CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Are these hardships necessary? (Financial Times)

Samuel Brittan argues that the real argument should be about whether we need unparalleled fiscal austerity or not. All is not lost as long as the US and China stick to quasi-Keynesian policies.

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2. This Budget is the big test (Guardian)

The Labour leadership candidate David Miliband says his party must take on the Budget with principle and passion to show that it has learned the right lessons from the crisis.

3. After Shannon, what about the other 304,000? (Times)

There are 304,000 children suffering low-level neglect, says Camilla Cavendish. It's impossible to expect social workers alone to keep bad parents on the straight and narrow.

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4. The dealing room had it coming (Independent)

Andreas Whittam Smith discusses financial reform. Banks have become huge organisations engaged in scores of different activities, some of them more suitable for gamblers than for sober citizens.

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5. Liberal Democrats should prepare for a bumpy ride (Guardian)

Reading the Lib Dem soul is a tricky business, says John Harris, but there is dissent in the ranks, as most of the people at the top subscribe to a politics very different from that of the party mainstream.

6. West must offer Turkey a proper seat (Financial Times)

Ankara has not turned its back on Europe, says Philip Stephens, but the terms of engagement have changed. Economically vibrant and politically self-confident, Turkey has outgrown the role allotted to it by the west.

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7. Germany won't let the euro train be derailed (Times)

Josef Joffe says that Germany has always been a vital part of the single currency and has far too much at stake to let it fall apart.

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8. Plucky Belgium is leading the way. Today Flanders, tomorrow Scotland (Guardian)

Simon Jenkins points out that however much Euro-enthusiasts wish it were otherwise, the craving for lower-tier self-rule refuses to die. In Scandinavia, Italy, Spain, even the UK, concession after concession is made to devolutionary sentiment.

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9. What football says about a country (Independent)

It is not the fear of losing that does them in, says Matthew Norman. Losing is far too familiar an experience to frighten them a jot. It's the fear of winning.

10. From Russia with Restraint (Times)

The leading article says that although Kyrgyzstan urgently needs outside help, Moscow should not overplay its hand.

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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.