CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Revealed: the great scandal no one's noticed (Times)

Daniel Finkelstein criticises Gordon Brown's refusal to announce a spending review in bad times -- a cynical move, given the political potency.

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2. Chancellors can't do that much (Independent)

Hamish McRae maintains that Budgets matter for what they do to public finances, not what they do to the economy. In the short and medium term, all governments have to work with the economy as it is.

3. Today the tooth fairy turns cuts into efficiency savings (Guardian)

Efficiency savings have become the ultimate political get-out-of-jail-free card to liberate us from a £175bn deficit, writes Simon Jenkins, but if things were that easy, they would have happened.

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4. Israel must sack the head of Mossad for this grave insult to Britain (Daily Telegraph)

Con Coughlin says that the Foreign Office decision to expel an important Israeli diplomat is bad for Anglo-Israeli relations, but the blame lies squarely with Israel for the cavalier way in which it abused the passports of a friendly country.

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5. There's a charming symmetry to the latest New Labour scandal (Independent)

Matthew Norman recalls that Labour's arrival in power was marked by the party trousering a million from Bernie Ecclestone in return for changing policy. As such, there is symmetry in the way the lobbying scandal today may help hasten its departure.

6. Let us hear about political women, not politicians' wives (Guardian)

Most voters know more than they want to about Samantha Cameron or Sarah Brown, writes Anne Perkins -- but the belief still lingers that, for women at least, family and a political career are mutually exclusive.

7. Running the country shouldn't be child's play (Times)

Taking a different tack is Alice Thomson, who asks whether we really want sleep-deprived parents -- male or female -- taking decisions that affect 60 million of us.

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8. Google row reveals China's dictatorial attitude (Daily Telegraph)

China's centrally dictated, totalitarian approach to capitalism is fundamentally at odds with the liberal, democratic free-market tradition that exists in America, says Jeremy Warner.

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9. As Biko knew, powerlessness in actual lives is the hurdle justice must clear (Guardian)

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen argues that the state must ensure not only that individual freedoms exist, but that everyone has the ability to experience them.

10. Ethiopia: an aid success story or a tyranny? (Times)

Our money is eradicating poverty, says Camilla Cavendish, discussing the BBC's allegations about Ethiopian aid. But this money may also be used to prop up a repressive regime.

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The UK must reflect on its own role in stoking tension over North Korea

World powers should follow the conciliatory approach of South Korea, not its tempestuous neighbour. 

South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in has done something which took enormous bravery. As US and North Korean leaders rattle their respective nuclear sabres at one another, Jae-in called for negotiations and a peaceful resolution, rejecting the kind of nationalist and populist response preferred by Trump and Kim Jong-un.

In making this call, Jae-in has chosen the path of most resistance. It is always much easier to call for one party in a conflict to do X or Y than to sit round a table and thrash through the issues at hand. So far the British response has sided largely with the former approach: Theresa May has called on China to clean up the mess while the foreign secretary Boris Johnson has slammed North Korea as “reckless”.

China undoubtedly has a crucial role to play in any solution to the North and South Korean conflict, and addressing the mounting tensions between Pyongyang and Washington but China cannot do it alone. And whilst North Korea’s actions throughout this crisis have indeed been reckless and hugely provocative, the fact that the US has flown nuclear capable bombers close to the North Korean border must also be condemned. We should also acknowledge and reflect on the UK’s own role in stoking the fires of tension: last year the British government sent four Typhoon fighter jets to take part in joint military exercises in the East and South China seas with Japan. On the scale of provocation, that has to rate pretty highly too.

Without being prepared to roll up our sleeves and get involved in complex multilateral negotiations there will never be an end to these international crises. No longer can the US, Britain, France, and Russia attempt to play world police, carving up nations and creating deals behind closed doors as they please. That might have worked in the Cold War era but it’s anachronistic and ineffective now. Any 21st century foreign policy has to take account of all the actors and interests involved.

Our first priority must be to defuse tension. I urge PM May to pledge that she will not send British armed forces to the region, a move that will only inflame relations. We also need to see her use her influence to press both Trump and Jong-un to stop throwing insults at one another across the Pacific Ocean, heightening tensions on both sides.

For this to happen they will both need to see that serious action - as opposed to just words - is being taken by the international community to reach a peaceful solution. Britain can play a major role in achieving this. As a member of the UN Security Council, it can use its position to push for the recommencing of the six party nuclear disarmament talks involving North and South Korea, the US, China, Russia, and Japan. We must also show moral and practical leadership by signing up to and working to enforce the new UN ban on nuclear weapons, ratified on 7 July this year and voted for by 122 nations, and that has to involve putting our own house in order by committing to the decommissioning of Trident whilst making plans now for a post-Trident defence policy. It’s impossible to argue for world peace sat on top of a pile of nuclear weapons. And we need to talk to activists in North and South Korea and the US who are trying to find a peaceful solution to the current conflict and work with them to achieve that goal.

Just as those who lived through the second half of the 20th century grew accustomed to the threat of a nuclear war between the US and Russia, so those of us living in the 21st know that a nuclear strike from the US, North Korea, Iran, or Russia can never be ruled out. If we want to move away from these cyclical crises we have to think and act differently. President Jae-in’s leadership needs to be now be followed by others in the international community. Failure to do so will leave us trapped, subject to repeating crises that leave us vulnerable to all-out nuclear war: a future that is possible and frightening in equal measure.

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.