Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The Middle East faces years of disorder (Financial Times)

Arabs have concluded that if the US is quitting, they had better start fighting their own corners, writes Philip Stephens.

2. Labour should join Justin Welby's war on Wonga (Guardian)

The party should join faith groups to help the archbishop of Canterbury in his fight against usury, writes Maurice Glasman.

3. The royals are not like us. But they should be (Times)

Prince George’s birth is no time for republican arguments, writes Philip Collins. But it does show the need for a stripped-down monarchy.

4. The master strategist with the common touch (Daily Telegraph)

The rage directed at the Tories’ political strategist is a sure sign that he's doing his job well, says John McTernan.

5. At last, George Osborne has got in touch with his inner Keynes (Guardian)

With his buy-to-let scheme the chancellor is finally pumping cash to a more productive place than bank vaults, writes Simon Jenkins. 

6. Airy-fairy Lib Dems must face life outside the goldfish bowl (Daily Telegraph)

Clegg and his colleagues are trying their best to persuade activists to adopt a more grown-up approach to policy, writes Isabel Hardman.

7. Bo Xilai and how the mighty of China have fallen (Independent)

So many flowers of hubris and ambition are entwined in this story of China's communist aristocracy that it is hard to know what moral to draw from it, writes Peter Popham.

8. Growth must reach the north and low-earners (Times)

We must not return to the unbalanced British economy of the pre-crash years, writes George Osborne

9. Don’t blame the best-paid 1 per cent – they’re worth it (Daily Telegraph)

The wealthy have never forked out more and the lower-paid half of the populace have never had to pay a smaller share of income tax, writes Fraser Nelson.

10. No women over 50 allowed (unless it's Helen Mirren) (Guardian)

A generation of women is being bundled out of jobs at an alarming rate, and the world of work gets more insane as a result, writes Polly Toynbee.

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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.