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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. It's the cumulative impact of benefit cuts that is shocking (Guardian)

Disabled people are the worst hit of any group by myriad welfare changes that relentlessly reduce already meagre incomes, writes Zoe Williams. 

2. Why the Archbishop of Westminster is wrong about welfare (Daily Telegraph)

Our plan for Britain is not just about saving money, but about doing what is right, says David Cameron.

3. Neglect pre-school education and we will all be the poorer (Daily Telegraph)

Britains's youngsters are falling behind and our shambolic nursery system is partly to blame, says Mary Riddell. 

4. High price of ignoring risks of catastrophe (Financial Times)

Models of climate change all but assume it cannot have a huge effect on the economy, writes Robin Harding.

5. Who will replace David Cameron as Tory leader? Maybe a man you don't expect (Guardian)

Boris Johnson, George Osborne and Theresa May are all favourites, but a rank outsider, who models himself on Michael Gove, could pip the lot of them, writes Ian Birrell. 

6. We’re in a mess. We must know who to blame (Times)

Response to the floods and the Ofsted row both show that public appointments should be more political, not less, says Daniel Finkelstein. 

7. The trouble with the economic recovery is it mainly benefits those already doing well (Independent)

We are setting up trouble, as you can see most obviously in the property market, says Hamish McRae. 

8. Sometimes a polite letter can be a pistol shot (Daily Telegraph)

It has taken a retired Australian judge to show us how to deal with Kim Jong-un's atrocities in North Korea, says Colin Freeman. 

9. Failing states such as Syria deserve to fail (Times)

There is so much hatred inside some national borders that divorce can be the only solution, writes Roger Boyes.

10. Let schools compete to aid students (Financial Times)

Competition between schools lifts grades, write Gabriel Sahlgren and Julian Le Grand.

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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.