Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The Lib Dems aren't going to rescue themselves by being timid (Observer)
They need to be seen as kinder than the Tories, safer with the economy than Labour and more radical than either, says Andrew Rawnsley

2. You'll be sorry as the wolves circle, Clegg (Sunday Times £)
Leaders are now suspiciously quick to resort to "sorry", says Martin Ivens

3. I don't believe Mitchell said the P-word (Sunday Telegraph)
The Chief Whip has a temper but it's not in him to use the word "pleb", say Matthew d'Ancona

4. The key pillars of our economy need reshaping, starting with finance (Observer)
The first in a three-part series, by Will Hutton

5. Can "three jobs" Laws really save the Lib Dems? (Daily Mail)
He is said to be working 20 hours a day, says James Forsyth

6. An EU referendum could be the crucial moment of David Cameron's career (Sunday Telegraph)
The outcome could mark Cameron as one of history's consequential Prime Ministers

7. Clegg's apology hands leadership to to Cable (Independent on Sunday)
The leader is stalked by his more popular rival, says John Rentoul

8. Mitchell must go, then we can discuss policing (Independent on Sunday)
The snobbish outburst of a cabinet minister shouldn't stop a debate about policing

9. Nick's sorry? Yeah, and the dog ate my homework (Daily Mail)
Clegg's hollow excuses have make him look like a man in a sorry state, says Viv Groskop

10. Troll away, vile trolls, you're doing us a service (Sunday Times £)
Free speech has no boundaries, says India Knight

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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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