HS2 gives the game away: the plan for northern towns is managed decline | Lynsey Hanley

The high-speed rail network may never be built any further north than Birmingham. It is utterly nonsensical

Yesterday, on the day a report from the New Economics Foundation comprehensively exposed the HS2 project as a London-boosting white elephant, I found myself writing this sitting in a station Wetherspoons because my train from Liverpool to Huddersfield had been cancelled. Last Saturday, I missed a talk for which I had tickets because my train to Manchester, again from Liverpool, was cancelled. On Monday, I was an hour late dropping my daughter at her grandma’s because our train – a Northern Pacer due for the knacker’s yard – broke down at the terminus.

NEF’s report, which can be read as much as an utter indictment of a directionless, actively neglectful government as a cool-headed analysis of a single bad idea, exposes the fact that high-speed rail is unnecessary for everyone except London-based frequent travellers who dislike leaving the capital unless they can be there and back in half a day. The report demands a better service for northern commuters, the electrification of rail lines stuck in the mid-20th century, and the reopening of old branch lines to places lost to the car.

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MPs must face it: there is no alternative to Theresa May’s deal | Vernon Bogdanor

No-deal Brexit, Norway, a people’s vote, a long delay – everything else on the table is bound to fail

Britain faces a constitutional crisis, according to many, including at least one cabinet minister. But is it a crisis simply because the rules regulating parliament make life difficult for the government?

A conflict between government and parliament is almost inevitable when, as with Brexit, the government cannot command a majority of votes in the Commons. But there is a deeper crisis within parliament itself. MPs have put the European Union (Withdrawal) Act on the statute book, which entails us leaving the EU on 29 March, in just eight days’ time.

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People’s Vote march: 200 coaches heading to London, organisers say

Campaign group claims attendees on Saturday will outnumber last October’s rally

Two hundred coaches have been booked to take people to London for a People’s Vote march, which organisers said would exceed the size of last October’s rally, when it was claimed 700,000 turned up.

James McGrory, the director of the People’s Vote campaign, said it was the “biggest mass movement in the country” and hundreds of thousands were expected to join the Park Lane to Parliament Square march.

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May’s way, the highway or … a Brexit delay? The view from Europe | Brigid Laffan

No extension to article 50, a short extension or a long one: the fog of Brexit lies too heavy to see the lie of the land

One thousand days since the referendum and nine to the UK’s formal departure date and the EU does not yet know how, when or even if the UK will leave the union. The mood in Brussels and national capitals remains focused, but there is growing impatience with Theresa May and her government. Even those member states that are traditionally friendly towards the UK have toughened their stance. The overwhelming view is that the ball remains firmly in London’s court and that it has to find a way through the turmoil.

Today the union will be asked for an extension of article 50 by London. Seen against the backdrop of political and constitutional chaos in the UK, the request poses enormous dilemmas for Brussels. There is widespread concern that the Brexit virus will spread to infect the normal day-to-day business of the union – something that has been avoided up to now.

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Labour formally adopts definition of Islamophobia

All-party parliamentary group definition says Islamophobia is ‘rooted in racism’

The Labour party has formally adopted a definition of Islamophobia, arguing that it is vital to tackling the rise of far-right racism.

A party spokesperson said its national executive committee had adopted the working definition produced by the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims “to help tackle Islamophobia, build a common understanding of its causes and consequences, and express solidarity with Muslim communities”.

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Juncker raises prospect of emergency Brexit summit next week

European commission president says fresh meeting likely as May ‘doesn’t have agreement to anything’

Jean-Claude Juncker has raised the prospect of an emergency summit of EU leaders next week to decide on a Brexit delay, blaming ongoing chaos in Theresa May’s cabinet.

The European commission president said a letter from May requesting an extension to article 50, delaying the UK’s exit beyond 29 March, had not arrived overnight as expected.

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Vince Cable’s leadership will be seen as an opportunity missed | Martha Gill

What the Liberal Democrats needed was a dynamic leader, but what they got was a sensible caretaker

When Vince Cable became leader of the Liberal Democrats in 2017 – almost by default, as one of the few left standing – he deserved it. His had been a career defined by his party colleagues failing to harness his talents, and at last he had secured its top job. But last week he announced he would resign in May, at a point when it is likely the Lib Dems will have to step up: either for a decisive election or a people’s vote. For a mere two-year leadership span, it already feels like he has hung on far too long.

Cable’s political life really started when he became a Labour councillor in 1971, and then defected to the newly created SDP in 1982. The impression he made on colleagues at that time was that of an unassuming team player, a man nerdily enthusiastic about the details of national policy and disinclined to throw his weight around. But if this was useful to those around him it did not boost his career. It translated as a lack of charisma, an impression not helped by his reserved manner and slightly nasal voice. When he eventually stood for the Lib Dems in 1992, in Twickenham, the entirety of the party’s resources went instead to Jenny Tonge, who was standing in Richmond (she quit the party in 2016 over alleged antisemitic comments). He was not viewed by colleagues as a future star – he was instead something of a “supporting character”, “never one of the first 11”, or just “the bald bloke”.

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Britain’s real democratic crisis? The broken link between voters and MPs | Aditya Chakrabortty

Politicians have little in common with the people who pay for them. It’s a national failure that they fail to reflect their views

You may have heard that Britain is in crisis. Indeed, there’s a good chance that you will have heard little else. Turn on the TV, and a political reporter brings tidings of a fresh crisis for Theresa May. Flick on the radio, glance across the front pages, and one word will be splashed over and over again. Some mornings it seems the UK is under aerial bombardment from a noun.

But what a funny, contained emergency it is, full of Westminster people doing Westminster maths and deploying their Westminster terms. It is as if someone has drawn a thick red line along the perimeter of the parliamentary estate and labelled it, in big and self-important letters: National Crisis. Look at the politicians and pundits cramming the studio sofas, chattering about John Bercow and processology, swapping a Cooper-Boles for an Erskine May, and so excited that they crackle like acrylic jumpers.

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Why Viktor Orbán and his allies won’t win the EU elections | Ivan Krastev

Rightwing populists think voters obsess about immigration. But that’s not the case

Democratic politics need drama. Elections are a form of therapy session in which voters are confronted with their worst fears – a new war, demographic collapse, economic crisis, environmental horror – but become convinced they have the power to avert the devastation. “As the election approaches,” Alexis de Tocqueville observed during his travels across the US in the early 19th century, “intrigue becomes more active and agitation lively and more widespread. The entire nation falls into a feverish state … As soon as fortune has pronounced … everything becomes calm, and the river, one moment overflowed, returns peacefully to its bed.”

Related: This is Europe: stay close with the Guardian’s email updates

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Online hate threatens us all. Platforms can and must do more to eradicate it | Dan Hett

As a software engineer, I know extremist content can be curbed. After Christchurch, it’s more urgent than ever

Like so many, I was shocked to the core by the recent killing of 50 Muslim worshippers in New Zealand. As I absorbed the news, my thoughts – for reasons I will shortly explain – turned to the technology that is so closely linked to the atrocity. And let me say this clearly: major platforms such as YouTube and Facebook are a primary and active component in the radicalisation of, mostly, young men.

These organisations counter that they aim to take down content that violates their rules swiftly, and are increasing resources for efforts to identify and remove dangerous material before it causes harm. But clearly this isn’t enough. And by not doing enough to police their platforms, they risk being complicit in innocent lives being violently cut short. It is within their power to remove extremist content and users from their platforms, and they’re failing to do so in any meaningful way. Crucially, this is not caused by insurmountable technical problems.

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Troubled Families programme could be renamed, says minister

James Brokenshire fears that title of scheme is isolating and accusatory

Ministers could rebrand the Troubled Families programme because of concerns the name is isolating and accusatory, the communities secretary, James Brokenshire, has said in a speech defending its results.

The scheme, launched by David Cameron in 2011 after the London riots, targets families with repeating generational patterns of youth crime, long-term unemployment, teenage pregnancy and substance abuse.

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Four party leaders urge Corbyn to back second Brexit referendum

Labour leader agrees joint opposition to both May’s deal and a no-deal departure

The SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and Greens have urged Jeremy Corbyn to throw his weight behind a second Brexit referendum as the Labour leader met opposition parties amid efforts to find a way out of the current deadlock.

Corbyn, who told the other party leaders he hoped to see cross-party support for a compromise softer Brexit plan, also held a separate meeting with Conservative and Labour backbenchers who are pushing for the so-called common market 2.0 plan.

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We’re edging away from Brexit – but both sides are set to lose | Rafael Behr

The social and political tensions exposed by the referendum are far from being resolved. This is a dangerous dynamic

If shambolic government turned leavers into remainers, Britain would have decided long ago not to bother with Brexit. But that isn’t how it works. The sight of Theresa May failing to organise a departure from the EU proves that she is unequal to the task, not necessarily that the task should be abandoned. For many Eurosceptics, it has the opposite effect. They see the fact that Brexit has broken a stolid prime minister as confirmation that gung-ho leadership is the missing ingredient.

The same applies with deadlock and procedural mayhem in parliament. Pro-Europeans cheer when a majority of MPs vote that the country should not be yanked out of the EU without a deal. They salute the Speaker of the House John Bercow when he uses ancient protocol as a bat, thwacking May’s twice-rejected withdrawal agreement out of the Commons chamber without another vote. In the eyes of a remainer, this is the legislature defying of bad government; democracy in action. The leaver sees rogue lawmakers obstructing the popular will; democracy betrayed. Few minds are being changed.

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The Guardian view on the Brexit crisis: take back control by giving it up | Editorial

The prime minister will only a get a grip on the Brexit crisis by learning to loosening hers on the terms of departure from the EU

Almost two years after Theresa May triggered article 50 it is still unclear when, in what form and how Brexit will occur – even to the prime minister. Any country invoking the Lisbon treaty’s clause of departure leaves the European Union after two years. It is a mark of failure that Mrs May is left pinning her hopes on the EU27 unanimously agreeing to extend that deadline. The trouble is that European leaders, not unreasonably, want to know what the prime minister intends to do with the extra time. She appears guarded about her plans largely because she is still struggling to draw them up.

This is not because Mrs May has been caught unawares – a now routine reaction from Downing Street that has worn thin. Parliament has twice resoundingly defeated her Brexit deal and has rejected no deal. With time running out, the third option is an article 50 extension. The prime minister voted for such a delay – but the majority of her party did not. Ministers cannot hide behind John Bercow’s decision to stop the government wearing MPs down by putting the same deal before them that they have spurned before. The threat from the Speaker had been flagged up for weeks to Downing Street, was rooted in precedent, and ought to have been part of Mrs May’s parliamentary calculations.

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Next, the Speaker should force MPs to vote this weekend | Gina Miller

If May gets nothing from Brussels on Thursday, the Commons should decide the fate of her deal in an emergency sitting

Ever since David Cameron took it on himself to prise open Pandora’s box and call the EU referendum, the only thing that’s been predictable has been the utter unpredictability of what has followed. The prospect of Theresa May now taking on Erskine May, whose work lays down the procedural rules of the House of Commons, is but the latest twist in this epic Whitehall farce. His book was first published in 1844, and there is a simple reason that it’s still the principal point of reference when it comes to our constitution: it has passed the toughest test of all – time.

I had hoped it would be the start of a collegiate approach, but the whole process has been executed back to front

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While the UK government runs down schools, other countries pour money into theirs | Laura McInerney

China has committed £22bn to education technology research; Britain has given less than £1m

Growing up in northern England I learned that while politicians will always do stupid things, you can’t let it get you down. Sure, the government might be ready to walk the country off a cliff – like they did to my little industrial hometown in the 1980s – but it’s only when they affect your hope, as well as the economy, that you’re truly sunk.

Related: Ministers won’t give schools more money until they are visibly falling apart – ask George Osborne | Laura McInerney

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David Lammy hits back at Tory MP over Comic Relief criticism

Chris Philp blamed Labour MP’s ‘white saviour’ comments for £8m fall in donations

The Labour MP David Lammy has hit back at critics who have sought to link his criticism of Comic Relief with a drop in donations this year.

The Conservative MP Chris Philp claimed on Sunday that Lammy had caused an £8m drop in the amount of money donated to the charity by airing his concerns that the charity perpetuated “tired and unhelpful stereotypes” about Africa.

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DUP unlikely to back May’s Brexit deal before EU meeting

PM had hoped to win unionist party’s support before Thursday

The Democratic Unionist party is unlikely to strike an agreement with Theresa May’s government to support the current withdrawal deal before Thursday’s crunch meeting with EU leaders, sources said on Monday.

With 11 days before the UK is due to leave the EU, the prime minister has been trying to convince the pro-Brexit party’s 10 MPs, who prop up her minority government, to back the Brexit deal she has agreed with the European Union.

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John Bercow’s ruling has breathed new life into the people’s vote | Polly Toynbee

The Speaker is right to seize back sovereignty for the Commons against the abuse of power by May and her chaotic government

Brexit fatigue and Brexit bullying are Theresa May’s instruments of torture to grind recalcitrant MPs into passing her destructive deal. No more, says the Speaker: this war of attrition must stop. Her deal must change and if she brings one back, it must be “fundamentally different”. How different? He can’t say until he sees what plan, if any, she will present.

Rightly John Bercow complains of time wasted, of running down the clock as she tries to crush MPs against the concrete wall she herself constructed. No 10 was not forewarned of the Speaker’s ruling. Oddly, the Brexiteers were sounding pleased, presuming her deal as it stands can’t pass. They hope that no-deal beckons – still the legal certainty unless parliament passes something else. But the champion of the house will guarantee that MPs get the chance to stop no-deal dead.

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