Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. On Europe, David Cameron is in danger of making himself a laughing stock (Guardian)

After Michael Gove's intervention, the question of an EU referendum has never been more serious for Cameron, writes Tim Bale.

2. Red Ed’s only hope...new ‘Blue Labour’ (Sun)

Ed Miliband’s party already has a tailor-made set of beliefs that tackle head on the alienation and anger behind the UKIP, writes Tom Newton Dunn.

3. Be warned George Osborne: more home owners just really means higher unemployment (Independent)

An increase in people acquiring property cuts labour mobility and the number of new firms, warns David Blanchflower.

4. The Bible Belt is becoming a force for good (Times)

Ignore the caricatures, says Tim Montgomerie. American Christianity is pushing the Republican elite to be more Walmart than Wall Street.

5. We must be ready to leave the EU if we don’t get what we want (Daily Telegraph)

There are pros and cons to staying in Europe – and it’s time to talk about them, says Boris Johnson.

6. Is Labour ready to turn the state upside down in 2015? (Guardian)

The party's policy review suggests fundamental changes to the public sector – to square the circle of cuts and growth, writes John Harris.

7. Cameron must show how arming Syria's opposition would secure a lasting peace (Independent)

Neither arming the rebels nor military strikes can guarantee peace in a country where sectarian, tribal and democratic impulses are all present, writes Douglas Alexander.

8. Lawson is right about the UK and Europe (Financial Times)

A departure need not be a disaster if the terms are negotiated with skill, writes Wolfgang Münchau.

9. Tory Euro shambles lets Labour off hook (Daily Mail)

Labour and the Lib Dems are escaping scrutiny of their own hopelessly out-of-touch positions, says a Daily Mail editorial.

10. Appeasing the Taleban would be a fatal error (Times)

The militants regard peace talks as weakness, writes Anatol Lieven. Pakistan’s new leaders must fight or surrender.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

0800 7318496