Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from the Sunday papers.

1. Those who say history will absolve the Iraq warmongers are deluded (Observer)

Those who argue that last week's election in Iraq vindicated the decision to go to war there in 2003 ignore the huge number of civilians killed in the invasion, writes Henry Porter.

2. Warning -- Women are people, too (Independent on Sunday)

The party leaders are mistaken if they think that women voters are only concerned with family-friendly issues, says John Rentoul. The big issues -- taxation, public spending, jobs -- matter just as much to them.

3. It's Nick Clegg's chance to shine, so he'd better not fluff his lines (Observer)

The prospect of a hung parliament could finally give the Lib Dems a chance to shape government to their agenda, writes Andrew Rawnsley. But they will need to show exceptional discipline during the campaign.

4. Welcome to life under Nick Clegg (Sunday Times)

Meanwhile, in the Sunday Times, Martin Ivens argues that, unlike his predecessors, Clegg gives the appearance of being genuinely equidistant between Labour and the Conservatives.

5. A general election is a battle for hearts more than minds (Sunday Telegraph)

To have any hope of winning a Commons majority, David Cameron has to conquer a generation-old national assumption that the Tories are up to no good, writes Matthew d'Ancona.

6. Sam the one to play it for Cam (News of the World)

Cameron's greatest personal asset is his wife, Samantha, says Fraser Nelson. Now she must help to offset the Tory leader's perceived insincerity.

7. A shameful day for the House of Lords (Sunday Times)

A leader attacks the "establishment stitch-up" that has allowed peers who abused expenses to escape legal action.

8. David Cameron is selling a new Tory brand -- but I'm not buying it yet (Sunday Telegraph)

The Tory modernisers' crucial error was to allow their rebranding project to be exhibited in the light of day, argues Janet Daley. Voters now recognise it for the mindless, manipulative, media-driven technique that it is.

9. Don't celebrate these billionaires, be horrified by their existence (Observer)

We are wrong to welcome the growing number of billionaires, argues Will Hutton. Wealth is not always a sign of economic progress.

10. Wives, TV debates . . . How about fixed terms, too? (Sunday Times)

Having adopted TV election debates, we should also import fixed terms from the United States, argues a leader in the Sunday Times.

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Theresa May's magic money tree is growing in Northern Ireland

Her £1bn deal with the DUP could make it even harder to push through cuts in the rest of the UK.

Going, going, gone...sold to the dark-haired woman from Enniskillen! Theresa May has signed a two-year deal with Arlene Foster, the DUP's leader, to keep her in office. The price? A cool £1bn and the extension of the military covenant to Northern Ireland.

The deal will have reverberations both across the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland specifically. To take the latter first – the amount spent in Northern Ireland in 2016/17 was just under £10bn. A five point increase in spending on health, education and roads is a fairly large feather in anyone's cap.

It transforms the picture as far as the fraught negotiations over restoring power-sharing goes. It increases the pressure on Sinn Féin to restore power-sharing so they can help decide exactly where the money goes. And if there's another election, it means that Arlene Foster goes into it not as the woman who oversaw the wasteful RHI scheme (a renewable energy programme that because of its poor drafting saw farmers paid to heat empty rooms) but as the negotiator who bagged an extra £1bn for Northern Ireland. 

Across the United Kingdom, the optics are less good for the (nominal) senior partner to the deal.

"May buys DUP support with £1 billion 'bung" is the Times"£1bn for DUP is 'just the start" is the Telegraph's splash, and their Scottish edition is worse: "Fury at 'grubby' deal with DUP". With friends like this, who needs the Guardian? (They've gone for "May hands £1bn bonanza to DUP to cling on at No 10" as their splash, FYI.) 

Not to be outdone, the Mirror opts for "May's £1bn bribe to crackpots" while the Scotsman goes for "£100 million per vote: The price of power".  Rounding off the set, the Evening Standard has mocked Foster up as Dr Evil and Theresa May as Mini-Me on its front page. The headline? "I demand the sum of....one billion pounds!"   

Of course, in terms of what the government spends, £1bn is much ado about nothing. (To put it in perspective, the total budget across the UK is £770bn or thereabouts, debt interest around £40bn, the deficit close to £76bn).

But only a few weeks ago Theresa May was telling a nurse that the reason she couldn't get a pay rise is that there is "no magic money tree". Now that magic money tree is growing freely in Northern Ireland. The Conservatives have been struggling to get further cuts through as it is – just look at the row over tax credits, or the anger at school cuts in the election – but now any further cuts in England, Scotland and Wales will rub up against the inevitable comeback not only from the opposition parties but the voters: "But you've got money to spend in Northern Ireland!"

(That £1bn is relatively small probably makes matters worse – an outlay per DUP MP that you might expect a world-class football club to spend on a quality player. It's tangible, rather like that £350m for the NHS. £30bn? That's just money.)

For Labour, who have spent the last seven years arguing, with varying degrees of effectiveness that austerity is a choice, it's as close to an open goal as you can imagine. Theresa May's new government is now stable – but it's an open question as to how long it will take her party to feel strong again.

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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