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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. If we treat Vladimir Putin as a leader who wants to grab Russia’s empire back, we will be inviting him to do exactly that (Independent)

A Cold War bogey of Putin and Russia is lodged in western minds, says Mary Dejevsky. 

2. Spain and Britain need not fear F-word (Financial Times)

Separatists may find answers in federalism, even if it sends semantic shivers up the political spine, says David Gardner.

3.  Here’s why migrants want to come to Britain  (Daily Telegraph)

Entrepreneurs thrive in a country that still values freedom and protects minorities, writes Jeremy Warner. 

4. Stephen Lawrence: the shaming of the Met (Guardian)

These are devastating findings for London's police, a terrible blow on top of dishonesty over Plebgate and the killing of the newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson, says a Guardian editorial. 

5. America has a new weapon to use against Russia – the E-Bomb (Daily Telegraph)

The US’s energy power, a product of the shale revolution, is what the Kremlin fears most - in future Vladimir Putin will have to be more careful, says Fraser Nelson. 

6. India’s democracy faces its toughest test yet (Times)

The likely winner of next month’s election wants to Modi-fy his country, writes Philip Collins. Crucially he must make it work for the poor.

7. Visa bans will not deter Putin (Financial Times)

In its own mind Moscow can break any rule it likes and then deny the fact of the transgression, writes Philip Stephens. 

8. Will voters swallow Nick Clegg’s sausage strategy? (Daily Telegraph)

Having spent months blaming their Tory coalition partners, the Lib Dems’ latest wheeze is to take the credit, writes Isabel Hardman. 

9. The strength of Italy's new PM lies in his outsider status (Independent)

Like Mr Berlusconi, he expects to charm and to get his own way, writes Peter Popham. 

10. Not even climate change will kill off capitalism (Guardian)

As long as the conditions for investment and profit remain, the system will adapt, says Razmig Keucheyan. Which is why we need a revolution.

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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.