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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Northern Ireland election results: a shift beneath the status quo

The power of the largest parties has been maintained, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

After a long day of counting and tinkering with the region’s complex PR vote transfer sytem, Northern Irish election results are slowly starting to trickle in. Overall, the status quo of the largest parties has been maintained with Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party returning as the largest nationalist and unionist party respectively. However, beyond the immediate scope of the biggest parties, interesting changes are taking place. The two smaller nationalist and unionist parties appear to be losing support, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

The most significant win of the night so far has been Gerry Carroll from People Before Profit who topped polls in the Republican heartland of West Belfast. Traditionally a Sinn Fein safe constituency and a former seat of party leader Gerry Adams, Carroll has won hearts at a local level after years of community work and anti-austerity activism. A second People Before Profit candidate Eamon McCann also holds a strong chance of winning a seat in Foyle. The hard-left party’s passionate defence of public services and anti-austerity politics have held sway with working class families in the Republican constituencies which both feature high unemployment levels and which are increasingly finding Republicanism’s focus on the constitutional question limiting in strained economic times.

The Green party is another smaller party which is slowly edging further into the mainstream. As one of the only pro-choice parties at Stormont which advocates for abortion to be legalised on a level with Great Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act, the party has found itself thrust into the spotlight in recent months following the prosecution of a number of women on abortion related offences.

The mixed-religion, cross-community Alliance party has experienced mixed results. Although it looks set to increase its result overall, one of the best known faces of the party, party leader David Ford, faces the real possibility of losing his seat in South Antrim following a poor performance as Justice Minister. Naomi Long, who sensationally beat First Minister Peter Robinson to take his East Belfast seat at the 2011 Westminster election before losing it again to a pan-unionist candidate, has been elected as Stormont MLA for the same constituency. Following her competent performance as MP and efforts to reach out to both Protestant and Catholic voters, she has been seen by many as a rising star in the party and could now represent a more appealing leader to Ford.

As these smaller parties slowly gain a foothold in Northern Ireland’s long-established and stagnant political landscape, it appears to be the smaller two nationalist and unionist parties which are losing out to them. The moderate nationalist party the SDLP risks losing previously safe seats such as well-known former minister Alex Attwood’s West Belfast seat. The party’s traditional, conservative values such as upholding the abortion ban and failing to embrace the campaign for same-sex marriage has alienated younger voters who instead may be drawn to Alliance, the Greens or People Before Profit. Local commentators have speculate that the party may fail to get enough support to qualify for a minister at the executive table.

The UUP are in a similar position on the unionist side of the spectrum. While popular with older voters, they lack the charismatic force of the DUP and progressive policies of the newer parties. Over the course of the last parliament, the party has aired the possibility of forming an official opposition rather than propping up the mandatory power-sharing coalition set out by the peace process. A few months ago, legislation will finally past to allow such an opposition to form. The UUP would not commit to saying whether they are planning on being the first party to take up that position. However, lacklustre election results may increase the appeal. As the SDLP suffers similar circumstances, they might well also see themselves attracted to the role and form a Stormont’s first official opposition together as a way of regaining relevance and esteem in a system where smaller parties are increasingly jostling for space.