Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. There's no need for all this economic sadomasochism (Guardian)

If Reinhart and Rogoff's 'error' has discredited the prevailing policy dogma, now is the time for an alternative that works, says David Graeber.

2. Our shameful hierarchy - some deaths matter more than others (Independent)

Why is the slaughter in Boston more shocking or newsworthy than the deaths in Iraq, asks Owen Jones.

3. To beat the Left, Tories must aim for its heart (Times)

It is not enough to win the policy argument, says Tim Montgomerie. Conservatives need to show their thinking has a moral dimension too.

4. Case for a Little England stance on Syria (Financial Times)

Heed the lessons from interventions that turned bad, writes Max Hastings.

5. Atrocities such as the Boston bombing are hard to tackle, but gun crime isn't (Guardian)

The greatest threat to US citizens is not one-off terror attacks, but the menace that comes with mass gun-ownership, says Gary Younge.

6. It’s hard to tell jihad from immature rage (Times)

The Boston bombers may have been driven more by a warped desire for notoriety than by real fanaticism, writes Gaby Hinsliff.

7. We can’t afford to ignore our dynamic friends in the East (Daily Telegraph)

The Gulf is booming, its people love Britain and they want to invest here, writes Boris Johnson. Let’s encourage them.

8. Labour and Scotland: a tie that binds (Guardian)

If the rhetoric of one nation is to mean something, much is to be said for caution over cutting such a strong link, says a Guardian editorial. 

9. IMF boss turns on the Chancellor to hide her own sins (Daily Mail)

Lagarde and the IMF are engaged in a huge effort to play down, or at least distract attention from, the catastrophic state of economic affairs in France – and indeed the eurozone as a whole, says Alex Brummer. 

10. The wrong way on child poverty (Independent)

More discussion about definitions of poverty would be welcome, says an Independent editorial. But it must not become an excuse for cynically moving the goalposts.

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George Osborne's surplus target is under threat without greater austerity

The IFS exposes the Chancellor's lack of breathing space.

At the end of the last year, I noted how George Osborne's stock, which rose dramatically after the general election, had begun to plummet. His ratings among Tory members and the electorate fell after the tax credits imbroglio and he was booed at the Star Wars premiere (a moment which recalled his past humbling at the Paralympics opening ceremony). 

Matters have improved little since. The Chancellor was isolated by No.10 and cabinet colleagues after describing the Google tax deal, under which the company paid £130m, as a "major success". Today, he is returning from the Super Bowl to a grim prognosis from the IFS. In its Green Budget, the economic oracle warns that Osborne's defining ambition of a budget surplus by 2019-20 may be unachievable without further spending cuts and tax rises. 

Though the OBR's most recent forecast gave him a £10.1bn cushion, reduced earnings growth and lower equity prices could eat up most of that. In addition, the government has pledged to make £8bn of currently unfunded tax cuts by raising the personal allowance and the 40p rate threshold. The problem for Osborne, as his tax credits defeat demonstrated, is that there are few easy cuts left to make. 

Having committed to achieving a surplus by the fixed date of 2019-20, the Chancellor's new fiscal mandate gives him less flexibility than in the past. Indeed, it has been enshrined in law. Osborne's hope is that the UK will achieve its first surplus since 2000-01 just at the moment that he is set to succeed (or has succeeded) David Cameron as prime minister: his political fortunes are aligned with those of the economy. 

There is just one get-out clause. Should GDP growth fall below 1 per cent, the target is suspended. An anaemic economy would hardly be welcome for the Chancellor but it would at least provide him with an alibi for continued borrowing. Osborne may be forced to once more recite his own version of Keynes's maxim: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.