Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Who’ll be left standing when the Tories’ secret weapon goes bang? (Daily Telegraph)

Labour needs to up its game on immigration and welfare to see off Lynton Crosby’s threat, says Mary Riddell.

2. Real Conservatives cut spending before taxes (Times)

Bold Budget measures being urged on the Chancellor will lose money in the short term, writes Daniel Finkelstein. Ask Margaret Thatcher.

3. Why the euro crisis is not yet over (Financial Times)

If all members of the eurozone would rejoin happily today, they would be extreme masochists, says Martin Wolf.

4. How George Osborne is now being muzzled by his own watchdog (Daily Mail)

The OBR provides the lesson that top economists are no wiser in making predictions than the man next to you in the saloon bar, says Andrew Alexander. 

5. Forget fairness. This mansion tax is ideological cowardice (Guardian)

A fair extension of the council tax would be easy, lucrative, progressive – and anathema to people like Balls and Cable, says Simon Jenkins.

6. Europe needs Cameron’s tough love (Financial Times)

Determination to reform the bloc is in the interests of the whole continent, writes Andrew Mitchell.

7. The price we will pay for dithering on energy (Daily Telegraph)

For a decade and more, Britain has failed to treat energy provision as a priority - and we are further from fixing the problem than ever, says a Telegraph editorial. 

8. Hilary Mantel: bring up the royal bodies (Guardian)

The lecture was not an attack on the Duchess of Cambridge but a thoughtful and sympathetic reflection on royal woman down the ages, says a Guardian editorial.

As the world is getting more prosperous, the western share of wealth is declining, writes Ian Birell. It's a new world order and we must get used to it.

10. Think there's no alternative? Latin America has a few (Guardian)

Not only have leaders from Ecuador to Venezuela delivered huge social gains – they keep winning elections too, writes Seumas Milne.

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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

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