Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Anything makes more sense than the HS2 fiasco (Guardian)

Tories can blame Labour for the line's demise, use the billions on other rail and road links – and reap a publicity bonanza, writes Simon Jenkins. 

2. The Big Six: This was supposed to be a grilling, but even Russell Brand would have struggled to give one (Independent)

Nationalising the energy industry will not make electricity bills magically cheaper, writes John Rentoul. 

3. Bank of England’s Mark Carney places a bet on big finance (Financial Times)

The governor has opted for boldness at a time when caution might be a safer course, writes Martin Wolf.

4. Labour has its sights trained on the laurel hedges of the suburbs (Daily Telegraph)

Miliband's party is targeting all its resources at a small group of voters who can swing the general election vote, says Mary Riddell. 

5. Europe is still bugged by weak leadership (Times)

EU  leaders hope that the worst is over but the continent’s economic and demographic problems persist, writes Roger Boyes.

6. Private schools are blocking social mobility (Daily Telegraph)

Their education is so good that it is stopping downward mobility of the dim and indolent, says David Kynaston.

7. The grip of privatisation on our vital services has to be broken (Guardian)

From Ineos to energy, vested interests are driving a 30-year failed experiment, says Seumas Milne. Utilities belong in public hands.

8. Oh no, the U.S. has dropped us in it again (Daily Mail)

By tapping the phones of its allies’ leaders, the US is guilty of a grave diplomatic insult, says Andrew Alexander. 

9. The reality of UK’s nuclear power failure (Financial Times)

The switch that was flicked in 1956 activated a period of commercial calamity, writes John Kay. 

10. Progress involves 51% success and 49% error (Times)

Individuals, businesses and nations only move forwards if they take risks that sometimes go wrong, writes Alice Thomson. 

Getty
Show Hide image

How Labour risks becoming a party without a country

Without establishing the role of Labour in modern Britain, the party is unlikely ever to govern again.

“In my time of dying, want nobody to mourn

All I want for you to do is take my body home”

- Blind Willie Johnson

The Conservative Party is preparing itself for a bloody civil war. Conservative MPs will tell anyone who wants to know (Labour MPs and journalists included) that there are 100 Conservative MPs sitting on letters calling for a leadership contest. When? Whenever they want to. This impending war has many reasons: ancient feuds, bad blood, personal spite and enmity, thwarted ambition, and of course, the European Union.

Fundamentally, at the heart of the Tory war over the European Union is the vexed question of ‘What is Britain’s place in the World?’ That this question remains unanswered a quarter of a century after it first decimated the Conservative Party is not a sign that the Party is incapable of answering the question, but that it has no settled view on what the correct answer should be.

The war persists because the truth is that there is no compromise solution. The two competing answers are binary opposites: internationalist or insular nationalist, co-habitation is an impossibility.

The Tories, in any event, are prepared to keep on asking this question, seemingly to the point of destruction. For the most part, Labour has answered this question: Britain will succeed as an outward looking, internationalist state. The equally important question facing the Labour Party is ‘What is the place of the Labour Party in modern Britain?’ Without answering this question, Labour is unlikely to govern ever again and in contrast to the Tories, Labour has so far refused to acknowledge that such a question is being asked of it by the people it was founded to serve. At its heart, this is a question about England and the rapidly changing nature of the United Kingdom.

In the wake of the 2016 elections, the approach that Labour needs to take with regard to the ‘English question’ is more important than ever before. With Scotland out of reach for at least a generation (assuming it remains within the United Kingdom) and with Labour’s share of the vote falling back in Wales in the face of strong challenges from Plaid Cymru and UKIP, Labour will need to rely upon winning vast swathes of England if we are to form a government in 2020.

In a new book published this week, Labour’s Identity Crisis, Tristram Hunt has brought together Labour MPs, activists and parliamentary candidates from the 2015 general election to explore the challenges facing Labour in England and how the party should address these, not purely as an electoral device, but as a matter of principle.

My contribution to the book was inspired by Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti. The track list reads like the score for a musical tragedy based upon the Labour Party from 2010 onwards: In My Time of Dying, Trampled Underfoot, Sick Again, Ten Years Gone. 

Continued Labour introspection is increasingly tiresome for the political commentariat – even boring – and Labour’s Identity Crisis is a genuinely exciting attempt to swinge through this inertia. As well as exploring our most recent failure, the book attempts to chart the course towards the next Labour victory: political cartography at its most urgent.

This collection of essays represents an overdue effort to answer the question that the Party has sought to sidestep for too long.  In the run up to 2020, as the United Kingdom continues to atomise, the Labour Party must have an ambitious, compelling vision for England, or else risks becoming a party without a country.

Jamie Reed is Labour MP for Copeland.