Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Miliband and Balls look to the past to plan for their future (Independent)

The Labour leader and shadow chancellor are unusual in having experience of shaping policy while working in opposition, writes Steve Richards.

2. Why has Cameron put us on al-Qaeda's side? (Daily Telegraph)

Just like Tony Blair over Iraq, the Prime Minister has lost touch with reality when it comes to Syria, says Peter Oborne.

3. France should copy Germany’s reforms (Financial Times)

Staying ahead in competitiveness on a worldwide scale must be the priority for France and for Europe, says Gerhard Schröder.

4. Sometimes it’s right to tell voters they’re wrong (Times)

Everyone knows some hospitals must close to improve healthcare, writes David Aaronovitch. Politicians on all sides must make the case.

5. Me-first parents do the rest of us an injustice (Guardian)

Like James Caan, I want the best for my children, writes Zoe Williams. But seeing people in power privileging their own just entrenches inequality.

6. Wash the dirty linen in private, minister (Daily Telegraph)

Politicians’ relentless criticism of their civil servants is bad manners – and bad tactics, says Sue Cameron.

7. How the French lost their je ne sais quoi (Independent)

They see globalisation as a process that destroys individual cultures and identities, writes Andreas Whittam Smith.

8. At last it’s springtime for Britain’s economy (Times)

Barely a month ago, the talk was of a triple-dip recession, writes Ian King. Now the momentum is growing.

9. I admit it - I hog the middle lane. But how will picking my pocket make our roads safer? (Daily Mail)

Bit by bit, our freedoms are eroding under this Tory-led government, says Stephen Glover.

10. Google is this era’s General Electric (Financial Times)

Larry Page has boundless ambition and the capacity to deliver unexpected products, writes John Gapper.

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.