Morning Call: the pick of the papers

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

1. A third runway, Boris Island, better rail? Please, just decide (Guardian)

Prevarication over aviation policy breeds a dangerous mistrust. The cabinet must take a firm decision, and act on it, writes Jackie Ashley.

2. The German people will decide Europe's fate (Guardian)

Hans Kundnani argues that starkly divided opinion in the EU's biggest economy could be as big a threat to the euro as Greek debt.

3. Will the real David Cameron please stand up? (Times £)

The Prime Minister must stop calculating which way is safest to jump and get out and fight for what he believes, writes Conservative Home's editor Tim Montgomerie.

4. David Cameron praises Paralympians, but his policies will crush them (Independent)

With just days to go until the Paralympics start, the Government still intends to drive 500,000 people off the Disability Living Allowance, writes Owen Jones.

5. The elephant in the room: Romney the pragmatist (Financial Times)

Romney's trademark used to be pragmatism and competency. So how will he survive yoked to the modern-day Republican party, asks Edward Luce.

6. We need much simpler rules to rein in the banks (Financial Times)

Rather than creating complex sets of regulations, banking authorities should focus on naming and enforcing a "bright line" which it is clear that banks should not cross, writes Nicholas Brady.

7. What GCSE English needs is more red ink (Times £)

Libby Purves writes that letting students make errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation is far crueller than altering their grades.

8. I have a confession to make – I go to church (Independent)

Andrew Martin applauds a new report that says religion makes people happier, denies that religion is irrational, and wonders why his friends are so resistant to it.

9. The Thick of It: the agony of tight spaces (Guardian)

Crises come and go but one thing never changes in this show – the politicians are stuck, with no room for manoeuvre, says Ian Martin, one of the show's writers.

10. Terrorists seek a safe haven in Strasbourg (Telegraph)

The Telegraph editorialises against the European Court of Human Rights' "interference" – it is proceeding with an appeal by two British terrorists.

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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.