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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. This is no recovery, this is a bubble – and it will burst (Guardian)

With policymakers unwilling to introduce tough regulation, we're heading for trouble, says Ha-Joon Chang. 

2. A battle over Ukraine can be avoided (Financial Times)

To stop the country being torn apart its fate must be decided by the Ukrainian people, writes Gideon Rachman. 

3. Mrs Merkel can’t give Cameron what he needs (Times)

Germany’s Chancellor lacks the political freedom to agree the kind of renegotiation Tory Eurosceptics hunger for, says Rachel Sylvester.

4. Why are Eurosceptics still so gloomy? (Independent)

Those who insisted Britain must not join the euro have achieved all that they wanted, writes Steve Richards.

5.  David Cameron’s election gamble could electrify British politics (Daily Telegraph)

A "no deals" promise would be a rallying cry to the right, says Benedict Brogan. 

6. Dear Rebecca Adlington, they're the ugly ones (Guardian)

This is my message to the best British swimmer of her generation, writes Laurie Penny. If you've had a "nose shrink", it's OK. I've got your back.

7. Cameron must not dampen this Eurosceptic momentum (Guardian)

 If Alternative für Deutschland wants to join the Tories in Europe, it should be allowed to, no matter what Merkel thinks, says Paul Goodman. 

8. We misjudge Merkel’s vim for EU reform (Financial Times)

The real error is to overrate her capacity to deliver change, even if she wanted it, says Janan Ganesh. 

9. Salmond has to answer some serious questions (Daily Telegraph)

Scotland's First Minister is uncomfortable confronting certain policy areas, but they need to be addressed, says a Telegraph editorial. 

10. Piers Morgan did gun control more harm than good (Times)

In the US, weapons co-exist with a peacefulness that puts Britain to shame, says Justin Webb. 

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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