The anger that greeted the hike in rail fares yesterday once again caught the Tories on the back foot. Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, eventually popped up from Qatar to say that he too was annoyed at the rise in ticket prices. But it was too late: Labour had spent much of the day making hay among fed-up commuters.
Grayling’s absence ‘left the field clear’ for Labour to ‘exploit popular anger’ and ‘promote the party’s policy of renationalising the train network’, says the Daily Telegraph. Government ministers who could respond to Labour ‘were thin on the ground’, but the Tories have no excuse for the glacial speed of their reaction: the ticket price rise ‘had been apparent ever since July’s inflation figures’, points out the Telegraph. Already then it is clear that, in 2018, ‘Theresa May’s Government is in no different a predicament than before’. It is true that the Prime Minister’s weakness in Parliament means ‘radical new policies’ won’t make the cut. Yet this ‘must not stop her ministers from forcefully championing Conservative ideas’. If they fail to do so, ‘Jeremy Corbyn will win the arguments by default’. The Tories seem to have kept up the belief that ’madcap socialism is self-evidently so destructive that it will be rejected by the country’, says the Telegraph. Yet the lesson from the doomed snap election last year shows that this is not the case. Today, with the headlines dominated by news of a crisis in the NHS, ministers need to be out ‘defending their NHS policies from the inevitable Labour attack’. If they don’t the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn will continue to dictate the narrative and the Tories will pay the price.
Meanwhile, the Sun takes aim at Jeremy Corbyn over his silence on the protests in Iran. The Labour leader ‘is confused’, says the paper. After all, the Iranian regime is ‘anti-West’ – which makes it unsurprising, according to the Sun, that Corbyn has been something of the country’s ‘UK cheerleader’. But now things have changed, and Corbyn must surely realise that ‘standing up for it now would put him on the wrong side of history again’, says the paper. So what does the ‘self-styled ‘Prime Minister in waiting’ do about it? He is ‘struck dumb’, says the Sun. ‘What a joke’, concludes the paper in its damning editorial of the Labour leader.
The Times agrees: Corbyn’s failure to speak out on what is happening in Iran is ‘deafening’, says the paper. Of course, even if the Labour leader did pipe up, it would have little effect in Iran and is hardly likely to ‘herald the beginning of a peaceful transition to liberal democracy’ concedes the Times. Yet his silence ‘does speak of something questionable in his politics’. People will be left wondering why the ‘Labour leader, who has received £20,000 for hosting phone-ins on Iranian state television, (is) on the wrong side of history’, says the Times. As demonstrations took hold across the country over the last few days – and the death toll rose to 22 – Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, ‘made a vague statement yesterday warning of the uncertainty surrounding the protests’. But still the Labour leader ‘remained silent’. Admittedly it is a ‘complex’ situation. Yet if Corbyn wants ‘to be accepted as a credible leader of the opposition’ then he must show ‘some integrity and moral leadership’. Failure to speak out means that ‘voters can only assume that his silence is the intellectual progeny of a world view in which America is always the enemy’, says the Times.