Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Nick Clegg’s authority is secure, but his party has been hollowed out (Daily Telegraph)

The lack of a grassroots challenge shows how the Lib Dems are putting power before principle, writes Mary Riddell.

2. We still live in Lehman’s shadow (Financial Times)

The bank’s collapse was but a symptom of the looming crisis, writes Martin Wolf.

3. Vladimir Putin can preen himself over Syria but the pressure on him is intense (Guardian)

The Russian leader has cunningly upstaged Obama, writes Simon Jenkins. But now he's the dominant player, his own reputation is on the line.

4. Even if it is a housing bubble, it can bring benefits (Independent)

The story is more complex than whether or not we are entering a bubble, says Hamish McRae.

5. If the Lib Dems join Miliband, they’re dead (Times)

Contrast with the Tories has benefited the party in coalition, but its policies are too similar to Labour’s, says Daniel Finkelstein.

6. Video games are this decade’s art form (Financial Times)

Many bemoan the end of mass TV viewing, but this is the era of mass playing, says Helen Lewis.

7. Lloyds reprivatisation: Back to normality – sadly (Guardian)

The normalisation of Lloyds is a sign of how little progress this government has made in reforming our banks, says a Guardian editorial.

8. Mitchell’s long wait for justice is an outrage (Times)

A year must be enough for the police to investigate one 45-second incident, says Ken Macdonald.

9. Scottish independence: what happens after the flag-waving? (Guardian)

Alex Salmond's vision for an independent Scotland is too narrow, says Alex Bell. We need more than old songs and tired policies.

10. Oh you nearly men - how different history could have been for Vince Cable and his like (Independent)

Vince Cable seems destined to join the great lost leaders in the ghostly halls where political dreams go to die, writes Matthew Norman.

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Beware, hard Brexiteers - Ruth Davidson is coming for you

The Scottish Conservative leader is well-positioned to fight. 

Wanted: Charismatic leader with working-class roots and a populist touch who can take on the Brexiteers, including some in the government, and do so convincingly.

Enter Ruth Davidson. 

While many Tory MPs quietly share her opposition to a hard Brexit, those who dare to be loud tend to be backbenchers like Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan. 

By contrast, the Scottish Conservative leader already has huge credibility for rebuilding her party north of the border. Her appearances in the last days of the EU referendum campaign made her a star in the south as well. And she has no qualms about making a joke at Boris Johnson’s expense

Speaking at the Institute of Directors on Monday, Davidson said Brexiteers like Nigel Farage should stop “needling” European leaders.

“I say to the Ukip politicians, when they chuckle and bray about the result in June, grow up,” she declared. “Let us show a bit more respect for these European neighbours and allies.”

Davidson is particularly concerned that Brexiteers underestimate the deeply emotional and political response of other EU nations. 

The negotiations will be 27 to 1, she pointed out: “I would suggest that macho, beer swilling, posturing at the golf club bar isn’t going to get us anywhere.”

At a time when free trade is increasingly a dirty word, Davidson is also striking in her defence of the single market. As a child, she recalls, every plate of food on the table was there because her father, a self-made businessman, had "made stuff and sold it abroad". 

She attacked the Daily Mail for its front cover branding the judges who ruled against the government’s bid to trigger Article 50 “enemies of the people”. 

When the headline was published, Theresa May and Cabinet ministers stressed the freedom of the press. By contrast, Davidson, a former journalist, said that to undermine “the guardians of our democracy” in this way was “an utter disgrace”. 

Davidson might have chosen Ukip and the Daily Mail to skewer, but her attacks could apply to certain Brexiteers in her party as well. 

When The Staggers enquired whether this included the Italy-baiting Foreign Secretary Johnson, she launched a somewhat muted defence.

Saying she was “surprised by the way Boris has taken to the job”, she added: “To be honest, when you have got such a big thing happening and when you have a team in place that has been doing the preparatory work, it doesn’t make sense to reshuffle the benches."

Nevertheless, despite her outsider role, the team matters to Davidson. Part of her electoral success in Scotland is down the way she has capitalised on the anti-independence feeling after the Scottish referendum. If the UK heads for a hard Brexit, she too will have to fend off accusations that her party is the party of division. 

Indeed, for all her jibes at the Brexiteers, Davidson has a serious message. Since the EU referendum, she is “beginning to see embryos of where Scotland has gone post-referendum”. And, she warned: “I do not think we want that division.”


Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.