Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Mr Cameron made a huge error when he embraced the NHS (Telegraph)

First Mid Staffs and now the CQC scandal show the failings of a system built by Labour, writes Charles Moore.

2. From memory to sexuality, the digital age is changing us completely (Guardian)

I once thought the world of the internet would be the same as before, only faster. In fact, it's altering every corner of human life, says Jonathan Freedland.

3. ‘We’ are not the West: ‘we’ shouldn’t intervene (Times) (£)

It doesn’t matter what Britain thinks about Syria or other great global questions. We are no longer a world power, argues Matthew Parris.

4. Why are the BRICs are crumbling? Welcome to the permanent revolution (Independent)

In most of the Bric countries economic rise has involved increased inequality, exacerbated corruption and failing public services - and that's just half the story, reports Paul Mason.

5. The Prime Minister's apparent determination to intervene in Syria reveals he has been seduced by the glamour of international statesmanship (Mail)

Has David Cameron learned nothing from Tony Blair, wonders Simon Heffer.

6. We must stop internet porn grooming men (Times) (£)

It’s no good just building more prisons for those who view images of children. These men must be scared off, writes Janice Turner.

7. The revulsion at the Saatchi-Lawson pictures helps us name abuse (Guardian)

Others helped me see my ex-partner's domestic violence for what it was. Public condemnation is crucial, says Jill Dawson.

8. When the weather’s like this, it’s a very long wait until the next election (Independent)

Five years is too long for a fixed-term parliament, argues Chris Bryant.

9. The world is still being held hostage by its rotten banks (Financial Times) (£)

Another financial crisis is probable and it would be much more damaging to the global economy, says John Plender.

10. The Lib Dems take the honours for sheer hypocrisy (Telegraph)

Given the way British politics is going, the bungs and the patronage will continue to flow, says Robert Colvile.

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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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