Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Benefits: taking money from the poor (Guardian)

A historic wedge is being driven between rich and poor, says a Guardian editorial.

2. Labour believes George Osborne will be snared by his own welfare benefits trap (Daily Telegraph)

The Chancellor’s caricature of welfare claimants as slobs on sofas bears no comparison with reality, writes Mary Riddell.

3. Cameron holds the aces. He should sit tight (Times) (£)

In the struggle between Europhiles, Eurosceptics and Europhobes, the middle ground is stronger than people think, says Daniel Finkelstein.

4. Don't mock Nick Clegg – he may stay in power for a generation (Guardian)

Since 2010 the deputy PM has been dismissed as politically crippled, writes Simon Jenkins. Yet his cunning could leave him kingmaker again.

5. Signs of trouble to come for China's new leader (Independent)

Protests over press freedom will test Xi Jinping's reformist image, says an Independent editorial.

6. There is a problem with welfare, but it's not 'shirkers' (Guardian)

This economic model isn't delivering jobs or decent wages, says Seumas Milne. The real scroungers are greedy landlords and employers.

7. A trade deal for Europe and US (Financial Times)

Timing for transatlantic talks is as good as it will ever get, says an FT leader.

8. Does a rise in borrowing mean a return to normality? (Independent)

There are several potential benefits to higher interest rates, says Hamish McRae.

9. Withdrawing child benefit is like sticking two fingers up to stay-at-home mothers (Daily Telegraph)

The coalition is signalling it believes there is nothing to gain from women bringing up their own children, writes Judith Woods.

10. American industry is on the move (Financial Times)

Manufacturers using ‘big data’ are setting the scene for a revival, says Sebastian Mallaby.

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Europe's elections show why liberals should avoid fatalism

France, Germany and the Netherlands suggest there is nothing inevitable about the right's advance.

Humans are unavoidably pattern-seeking creatures. We give meaning to disparate events where little or none may exist. So it is with Brexit and Donald Trump. The proximity of these results led to declarations of liberalism's demise. After decades of progress, the tide was said to have unavoidably turned.

Every election is now treated as another round in the great duel between libralism and populism. In the Netherlands, the perennial nativist Geert Wilders was gifted outsize attention in the belief that he could surf the Brexit-Trump wave to victory. Yet far from triumphing, the Freedom Party finished a distant second, increasing its seats total to 20 (four fewer than in 2010). Wilders' defeat was always more likely than not (and he would have been unable to form a government) but global events gifted him an aura of invincibility.

In France, for several years, Marine Le Pen has been likely to make the final round of the next presidential election. But it was only after Brexit and Trump's election that she was widely seen as a potential victor. As in 2002, the front républicain is likely to defeat the Front National. The winner, however, will not be a conservative but a liberal. According to the post-Trump narrative, Emmanuel Macron's rise should have been impossible. But his surge (albeit one that has left him tied with Le Pen in the first round) suggests liberalism is in better health than suggested.

In Germany, where the far-right Alternative für Deutschland was said to be remorselessly advancing, politics is returning to traditional two-party combat. The election of Martin Schulz has transformed the SPD's fortunes to the point where it could form the next government. As some Labour MPs resign themselves to perpeutal opposition, they could be forgiven for noting what a difference a new leader can make.

2016 will be forever remembered as the year of Brexit and Trump. Yet both events could conceivably have happened in liberalism's supposed heyday. The UK has long been the EU's most reluctant member and, having not joined the euro or the Schengen Zone, already had one foot outside the door. In the US, the conditions for the election of a Trump-like figure have been in place for decades. For all this, Leave only narrowly won and Hillary Clinton won three million more votes than her opponent. Liberalism is neither as weak as it is now thought, nor as strong as it was once thought.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.