Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. George Osborne should stick to his job and leave politicking to others (Daily Telegraph)

The Chancellor has enough to do trying to save the economy from impending disaster, says Peter Oborne.

2. The lesson from Eastleigh is simple: the Conservative leadership has lost control of the party (Independent)

A new assertiveness at local level is changing the dynamics of Westminster, writes Steve Richards.

3. Now we know why it was right to invade Iraq (Times)

Ten years after the war began, the country is more secure and democratic, argues David Aaronovitch. The alternative was Syria on steroids.

4. Should one man take the blame for Mid Staffs? (Daily Telegraph)

Calls for the resignation of Sir David Nicholson, the NHS boss, raise profound questions about how we are governed, writes Sue Cameron.

5. Creationist free schools are an abuse - ancient ignorance has no place in education (Independent)

Young minds are primed by nature to believe most of what adults tell them to believe, writes A. C. Grayling. They should be treated with respect, not twisted into shapes that conform with dogma.

6. Europe takes its bite from the City (Financial Times)

Business may switch to New York or Hong Kong to evade EU rules, writes John Gapper.

7. I wish more of us shared the PM's pride in Empire (Daily Mail)

We have turned from being an optimistic, dynamic, outward-looking country to a narrow, introspective and unconfident one, says Stephen Glover.

8. Heroin chic's gone, but the curse of the catwalk remains (Guardian)

Size zero may have made way for 'space farmers' at London Fashion Week, yet the exploitation of vulnerable girls continues, writes Zoe Williams.

9. UK energy policy restricts growth (Financial Times)

Britain needs to get capital flowing into power, says Richard Lambert.

10. Europe: the Right Italy (Guardian)

At one end of the continent Italy is playing with fire, at the other, Britain is doing the same, says a Guardian editorial. 

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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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