Morning Call: pick of the papers

Ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers

1. The BBC's real crime was to act like the Catholic Church (Guardian)

The Corporation's instincts when confronted with allegations of child abuse were all wrong, writes Jonathan Freedland.

2. Alex Salmond faces a sceptical nation (FT)

Kiran Stacey profiles the SNP leader.

3. Slowly the Tories are embracing ever looser union (Telegraph)

Charles Moore welcomes the tendency for leading Conservatives to flirt with quitting the European Union.

4. 'If the economy comes right, we'll sail home' (Telegraph)

Revealing interview with Ken Clarke, minister for giving revealing interviews.

5. No escape from energy firm bullies (Daily Mail

Mail editorial gets frothy about dysfunctional consumer energy market, without failing to note foreign ownership of companies in question.

6. Our plans for the next election (ConservativeHome)

Tory chairman Grant Shapps breaks with his past by revealing a winning strategy online under his own name.

7. The benefits of being in this together (FT)

Brisk, insightful guide to tax and benefit changes causing George Osborne a political headache, by Tim Harford

8. Too much poverty and joblessness? Blame newborn babies (Guardian)

Tory plans to limit child benefit wilfully and vindictiely miss the point, says Tanya Gold.

9. How scared should you be of President Romney (Independent)

Indie editorial generously decides that the Republican candidate might not turn out to be a monster.

10. Sadly a hung parliament has no oomph! (Independent)

Chris Bryant MP complains about the state of the legislature, among other things, not for the first time.

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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

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.

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