Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. It's welfare, not wealth, that will define Ed Miliband's leadership (Daily Telegraph)

Labour's reluctance to stand up for those in greatest need leaves it in no man's land, says Mary Riddell.

2. Welfare cap: it's not about the money (Guardian)

Gavin Poole argues that opponents of the cap on benefits fail to see that it will raise self-esteem and break the cycle of poverty.

3. NHS reform should be dropped, before it's too late (Independent)

Steve Richards says that "sweeping upheaval" is a polite way of expressing the chaos that is being imposed.

4. Barack Obama has reasons to smile again (Daily Telegraph)

The president's future looks more hopeful, says Alex Spillius -- the US economy is recovering, Republicans are weak and he is untainted by scandal.

5. The real debate that America needs (Financial Times)

Romney and Obama are the men to set the agenda, says Gideon Rachman.

6.For Greece default is the only option (Guardian)

Costas Lapavitsas says that the dreadful debt saga will only come to a close when Greece takes charge of its predicament.

7. We want a deal with Iran, not a war (Independent)

The EU decision yesterday to ban imports of Iranian oil makes even more perilous a confrontation that could yet lead to war, warns this leading article.

8. Economic uncertainty is no excuse for inaction (Financial Times)

Increasing demand is the way back to economic health, writes Lawrence Summers.

9. Hockney's painted message for the politicos (Times) (£)

Britain's greatest living artist uses modern means to convey traditional themes. Rachel Sylvester says that MPs of all colours should take heed.

10. Courage: a product of practice rather than faith (Guardian)

Giles Fraser discusses the question of moral courage and whether you can get better at it.

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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.