Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Osborne economics is not an invincible force of nature (Guardian)

Although many appear resigned to life under this dysfunctional capitalism, there is a way to make the system less inhuman, says John Harris.

2. All coups end in petty tyranny, however good the intentions (Daily Telegraph)

Britain should scorn the idea that military rule in Egypt is the 'least bad’ option, says Daniel Hannan.

3. We have another option in Egypt: to do nothing (Guardian)

We want to avoid another Syria but intervention could prove counter-productive, writes Oliver Miles. Britain should push for a diplomatic solution.

4. No, this is not the road to recovery. It's the road to Wongaland (Guardian)

The notion that the Bank of England base rate is dominant and we should all go shopping has already been punctured, writes Ann Pettifor.

5. Britain's involvement in the EU is too entrenched to achieve any reform (Daily Mail)

To break free and set our own terms requires an Act of Parliament to repeal the European Communities Act and all connected statutes, writes Robin Harris.

6. One year on, Marikana is emblematic of South Africa’s woes (Independent)

In the ANC’s 19 years in power, little has been done to address inequalities, says an Independent editorial.

7. The police keep firing; the bodies pile up. In Cairo, bloodbaths are now a daily occurrence (Independent)

There can be no excuse for the police whose duty is to protect all Egyptians, says Robert Fisk.

8. Conversation dies. Smartphone to the rescue (Times)

It’s not necessarily rude to play with your phone instead of talking, writes Matthew Parris. It’s just a way of relieving the pressure.

9. The Conservative Party needs to be more inviting (Daily Telegraph)

It's no wonder the Tories are losing members when Conservative associations appear to be stuck in the Fifties, writes Graeme Archer.

10. Japan’s past and future meet at Zero (Financial Times)

Controversy over a new film highlights the change in Japanese attitudes since the 1990s, writes David Pilling.

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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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