Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The NHS is not a creaking relic, whatever the Tories may say (Daily Telegraph)

The NHS is being asked to do too much with too few staff – but Andy Burnham might just have a cure, says Mary Riddell.

2. It's crunch time on Trident for Miliband and his party (Guardian)

Labour's leader can break with Blairite and Tory nuclear business as usual – and show some real statesmanship, writes Nick Harvey.

3. Lynton Crosby and the myth of neutrality (Financial Times)

Those who exert power in a democracy should be accountable, writes John McDermott.

4. Arab Spring? No, more of a temper tantrum (Times)

These uprisings are mostly incoherent protests by young people, writes Daniel Finkelstein. Only when they are older will democracy thrive.

5. The day Labour lost the moral high ground on the NHS (Daily Mail)

The Tories needn't be intimidated by Labour's 'record' on health care, says Simon Heffer.

6. The Egyptian coup is a warning to Turkey – but will Erdoğan listen? (Guardian)

Like the Muslim Brotherhood, Erdoğan's AK party has alienated opponents, writes James E Baldwin. Ennahda in Tunisia shows a way forward for democratic Islamists.

7. Can Crosby cross the line? (Daily Telegraph)

Campaign strategist Lynton Crosby has revived Conservative Party fortunes, but can he win them the general election, asks Iain Martin.

8. The Keogh report: Don’t judge the NHS by its failures (Independent)

With so much fur flying, the substantive issue risks being obscured, says an Independent editorial.

9. Globalisation in a time of transition (Financial Times)

Trade remains vulnerable to problems such as financial crises and inequality, says Martin Wolf.

10. Bernanke makes markets twitch but what counts is the economy (Independent)

Higher interest rates will be a signal the economy is healing, writes Hamish McRae.

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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.

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