Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Cameron’s demolition job risks tearing the country from its past (Daily Telegraph)

Whichever is the more conservative party is likely to win the next election – and right now that looks like Labour, writes Mary Riddell.

2. An unhappy marriage: union influence may cost Labour election chances (Independent)

By threatening more strikes union leaders prove they have not adjusted to poorer times - and their selfishness will only push voters away, says Steve Richards.

3. Democracy loses in struggle to save euro (Financial Times)

The sight of the German representative on the ECB being isolated and outvoted was chilling, says Gideon Rachman.

4. Why the whiff of success clings to Brand Boris (Times) (£)

David Cameron must rediscover the qualities that won him the leadership to see off the Mayor’s challenge, says Rachel Sylvester.

5. The universal credit programme is on course for disaster (Guardian)

Iain Duncan Smith's plan to streamline our benefits system is practically unachievable, says Frank Field.

6. Tories may regret their disdain of Romney (Financial Times)

It is folly to have such poor relations with a party that could soon hold the world’s mightiest office, argues Janan Ganesh.

7. Alzheimer's could be the most catastrophic impact of junk food (Guardian)

There is evidence that poor diet is one cause of Alzheimer's, writes George Monbiot. If ever there was a case for the precautionary principle, this is it.

8. Europe's Dutch barometer (Independent)

Holland’s fragmented politics have become more divided than ever, says an Independent leader.

9. Conservative party: cheers, fears and falling ratings (Guardian)

Mr Johnson may be the Tories' prince over the water now, but golden summers and victory parades do not last for ever, says a Guardian editorial.

10. Black Wednesday: The day that Britain went over the edge (Daily Telegraph)

Black Wednesday was a fateful moment that changed our country – and shaped a future prime minister, writes Philip Johnston.

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How austere will Philip Hammond be?

The Chancellor must choose between softening or abandoning George Osborne's approach in his Autumn Statement. 

After becoming Chancellor, Philip Hammond was swift to confirm that George Osborne's budget surplus target would be abandoned. The move was hailed by some as the beginning of a new era of fiscal policy - but it was more modest than it appeared. Rather than a statement of principle, the abandonment of the 2019-20 target was merely an acceptance of reality. In the absence of additional spending cuts or tax rises, it would inevitably be missed (as Osborne himself recognised following the EU referendum). The decision did not represent, as some suggested, "the end of austerity".

Ahead of his first Autumn Statement on 23 November, the defining choice facing Hammond is whether to make a more radical break. As a new Resolution Foundation report notes, the Chancellor could either delay the surplus target (the conservative option) or embrace an alternative goal. Were he to seek a current budget suplus, rather than an overall one (as Labour pledged at the last general election), Hammond would avoid the need for further austerity and give himself up to £17bn of headroom. This would allow him to borrow for investment and to provide support for the "just managing" families (as Theresa May calls them) who will be squeezed by the continuing benefits freeze.

Alternatively, should Hammond merely delay Osborne's surplus target by a year (to 2020-21), he would be forced to impose an additional £9bn of tax rises or spending cuts. Were he to reject any further fiscal tightening, a surplus would not be achieved until 2023-24 - too late to be politically relevant. 

The most logical option, as the Resolution Foundation concludes, is for Hammond to target a current surplus. But since entering office, both he and May have emphasised their continuing commitment to fiscal conservatism ("He talks about austerity – I call it living within our means," the latter told Jeremy Corbyn at her first PMQs). For Hammond to abandon the goal of the UK's first budget surplus since 2001-02 would be a defining moment. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.