CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. We came, we saw, but what did we really learn? (Times)

The third debate showed us that we can immerse ourselves in a warm soup of personality and trivia, says David Aaronovitch. But on the big issues, the leaders won't tell us what we don't want to hear.

2. TV debate: David Cameron faced the job interview of his life. He passed (Guardian)

The political stakes last night were huge -- David Cameron faced the most important job interview of his life. You may not want to know this, says Martin Kettle, but most viewers will judge that he passed.

3. Ultimately, a question of judgement (Independent)

The leading article advises British voters to think long and hard about which party leader on display last night would have the judgement deal with this economic crisis, citing the Conservatives' past poor judgement.

4. Cameron's plans risk a postcode lottery (Financial Times)

Cameron's plans to shrink the size of the state in specific areas contradicts the principle of whereby the distribution of public services is dependent not upon geography but upon need, writes Vernon Bogdanor.

5. Greece shows just why the Celts should be grilled on the BBC (Guardian)

Why should the Scots or Welsh cut jobs if London will pay, Simon Jenkins. Locking the SNP and Plaid Cymru out of the TV debates only feeds this accountability deficit.

6. Cameron is concealing his inner Bush (Independent)

Johann Hari debunks Cameron's claims to be a "compassionate Conservative", looking at four specific policies and finding a cocktail of market fundamentalism, Europhobia, and haranguing of the vulnerable

7. Europe's economy is the sick man of the world (Times)

The eurozone will have to boost economic growth, and, Bill Emmott warns, they must also accept the need to exclude Greece from the euro, at least until it is able to meet the single currency's rules.

8. The crisis will spread without a Plan B (Financial Times)

Nouriel Roubini and Arnab Das discuss the Greek sovereign debt crisis. It might not be too late to avoid a disorderly outcome, if the right steps are taken now.

9. Censorship is in the ascendant (Independent)

The reaction across the political spectrum to the South Park saga has added to its grim comedy, says Terence Blacker. As a culture, we increasingly prefer to play safe and to avoid trouble.

10. Borderline Politics (Times)

The leading article looks at Arizona's ugly new immigration law, which Obama has rightly criticised as deeply un-American.

 

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You may call me a monster – but I'm glad that girl's lemonade stall got shut down

What's wrong with hard-working public servants enforcing perfectly sensible regulations?

Who could fail to be moved by the widely shared tears of a five year old whose innocent lemonade stall was brutally shut down by evil bureaucrats? What sort of monster would not have their heartstrings tugged by the plaintive “I've done a bad thing” from a girl whose father tells us she “just wanted to put a smile on people's faces”?

Well me, actually.

There are half a million cases of food poisoning each year in the UK, and one of the reasons we have stringent controls on who can sell food and drink, especially in unsealed containers, is to try to cut those figures down. And street stalls in general are regulated because we have a system of taxation, rights and responsibilities in this country which underpins our functioning society. Regulation is a social and economic good.

It’s also pretty unfair to criticise the hard-working public servants who acted in this case for doing the job they are no doubt underpaid to do. For the council to say “we expect our enforcement officers to show common sense” as they cancelled the fine is all very well, but I’m willing to bet they are given precious little leeway in their training when it comes to who gets fined and who doesn’t. If the council is handing out apologies, it likely should be issuing one to its officers as well.

“But these are decent folk being persecuted by a nanny state,” I hear you cry. And I stand impervious, I’m afraid. Because I’ve heard that line a lot recently and it’s beginning to grate.

It’s the same argument used against speed cameras and parking fines. How often have you heard those caught out proclaim themselves as “law-abiding citizens” and bemoan the infringement of their freedom? I have news for you: if you break the speed limit, or park illegally, or indeed break health and safety or trading regulations, you are not a law-abiding citizen. You’re actually the one who’s in the wrong.

And rarely is ignorance an excuse. Speed limits and parking regulations are posted clearly. In the case of the now famous lemonade stand, the father in question is even quoted as saying “I thought that they would just tell us to pack up and go home.” So he knew he was breaking the rules. He just didn’t think the consequences should apply to him.

A culture of entitlement, and a belief that rules are for other people but not us, is a disease gripping middle Britain. It is demonstrated in many different ways, from the driver telling the cyclist that she has no right to be on the road because she doesn’t pay road tax (I know), to the father holding up his daughter’s tears to get out of a fine.

I know, I’m a monster. But hooray for the enforcers, I say.

Duncan Hothersall is the editor of Labour Hame