Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Labour must step in to rescue a generation of doomed youth (Daily Telegraph)

Ed Miliband wants to honour his promise to help the young, but it will not be cheap, says Mary Riddell. 

2. Why the future looks sluggish (Financial Times)

The glut of savings in leading economies has become a constraint on demand, writes Martin Wolf. 

3. Childcare – like life – is about so much more than economics (Guardian)

Miliband, Cameron and Clegg just don't get it: parents want options, and the recognition that there is more to life than money, says Zoe Williams. 

4. China’s reforms will help propel its economy to the top of the global league (Independent)

The shift in the one-child policy will have a profound social and economic effect, says Hamish McRae. 

5. A new generation of politicians is coming (Times)

Kennedy’s political generation shared values and experiences, writes Daniel Finkelstein. So did Clinton’s. Age can trump ideology.

6. The SNP has no Plan B (Financial Times)

We are being asked to give up the benefits of a full UK partnership, says Alistair Darling.

7. Bombs in Beirut are overspill from the conflict in Syria (Independent)

The war itself, and the vast refugee crisis, garner steadily less attention from the outside world, notes an Independent editorial. 

8. Our exploitative sexual culture must be resisted in the real world too (Guardian)

The internet's failings – the abuse, the hate, the ranting – are humanity's failings, and must be tackled face to face, says Jackie Ashley. 

9. Romanians are already here, being paid £30 a day (Times)

One way to reduce immigration would be to enforce the minimum wage properly, says Daniel Knowles.

10. The days of believing spy chiefs who say 'Trust us' are over (Guardian)

The world now faces total electronic penetration, with huge power to those who control it, writes Simon Jenkins. After Edward Snowden, we would be deluded to accept any assurances.

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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