Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. A-level reforms: Michael Gove's bid to grab headlines will merely narrow pupils' learning (Guardian)

The education secretary, an ex-journalist, knows how to sell reforms for the rightwing press, writes Peter Wilby. But it's no way to run our schools.

2. Coalition's constituency boundary reforms are a complete mess and an insult to voters (Daily Mail)

Trust will be reduced, confidence eroded and the political class once again will lose public faith for playing irrelevant games, writes David Blunkett.

3. Could the Tories' plan for re-election in 2015 cost just 10p? (Guardian)

A new tax band might entice hard-hit voters to look again at the party, and would be billed as righting a Labour wrong, writes Gavin Kelly. 

4. Modern Essex man who has the key to victory (Times) (£)

Europe alone won’t be enough to win in 2015, writes Tim Montgomerie. The Conservatives must become the party of the little people.

5. Why the left should support a referendum on Europe (Guardian)

 The EU is an elite project without popular support, says Vernon Bogdanor. Labour can bring it back to the people.

6. Only a coward would deny the people their voice on Europe (Daily Telegraph)

Ed Miliband's rejection of an in-out EU referendum is blatantly undemocratic, argues Boris Johnson.

7. Time to decide on UK defence policy (Financial Times)

Cameron must scale back either the rhetoric or the cuts, says an FT editorial. 

8. What my generation can learn from the Holocaust (Independent)

We should recall that hatred continues to be fanned against entire peoples, and that man is capable of both wonderful benevolence and unspeakable horrors, writes Owen Jones.

9. We need a big speech on the economy now (Sun)

The measures planned by new Bank of England governor Mark Carney will be controversial, writes Trevor Kavanagh. Cameron must explain them to voters worried about their jobs and savings.

10. An open letter to Nick Clegg on the matter of his children possibly being educated privately (Independent)

The Deputy Prime Minister, educated at Westminster School himself, says the State sector isn't good enough for his children, writes John O'Farrell. He doesn't know what he's talking about.

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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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