Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The Tories just aren't patrician enough (Guardian)

Self-conscious and lacking in confidence, the Conservative party has forgotten the redeeming virtues of the old aristocracy, writes Geoffrey Wheatcroft.

2. London has turned its back on the very people it needs most (Daily Telegraph)

A home-buying scheme to aid the 'squeezed middle’ is essential to protect the economy, argues Boris Johnson.

3. My 2020 vision for a Boris Johnson Cabinet (Times) (£)

David Cameron faces a tough party conference, but what does the longer-term future hold for the Conservatives, asks Tim Montgomerie.

4. Americans deserve a better choice than the one they've got (Guardian)

US electoral system funded by the wealthy will never distribute resources equitably, whether Barack Obama is in charge or not, says Gary Younge.

5. We are ending the something for nothing culture (Daily Mail)

It is possible to reduce the welfare budget by a further £10bn, say George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith.

6. Conservatives in Birmingham: a nasty case of the blues (Guardian)

Since a brave speech by Theresa May in 2002, the momentum of the Tory reform project has slipped badly, says a Guardian editorial.

7. Relentless austerity will only deepen Greek woes (Financial Times)

In the absence of a very big change in policy, we should expect Spain to go down the same tube, writes Wolfgang Munchau.

8. We can profit from EU chaos (Sun)

Brussels needs Britain to help save the whole structure, not just the single currency, from collapsing in ruins, writes Trevor Kavanagh.

9. Cameron must modernise, not appease the reactionaries (Independent)

David Cameron needs to remind people who he is – a compassionate and modern conservative, says Ian Birrell.

10. Parallels between apartheid and Argentina (Financial Times)

Argentina is heading, and not for the first time, over an economic cliff, writes Tony Leon.

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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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