Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Beware the vitriol Tories reserve for the BBC (Guardian)

We shouldn't buy into this right-wing hysteria – Conservatives will seize on any excuse to dismantle the corporation, writes Diane Abbott.

2. New sheriffs in town – but will law and order change? (Daily Telegraph)

Wiith the election of police and crime commissioners, political parties are missing a major chance to improve justice in towns and cities, says Mary Riddell.

3. The BBC should learn from the Birt era (Financial Times)

The corporation should not confuse a change of personnel with a renewal of its strategy and output, writes James Purnell.

4. There is something profoundly wrong with a Britain where only the 'little people' pay taxes (Daily Mail)

A seedy amorality over paying tax has spread throughout the upper echelons of our society, writes Ian Birrell.

5. Britain’s door is too open to foreign tycoons (Times) (£)

The City’s reputation has taken a battering recently, writes David Wighton. That’s why we must be wary about who does business here.

6. Why Obama is more than Bush with a human face (Guardian)

Ground-floor thinking can give Obama lift-off, writes Slavoj Žižek. His reforms have already touched a nerve at the core of the US ideological edifice.

7. Police commissioners are worth voting for (Independent)

Flawed or not, this week's ballot will give the public a say for the first time, says an Independent leader.

8. Europe is messing up Merkel’s union (Financial Times)

If Germany can’t head off crises its citizens will pay for, unhappiness will turn to fury, says Sebastian Mallaby.

9. Bureaucracy has become the BBC's dieback disease (Guardian)

So unwieldy is its vast, multilayered hierarchy that the corporation has lost all capacity to allocate blame for its mistakes, says Simon Jenkins.

10. Whether you like it or not, the era of much smaller government is fast approaching in Britain (Independent)

We are at the end of a set of ideas that have prevailed for the best part of a century, writes Hamish McRae.

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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