Morning Call: pick of the comment

Today's papers on Iran, Iraq and Italy

1. Iran: On collision course again (Guardian)

The Guardian leader calls for "smart" engagement with Iran's power centres, rather than another round of crippling sanctions.

2. Blair's critics are asking the wrong questions (Times)

David Aaronovitch says that Tony Blair's critics are wrong to focus too much on WMDs and the run-up to war: the real question is whether this detracted from planning for postwar reconstruction.

3. Never mind bodyguards -- only politics matters (Independent)

Peter Popham says yesterday's attack on Silvio Berlusconi has been politicised, and discusses the "heavy political weather" in Italy.

4. Cameron must answer the Ashcroft question in full (Times)

Rachel Sylvester says that David Cameron must answer the Lord Ashcroft question in full to tackle voters' sense that "there is one rule for them and another for us".

5. It is not only the young who suffer (Independent)

Mary Dejevsky says that focusing on child asylum-seekers alone simplifies the issue -- most come with parents attached.

6. Litigation tourism (Financial Times)

The FT joins the calls for reform to libel law in its leader, suggesting that privacy laws be strengthened and remodelled with a stronger public-interest defence.

7. This is bigger than climate change. It is a battle to redefine humanity (Guardian)

George Monbiot argues that survival means accepting that we must live within limits.

8. Torture and transparency (Independent)

The Independent leader denounces as "self-serving rubbish" David Miliband's attempts to prevent the disclosure of a high court judgment on the case of the British Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed.


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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.