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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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Leader: The divisions within Labour

Labour’s divisions have rendered it unfit for government at a moment of profound political change.

Labour is a party torn between its parliamentary and activist wings. Since Jeremy Corbyn, who this week appealed desperately for unity, was re-elected by a landslide last September, Labour has become the first opposition in 35 years to lose a ­by-election to the governing party and has continually trailed the Conservatives by a double-digit margin. Yet polling suggests that, were Mr Corbyn’s leadership challenged again, he would win by a comfortable margin. Meanwhile, many of the party’s most gifted and experienced MPs refuse to serve on the front bench. In 2015 Mr Corbyn made the leadership ballot only with the aid of political opponents such as Margaret Beckett and Frank Field. Of the 36 MPs who nominated him, just 15 went on to vote for him.

Having hugely underestimated the strength of the Labour left once, the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) will not do so again. In the contest that will follow Mr Corbyn’s eventual departure, the centrists could lock out potential successors such as the shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey. Under Labour’s current rules, candidates require support from at least 15 per cent of the party’s MPs and MEPs.

This conundrum explains the attempt by Mr Corbyn’s supporters to reduce the threshold to 5 per cent. The “McDonnell amendment” (named after the shadow chancellor, who failed to make the ballot in 2007 and 2010) is being championed by the Bennite Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and Jon Lansman of Momentum, who is interviewed by Tanya Gold on page 34. “For 20 years the left was denied a voice,” he tweeted to the party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, on 19 March. “We will deny a voice to no one. We face big challenges, and we need our mass membership to win again.”

The passage of the amendment at this year’s Labour conference would aid Mr Lansman’s decades-long quest to bring the party under the full control of activists. MPs have already lost the third of the vote they held under the electoral college system. They face losing what little influence they retain.

No Labour leader has received less support from his MPs than Mr Corbyn. However, the amendment would enable the election of an even more unpopular figure. For this reason, it should be resolutely opposed. One should respect the motivation of the members and activists, yet Labour must remain a party capable of appealing to a majority of people, a party that is capable of winning elections.

Since it was founded, Labour has been an explicitly parliamentary party. As Clause One of its constitution states: “[The party’s] purpose is to organise and maintain in Parliament and in the country a political Labour Party.” The absurdity of a leader opposed by as much as 95 per cent of his own MPs is incompatible with this mission. Those who do not enjoy the backing of their parliamentary colleagues will struggle to persuade the voters that they deserve their support.

Labour’s divisions have rendered it unfit for government at a moment of profound political change. Rather than formalising this split, the party needs to overcome it – or prepare for one of the greatest defeats in its history.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution