Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Miliband can build a new Labour majority (Times)

Claiming to lead a "One Nation Party", Miliband must pursue a 40 per cent strategy and build a new election-winning coalition, writes Marcus Roberts.

2. Political parties have been deserted, and no wonder (Daily Telegraph)

Today’s voters want a constant conversation, not set-piece occasions that pay them no heed, writes Charles Moore.

3. Luckily for Ed Miliband, Labour is not as ruthless as he is (Guardian)

Another good Labour conference speech may boost ratings, but it is the day-to-day combat that will decide who occupies No 10, says Jonathan Freedland.

4. We have the Germany we always wanted (Financial Times)

Mature politics and economic power are what make the country special, writes Tony Barber.

5. Damian McBride's book details past machinations, but its impact will reverberate through the present - and the future (Independent)

Brown’s main allies now lead the party, writes Steve Richards. The tension has not died.

6. Embrace the hollowing out of London (Financial Times)

We should build on the city’s status as a global playground, writes Ben Rogers.

7. Give us sunny Conservatism again, Dave (Times)

The PM must renew his otimistic message and defeat Clegg’s attempt to paint Tories as panto villains, says Matthew Parris.

8. Labour Party conference: the future not the past (Guardian)

Polls have begun to show the Conservatives level pegging, and the unions, the leader and policy all need to be addressed, says a Guardian editorial.

9. A president but not the supreme leader – and therein lies the problem for Hassan Rouhani (Independent)

The Iranians are spinning in the media so that the centrifuges can keep on spinning, says David Usborne.

10. What rubbish, Sir Simon! Our intelligence agencies are not outside the law (Guardian)

Real issues arise out of the Snowden affair, but British security laws keep us safe without intruding on citizens' freedoms, says Malcolm Rifkind.

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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