CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. A U-turn that will wreck public trust (Independent)

The Liberal Democrats do not have a mandate to vote for a big rise in tuition fees, says Steve Richards.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

2. Three reasons why the cuts are doomed (Times) (£)

We do need to shrink the state in the long term, but the speed and style of Osborne's plans threaten the economy, warns Anatole Kaletsky.

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3. Britain's austerity apostles duck the debate (Financial Times)

Labour's promise to cut a little less than the coalition is not an alternative economic strategy, says Robert Skidelsky.

4. At long last our politicians have acquired the wisdom of humility (Daily Telegraph)

The 233 new MPs have enabled the return of a more straightfoward and honest politics, writes Benedict Brogan.

5. Tuition fees: securing a future for elitism (Guardian)

Lord Browne's proposals risk creating a two-tier system and ending the dream of university for many, says Carole Leathwood.

6. I resent this foolish housing minister (Daily Mail)

Grant Shapps is wrong to speak of home owners as the cause of the problem, argues Stephen Glover.

7. The Fed feels compelled to experiment (Financial Times)

A new programme of quantitative easing will have implications far beyond the US, writes Mohamed El-Erian.

8. In praise of ... prime minister's questions (Guardian)

The exchanges between Miliband and Cameron promise a return to reasoned debate, says a Guardian editorial.

9. Israel has no future as a purely Jewish state (Independent)

The push to make Israel into a mono-cultural nation makes peace negotiations impossible, says Adrian Hamilton.

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10. This Nobel prize was bold and right - but hits China's most sensitive nerve (Guardian)

We are right to honour China's dissidents but the west must not give up on dialogue, writes Timothy Garton Ash.

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Leader: Trump and an age of disorder

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions.

The US presidency has not always been held by men of distinction and honour, but Donald Trump is by some distance its least qualified occupant. The leader of the world’s sole superpower has no record of political or military service and is ignorant of foreign affairs. Throughout his campaign, he repeatedly showed himself to be a racist, a misogynist, a braggart and a narcissist.

The naive hope that Mr Trump’s victory would herald a great moderation was dispelled by his conduct during the transition. He compared his country’s intelligence services to those of Nazi Germany and repeatedly denied Russian interference in the election. He derided Nato as “obsolete” and predicted the demise of the European Union. He reaffirmed his commitment to dismantling Obamacare and to overturning Roe v Wade. He doled out jobs to white nationalists, protectionists and family members. He denounced US citizens for demonstrating against him. Asked whether he regretted any part of his vulgar campaign, he replied: “No, I won.”

Of all his predilections, Mr Trump’s affection for Vladimir Putin is perhaps the most troubling. When the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, warned that Russia was the “number one geopolitical foe” of the US, he was mocked by Barack Obama. Yet his remark proved prescient. Rather than regarding Mr Putin as a foe, however, Mr Trump fetes him as a friend. The Russian president aims to use the US president’s goodwill to secure the removal of American sanctions, recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and respect for the murderous reign of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. He has a worryingly high chance of success.

Whether or not Mr Trump has personal motives for his fealty (as a lurid security dossier alleges), he and Mr Putin share a political outlook. Both men desire a world in which “strongmen” are free to abuse their citizens’ human rights without fear of external rebuke. Mr Trump’s refusal to commit to Nato’s principle of collective defence provides Mr Putin with every incentive to pursue his expansionist desires. The historic achievement of peace and stability in eastern Europe is in danger.

As he seeks reconciliation with Russia, Mr Trump is simultaneously pursuing conflict with China. He broke with precedent by speaking on the telephone with the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, and used Twitter to berate the Chinese government. Rex Tillerson, Mr Trump’s secretary of state nominee, has threatened an American blockade of the South China Sea islands.

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions. The US constitution, with its separation of powers, was designed to restrain autocrats such as the new president. Yet, in addition to the White House, the Republicans also control Congress and two-thirds of governorships and state houses. Mr Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment will ensure a conservative judicial majority. The decline of established print titles and the growth of “fake news” weaken another source of accountability.

In these circumstances, there is a heightened responsibility on the US’s allies to challenge, rather than to indulge, Mr Trump. Angela Merkel’s warning that co-operation was conditional on his respect for liberal and democratic values was a model of the former. Michael Gove’s obsequious interview with Mr Trump was a dismal example of the latter.

Theresa May has rightly rebuked the president for his treatment of women and has toughened Britain’s stance against Russian revanchism. Yet, although the UK must maintain working relations with the US, she should not allow the prospect of a future trade deal to skew her attitude towards Mr Trump. Any agreement is years away and the president’s protectionist proclivities could yet thwart British hopes of a beneficial outcome.

The diplomatic and political conventions embodied by the “special relationship” have endured for more than seven decades. However, Mr Trump’s election may necessitate their demise. It was the belief that the UK must stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US that led Tony Blair into the ruinous Iraq War. In this new age of disorder, Western leaders must avoid being willing accomplices to Mr Trump’s agenda. Intense scepticism, rather than sycophancy, should define their response.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era