Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The cracks are starting to show between the PM and Chancellor (Daily Telegraph)

Far from 'seeing eye to eye’, David Cameron and George Osborne are cut from different political cloth, writes Fraser Nelson. 

2. Independent Scotland’s fiscal hole (Financial Times)

One reason would be the bad initial borrowing position, the other is weaker demographics, says Martin Wolf. 

3. Dear Ed, there still isn’t any money left (Times)

Miliband misunderstands the 2008 crash, says Philip Collins. It didn’t save him, it wrecked his only plan – higher spending.

4. One thing Cameron can't rip from the young is the vote (Guardian)

The lost generation can strike back at a vindictive coalition at election time, says Polly Toynbee. Labour must put their plight centre stage.

5. Trade trumps missiles in power plays (Financial Times)

China is waking up to the fact it is being left behind as the west clings to economic power, writes Philip Stephens. 

6. Politics and the Co-op: a time for mutual respect (Guardian)

The Tories' tactic of playing the man not the ball undermines politics as a whole and blocks the conversation the country needs, says a Guardian editorial. 

7. The rise of Paul Flowers offers a textbook example of cronyism (Independent)

He was sped to his position by indulgences typical in the British elite, writes Mary Dejevsky. 

8. The deficit is still huge. There is no room for tax cuts (Times)

Osborne should resist calls to give us an early Christmas present, says Philip Aldrick.

9. The deficit is still huge. There is no room for tax cuts (Times)

Osborne should resist calls to give us an early Christmas present, says Philip Aldrick.

10. Police crime figures are meaningless. Ban them (Guardian)

Crime statistics could plummet, yet tell us nothing about whether the British are treating each other 'better or worse', writes Simon Jenkins. 

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Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.