's main ally, is invited to the negotiating table, writes Michael Williams.

9. Does anyone know of any impediment? (Times) (£)

There is no good reason to stop Roman Catholic clergy marrying; the Church should rethink its toxic ban, writes Church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch.

10. I’ll take Obama (and Hector) over the utopists and dreamers who’d have us in or out of Syria (Independent)

I like the US President for his refusal to refusal to take an absolute stance, writes Howard Jacobson.

Cock-a-doodle-doo: the ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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