CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. An assault on unions is an attack on democracy itself (Guardian)

The Conservatives' attempt to smear the trade unions is an absurd attempt to turn the current crisis of corporate legitimacy into a crisis of union legitimacy, argues Seumas Milne.

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2. Unite doesn't run Labour -- it can't even run itself (Independent)

Meanwhile, the Independent's Steve Richards says the belief that Unite has seized control of the Labour Party ignores the truth: that this is a union which rarely speaks or acts with one voice.

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3. Stand by, and watch 1992 happen all over again (Times)

Next week's Budget is as much a test for the Tories as one for the government, writes Anatole Kaletsky. If David Cameron and George Osborne misjudge their response, they could scupper their chances in the same way as Neil Kinnock and John Smith destroyed Labour's in 1992.

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4. The buccaneering spirit will prevail (Daily Telegraph)

Cameron's fighting performance this week has put Labour on the back foot again, writes Benedict Brogan. A free-flowing campaign focused on the party leaders could prove Gordon Brown's undoing.

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5. This Lib Dem myth (Guardian)

The belief that left-leaning voters will feel happier in the Liberal Democrats ignores the party's rightward shift, argues Tim Horton. Nick Clegg's tax plans would give more to the affluent middle classes than to the poorest.

6. Obama won't restrain Israel -- he can't (Independent)

Given the strength of the Israel lobby and Washington's strategic relationship with Tel Aviv, Barack Obama has no hope of preventing Binyamin Netanyahu's illegal settlement expansion, says Rupert Cornwell.

7. Poverty blights the dream of Hong Kong (Financial Times)

The territory's tradition of small government and belief in the free market has left it with the worst income inequality in Asia, writes David Pilling.

8. Why do the Tories want to be the heirs to Blair? (Daily Mail)

The Tories will not succeed by trying to ape Tony Blair, writes Stephen Glover. The public no longer shares their infatuation with the former prime minister.

9. Needed: a peaceful anti-Netanyahu uprising (Times)

Malcolm Rifkind argues that Israel needs a peaceful, democratic revolution to re-create a government with a genuine commitment to a two-state solution.

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10. A messiah can't do it. To reshape the world, the US must first reform itself (Guardian)

The biggest problem for American foreign policy is a conservative Congress, writes Timothy Garton Ash. If Obama's foreign policy is to prove effective, he must reform political finance and curb the lobbyists.

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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.