CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Nick Clegg to win the General Election? Has someone put something in the water supply? (Daily Telegraph)

Mayor of London Boris Johnson argues that the current madness for all things Liberal Democrat is media driven and cannot last. Nick Clegg is the beneficiary of cunning Labour spin, emphasising the third party to take the shine off the Tories.

2. And for the Lib Dems' next trick? Electrify the foreign debate (Guardian)

Nick Clegg will squander his gains if he shies from a row on Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan, says Jackie Ashley, looking ahead to this week's leaders' debate on foreign affairs. He should go on the offensive to open up a serious and nuanced debate.

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3. The Conservatives' dilemma is even worse than Labour's (Independent)

David Cameron is reluctant to attack the Lib Dems along traditional, right-wing lines for being "soft" on crime and immigration, as he could alienate the socially liberal voters he has courted. But, says Donald Macintyre, the polls may leave him little option.

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4. Nick Clegg's rise could lock Murdoch and the media elite out of UK politics (Guardian)

Taking a different look at the surge in Lib Dem support, former Sun editor David Yelland says that if the party actually won the election -- or held the balance of power -- it would be the first time in decades that Murdoch was locked out of British politics.

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5. Immigration needs a New York state of mind (Times)

All three main political parties are illiberal on immigration. Bill Emmott argues that bureaucratic controls will only deny Britain the benefits it has reaped from foreign workers over the years.

6. Wall Street beware: the lawyers are coming (Financial Times)

Frank Partnoy discusses the fraud suit against Goldman Sachs, saying that this will open the litigation floodgates for more suits based on subprime mortgage fraud. It also shows how litigation can fill gaps regulation will miss.

7. Wall Street 2 (Times)

The Goldman Sachs case is a devastating blow for the entire financial system, says the leading article. We are entering the next chapter of the financial crisis, in which the banking sector will have to explain itself.

8. Cameron, beware. Cake baking and sports clubs can't fix inequality (Guardian)

Madeleine Bunting looks at an east London estate which offers a potent picture of the Big Society. But there is a big gap in Cameron's big idea -- it needs a decentralised economic power to work.

9. America and Europe meet midway (Financial Times)

Republicans accuse Barack Obama of trying to turn the US into Europe. But, Clive Crook points out, there are many different Europes. What if America should converge on the wrong one?

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10. Is there any way that some 'outsiders' might get a look-in? (Independent)

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown bemoans the Lib Dems' lack of black or Asian candidates in winnable seats. If politicians want more voters to come out, they need to widen the debates and engage with issues they are ignoring.


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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

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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