Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Labour mustn't sign up to stagnation (Guardian)

We can steer Britain off the road to ruin – but emulating Tory austerity isn't the right way to do it, says Peter Hain.

2.  Don’t attack Britain’s oldies – they keep the economy going (Daily Telegraph)

The growing army of working over-65s dispels the idea that the elderly burden the young, says Fraser Nelson.

3. With this mess Labour should be miles ahead (Times)

The Chancellor should be toast – but the opposition would not be credible even if it repented of its spending sins, writes Philip Collins.

4. Parliament must support a free press (Daily Telegraph)

David Cameron's Royal Charter proposal is the best option for eradicating the kind of newspaper malpractice highlighted by the Leveson inquiry, argues a Telegraph editorial.

5. Leveson vote: some way from resolution (Guardian)

Politicians on all sides should look again to see if there isn't common ground, argues a Guardian editorial.

6. After hubris in Iraq, hesitation in Syria (Financial Times)

The tough lessons from an invasion a decade ago do not apply today, writes Philip Stephens.

7. A tawdry alliance and the threat to a free press (Daily Mail)

The most unedifying aspect of this sorry saga is the way the Labour Party has been hijacked by Hacked Off, says a Daily Mail editorial.

8. Bedroom tax: why you should march against this heartless, pointless 'reform' (Guardian)

Mass evictions of the most vulnerable are no way to tackle the housing benefit bill, and we must do all we can to stop them, writes Polly Toynbee.

9. As Obama flies in, this feels like a Berlin Wall moment for Israel (Independent)

There is now a majority here in favour of a two-state solution, writes Mary Dejevsky.

10. The British Budget is not as great as it was (Financial Times)

The chancellor’s showpiece had its heyday in the 1960s and has never regained its economic eminence, writes Samuel Brittan.

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You may call me a monster – but I'm glad that girl's lemonade stall got shut down

What's wrong with hard-working public servants enforcing perfectly sensible regulations?

Who could fail to be moved by the widely shared tears of a five year old whose innocent lemonade stall was brutally shut down by evil bureaucrats? What sort of monster would not have their heartstrings tugged by the plaintive “I've done a bad thing” from a girl whose father tells us she “just wanted to put a smile on people's faces”?

Well me, actually.

There are half a million cases of food poisoning each year in the UK, and one of the reasons we have stringent controls on who can sell food and drink, especially in unsealed containers, is to try to cut those figures down. And street stalls in general are regulated because we have a system of taxation, rights and responsibilities in this country which underpins our functioning society. Regulation is a social and economic good.

It’s also pretty unfair to criticise the hard-working public servants who acted in this case for doing the job they are no doubt underpaid to do. For the council to say “we expect our enforcement officers to show common sense” as they cancelled the fine is all very well, but I’m willing to bet they are given precious little leeway in their training when it comes to who gets fined and who doesn’t. If the council is handing out apologies, it likely should be issuing one to its officers as well.

“But these are decent folk being persecuted by a nanny state,” I hear you cry. And I stand impervious, I’m afraid. Because I’ve heard that line a lot recently and it’s beginning to grate.

It’s the same argument used against speed cameras and parking fines. How often have you heard those caught out proclaim themselves as “law-abiding citizens” and bemoan the infringement of their freedom? I have news for you: if you break the speed limit, or park illegally, or indeed break health and safety or trading regulations, you are not a law-abiding citizen. You’re actually the one who’s in the wrong.

And rarely is ignorance an excuse. Speed limits and parking regulations are posted clearly. In the case of the now famous lemonade stand, the father in question is even quoted as saying “I thought that they would just tell us to pack up and go home.” So he knew he was breaking the rules. He just didn’t think the consequences should apply to him.

A culture of entitlement, and a belief that rules are for other people but not us, is a disease gripping middle Britain. It is demonstrated in many different ways, from the driver telling the cyclist that she has no right to be on the road because she doesn’t pay road tax (I know), to the father holding up his daughter’s tears to get out of a fine.

I know, I’m a monster. But hooray for the enforcers, I say.

Duncan Hothersall is the editor of Labour Hame