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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The gap widens between the right and reality (Times)

The left recognises growing inequality and ludicrously high executive pay, writes Philip Collins. Capitalists, on the other hand, are in denial.

2. Low-rent Labour is positioning itself as the Ukip of the left (Daily Telegraph)

Ed Miliband is banking on a populist wave sweeping him all the way to Downing Street, says Fraser Nelson. 

3. Vince Cable poses as the scourge of City spivs. But he blundered into handing them millions of your money (Daily Mail)

The loss to the Exchequer as a result of the mispricing of Royal Mail is scandalous at a time of national austerity, says Alex Brummer. 

4. Scrap inheritance tax and leave the dead to rest in peace (Guardian)

To reduce our soaring inequality we must treat inherited wealth like ordinary taxed income and end all the wheezes, writes Polly Toynbee. 

5. The mission that is Blair’s dismal last act (Financial Times)

His arguments have been lost to the lust for personal riches and attention, writes Philip Stephens.

6. When the pressure’s on, by-elections get delirious and dirty (Daily Telegraph)

The souped-up campaigning promises to make the fight for the vacant Westminster seat both shambolic and amusing, writes Isabel Hardman. 

7. Northern Ireland: power of the past (Guardian)

Everything connected with the Troubles is politicised – and the future of the McConville investigation will not be a simple matter, says a Guardian editorial.

8. Japan should resist right-wingers who discount the country's war crimes (Independent)

Shinzo Abe’s revisionist government would like to take back an apology over "comfort women", writes Peter Popham. 

9. Schools are held hostage by politicians' control-freakery (Guardian)

Local authorities are effective guarantors of educational standards, writes Simon Jenkins. Gove, Hunt and Blunkett need to get out of the way.

10. Despite those 14 questions, I admire Jeremy Paxman (Times)

...but the BBC’s grand inquisitor didn’t always get the better of me, says Michael Howard. 

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PMQs review: Theresa May shows how her confidence has grown

After her Brexit speech, the PM declared of Jeremy Corbyn: "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue". 

The woman derided as “Theresa Maybe” believes she has neutralised that charge. Following her Brexit speech, Theresa May cut a far more confident figure at today's PMQs. Jeremy Corbyn inevitably devoted all six of his questions to Europe but failed to land a definitive blow.

He began by denouncing May for “sidelining parliament” at the very moment the UK was supposedly reclaiming sovereignty (though he yesterday praised her for guaranteeing MPs would get a vote). “It’s not so much the Iron Lady as the irony lady,” he quipped. But May, who has sometimes faltered against Corbyn, had a ready retort. The Labour leader, she noted, had denounced the government for planning to leave the single market while simultaneously seeking “access” to it. Yet “access”, she went on, was precisely what Corbyn had demanded (seemingly having confused it with full membership). "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue,” she declared.

When Corbyn recalled May’s economic warnings during the referendum (“Does she now disagree with herself?”), the PM was able to reply: “I said if we voted to leave the EU the sky would not fall in and look at what has happened to our economic situation since we voted to leave the EU”.

Corbyn’s subsequent question on whether May would pay for single market access was less wounding than it might have been because she has consistently refused to rule out budget contributions (though yesterday emphasised that the days of “vast” payments were over).

When the Labour leader ended by rightly hailing the contribution immigrants made to public services (“The real pressure on public services comes from a government that slashed billions”), May took full opportunity of the chance to have the last word, launching a full-frontal attack on his leadership and a defence of hers. “There is indeed a difference - when I look at the issue of Brexit or any other issues like the NHS or social care, I consider the issue, I set out my plan and I stick to it. It's called leadership, he should try it some time.”

For May, life will soon get harder. Once Article 50 is triggered, it is the EU 27, not the UK, that will take back control (the withdrawal agreement must be approved by at least 72 per cent of member states). With MPs now guaranteed a vote on the final outcome, parliament will also reassert itself. But for now, May can reflect with satisfaction on her strengthened position.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.