Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Osborne well knows that Tories tax wealth at their peril (Financial Times)

If there are shock and awe tax cuts, there must be shock and awe tax rises too, writes Paul Goodman

2. Unemployment matters more than GDP or inflation (Guardian)

Jobless figures are the one major economic indicator that measures people, writes Mehdi Hasan. And they demonstrate the toll in misery across Europe.

3. A billion reasons to close the stamp duty loophole (Daily Telegraph)

Stamp duty avoidance by the super-rich is a scandal that is costing the country a fortune, says Boris Johnson.

4. Mr Obama must take a stand against Israel over Iran (Financial Times)

The true danger lies in the refusal to allow a viable Palestinian state, write John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.

5. Who'll fight for man in street now, Cam? (Sun)

Hilton is a loss to a nation whose political elite has surrendered to unelected and unaccountable officials in Whitehall and Europe, says Trevor Kavanagh.

6. Whitehall still needs to sharpen up its act (Daily Telegraph)

The self-serving days of 'Yes Minister' may be over, but further Civil Service reform is vital, argues Peter Riddell.

7. I fear Cameron will prove to be little more than an empty suit (Daily Mail)

Steve Hilton's departure will reveal whether Dave has any political principles of his own, says Melanie Phillips.

8. What is 'soft power'? Tune in to find out (Times) (£)

Boosting the BBC World Service, not foreign aid, is the surer way to win the respect of the poor and repressed, argues Bill Emmott.

9. The police: a chance to modernise (Guardian)

This isn't privatisation: outsourcing routine jobs will save money for more urgent, difficult areas of policing, argues Ian Blair.

10. The God-given dignity to which the Cardinal is blind (Independent)

Cardinal O'Brien has not halted the onward march of aggressive secularism, but strengthened it, says Richard Coles.

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Michel Barnier is Britain's best friend, but the Brexiteers are too shallow to notice

The right's obsession with humilating a man who should be a great British asset is part of why negotiations are in a mess. 

Sam Coates of the Times has the inside track on what Theresa May is planning to say in her big speech in Florence tomorrow: a direct appeal to the leaders of the European Union’s member states over the head of Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator.

I explained some of the problems with this approach in my morning briefing earlier today, but just to reiterate: the major difficulty is that Barnier’s mandate as a negotiator hasn’t emerged fully formed from the mind of some scheming bureaucrat in the European Commissio, but after discussion and agreement by the heads of member states. There are problems with the EU approach to sequencing talks, but the chances of changing it by appealing to the people who set it in the first place seems unlikely, to put it mildly.  

Barnier seems to occupy a strange position in the demonology of right-wing Brexiteers, I suspect largely due to ignorance about how the EU works, and in some cases Francophobia. The reality is that Barnier is the single politician outside of the United Kingdom with the most to lose from a bad Brexit deal.

If the Brexit talks end badly, then that will be the first line of Barnier’s obituary. Back in his native France, the centre-right is in opposition and none of the candidates vying to lead the Republicans are are going to give him a big domestic job to save his reputation.

His dream of parlaying a successful turn as the EU27’s chief negotiator into running the Commission relies not only on the talks succeeding, but him cultivating a good relationship with the heads of government across the EU27. In other words: for Barnier to get what he wants, he needs both to secure a good deal and to keep to the objectives set for him by the heads of member states. A good deal for all sides is a great deal for Barnier. 

As a result, the Brexit elite ought to see Barnier as what he really is: their best friend on the other side of the table. Instead, they are indulging in fantasies about tricking Barnier, undermining Barnier, and overcoming Barnier. In short, once again, they are bungling Brexit because they don’t want to think about it or approach it seriously. 

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.