Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. We know a lot about Labour policy already (Independent)

The ideas Balls and Miliband have brought to this conference are distinctive, potentially vote-winning and far more important than their own personalities, says Steve Richards.

2. Romney must prove he is no John Kerry (Financial Times)

The Republican should lay out bold policies in this week’s debate, writes Stanley Greenberg.

3. Miliband and Balls do have a plan, but they needn't reveal all yet (Guardian)

There is no way to duck all cuts, nor is it wise to decide too much ahead of the election, writes Polly Toynbee. The two Eds will not be bullied into it.

4. Miliband needs to give Labour a shock (Financial Times)

Nothing threatens the party more than the perception that it cannot take tough decisions, writes Janan Ganesh.

5. First Labour must shake off its defeat-deniers (Times) (£)

Ed Miliband’s party will not prosper until it stops blaming the voters and accepts why it was rejected in 2010, argues Rachel Sylvester.

6. A rightwing insurrection is usurping our democracy (Guardian)

For 30 years big business, neoliberal thinktanks and the media have colluded to capture our political system, says George Monbiot. They're winning.

7. We are constantly told how clever Ed Balls is, so why can't he give us clear answers? (Daily Mail)

If the shadow chancellor understands the need to cut spending further, because Britain is still spending far too much, he should clearly say so, writes Simon Heffer.

8. Blame the great men for Europe’s crisis (Financial Times)

Answering ‘who is at fault?’ will be important in fixing the mess, says Gideon Rachman.

9. Would any jury have convicted Jimmy Savile? (Independent)

Is the cover-up - if there was one - really so incomprehensible, asks Mary Dejevsky.

10. Zen and the art of slowing everything down (Daily Telegraph)

Returning from a trip to Japan, it seems that in Britain we're always rushing to be where we are not, says Joan Bakewell.

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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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