Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

  1. More spending? The coalition may as well build a bridge to the moon (Guardian)
    David Cameron and Vince Cable are both wrong. Infrastructure isn't the answer and nor is QE – money in pockets is, writes Simon Jenkins.
  2. Pay up for Nato or shut it down (Financial Times)
    Being prepared for new threats requires military capabilities but no one wants to pick up the bill, argues Philip Stephens.
  3. The crumbling Coalition is being torn apart by the post-Budget Public Spending Review (Telegraph)
    Deciding the contents of George Osborne's Budget has been relatively straightforward. How to divide the shrinking budgets is a battle that has taken on Bosnian complexity, says Fraser Nelson.
  4. David Cameron's very own magic money tree (Guardian)
    This speech outlines Cameron's strategic gamble of ploughing on with austerity and using quantitative easing as a palliative, writes Richard Seymour.
  5. Benefit tourists are just political phantoms (Times)
    It’s a myth that lazy foreigners are sponging off our welfare state. Our leaders ought to be straight with us, says Philip Collins.
  6. The man at Number 10 is not for turning (Financial Times)
    If the British government’s plan is working, what would a failing one look like, asks Martin Wolf.
  7. Ministerial rows over cuts show how much weaker Cameron and Osborne have become (Independent)
    The Tories now see the reality of public-spending cuts—and they don't like it, writes Steve Richards.
  8. It’s plain what George Osborne needs to do – so just get on and do it (Telegraph)
    The politics are tricky, but the Budget must confront some hard economic choices, insists Jeremy Warner.
  9. The Market Speaks (New York Times)
    Yes, the Dow Jones industrial average has been setting new records this week, but the message from the markets is actually not a happy one, says Paul Krugman.
  10. MPs reading the news? Pigs (and bats) might fly (Independent)
    There was a curious absence at DEFRA questions, writes Donald MacIntyre.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.