Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. On one thing about the NHS, Jeremy Hunt is right (Guardian)

The health secretary isn't meddling, says Steve Richards. He must be accountable to the taxpayers who fund the NHS.

2. It is high time we raised interest rates and returned to normality (Daily Telegraph)

Persisting with this monetary stimulus will delay recovery and sow seeds of future crises, argues Jeremy Warner.

3. Little England should prepare a big welcome (Times)

We need immigrants and most see themselves as British, writes Philip Collins. So what happens if Britain gets broken up?

4. If you want to curb immigration, pay workers a living wage (Guardian)

Cheapskate employers are importing what too often looks like serf-labour instead of hiring ethically at home, says Polly Toynbee.

5. Call out the troops to deal with McCluskey and Co? Not any more (Independent)

We now know that through the summer of 1984, the government was not as confident as it pretended to be that the strike would fail, writes Andy McSmith. 

6. Europe must rebuild faith in democracy (Financial Times)

Voters are frustrated that they exert less influence than ever over elites, writes Tony Barber.

7. Richard Haass’s talks will not have failed if Britain accepts it must now get real on Northern Ireland (Independent)

The Good Friday Agreement was not a prelude to greater integration, writes Mary Dejevsky.

8. The young people failed by society's tyranny of the norm (Guardian)

In schools and wider society we still fear, mock and segregate young people who, like my brother, have learning disabilities, says Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett. 

9. A year in a word: Abenomics (Financial Times)

The premise of Shinzo Abe’s economic plan is that 15 years of deflation have sapped Japan’s 'animal spirits', writes David Pilling. 

10. Furious rail commuters are switching their targets (Times)

Anger is moving from companies to politicians, says Gaby Hinsliff. 

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Commons Confidential: What happened at Tom Watson's birthday party?

Finances, fair and foul – and why Keir Starmer is doing the time warp.

Keir Starmer’s comrades mutter that a London seat is an albatross around the neck of the ambitious shadow Brexit secretary. He has a decent political CV: he was named after Labour’s first MP, Keir Hardie; he has a working-class background; he was the legal champion of the McLibel Two; he had a stint as director of public prosecutions. The knighthood is trickier, which is presumably why he rarely uses the title.

The consensus is that Labour will seek a leader from the north or the Midlands when Islington’s Jeremy Corbyn jumps or is pushed under a bus. Starmer, a highly rated frontbencher, is phlegmatic as he navigates the treacherous Brexit waters. “I keep hoping we wake up and it’s January 2016,” he told a Westminster gathering, “and we can have another run. Don’t we all?” Perhaps not everybody. Labour Remoaners grumble that Corbyn and particularly John McDonnell sound increasingly Brexitastic.

To Tom Watson’s 50th birthday bash at the Rivoli Ballroom in south London, an intact 1950s barrel-vaulted hall generous with the velvet. Ed Balls choreographed the “Gangnam Style” moves, and the Brockley venue hadn’t welcomed so many politicos since Tony Blair’s final Clause IV rally 22 years ago. Corbyn was uninvited, as the boogying deputy leader put the “party” back into the Labour Party. The thirsty guests slurped the free bar, repaying Watson for 30 years of failing to buy a drink.

One of Westminster’s dining rooms was booked for a “Decent Chaps Lunch” by Labour’s Warley warrior, John Spellar. In another room, the Tory peer David Willetts hosted a Christmas reception on behalf of the National Centre for Universities and Business. In mid-January. That’s either very tardy or very, very early.

The Labour Party’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, is a financial maestro, having cleared the £25m debt that the party inherited from the Blair-Brown era. Now I hear that he has squirrelled away a £6m war chest as insurance against Theresa May gambling on an early election. Wisely, the party isn’t relying on Momentum’s fractious footsloggers.

The word in Strangers’ Bar is that the Welsh MP Stephen Kinnock held his own £200-a-head fundraiser in London. Either the financial future of the Aberavon Labour Party is assured, or he fancies a tilt at the top job.

Dry January helped me recall a Labour frontbencher explaining why he never goes into the Commons chamber after a skinful: “I was sitting alongside a colleague clearly refreshed by a liquid lunch. He intervened and made a perfectly sensible point without slurring. Unfortunately, he stood up 20 minutes later and repeated the same point, word for word.”

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era