Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. David Miranda, schedule 7 and the danger that all reporters now face (Guardian)

As the events in a Heathrow transit lounge – and the Guardian offices – have shown, the threat to journalism is real and growing, writes Alan Rusbridger.

2. Prepare to add HS2 and Universal Credit to our depressing list of fiascos (Daily Telegraph)

From the poll tax to HS2, ministers seem incapable of calling a halt to a failing policy, writes Philip Johnston.

3. How to cure Europe’s left (Financial Times)

Social democrats need to promote reform of their own favoured institutions, says Anthony Painter.

4. Why we all love Charlie Bucket (and despise the poor in real life) (Guardian)

We love the poor in fairytales, but survey after survey shows we are all too quick to blame real people who fall on hard times, writes Polly Toynbee. 

5. How will politicians vote? (Times)

Political parties must be transparent about their strategy for any hung Parliament, says a Times editorial.

6. Stability is what Egypt needs now (Financial Times)

If clean government, order and economic growth return then there is a chance for democracy, writes Gideon Rachman.

7. What is behind this fracking mania? Unbridled machismo (Guardian)

The prime minister's love of shale gas is not driven by jobs or energy security, but a fixation with manly extractive industries, writes George Monbiot.

8. Help to Buy is a dangerous political placebo... (Independent)

...but rising house prices are among the economic figures making Labour feel sick, writes Dominic Lawson.

9. In Cameron's casualised Britain, zero-hours contracts create a climate of fear (Guardian)

These contracts are symptomatic of job insecurity and falling living standards, writes Chuka Umunna. But Labour can offer a fairer way of working.

10. Section 28 hurt the Tories more than young gay people (Independent)

During the 15 years in which Section 28 was law, no local authority was prosecuted, writes Andy McSmith.

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Theresa May defies the right by maintaining 0.7% aid pledge

The Prime Minister offers rare continuity with David Cameron but vows to re-examine how the money is spent. 

From the moment Theresa May became Prime Minister, there was speculation that she would abandon the UK's 0.7 per cent aid pledge. She appointed Priti Patel, a previous opponent of the target, as International Development Secretary and repeatedly refused to extend the commitment beyond this parliament. When an early general election was called, the assumption was that 0.7 per cent would not make the manifesto.

But at a campaign event in her Maidenhead constituency, May announced that it would. "Let’s be clear – the 0.7 per cent commitment remains, and will remain," she said in response to a question from the Daily Telegraph's Kate McCann. But she added: "What we need to do, though, is to look at how that money will be spent, and make sure that we are able to spend that money in the most effective way." May has left open the possibility that the UK could abandon the OECD definition of aid and potentially reclassify defence spending for this purpose.

Yet by maintaining the 0.7 per cent pledge, May has faced down her party's right and title such as the Sun and the Daily Mail. On grammar schools, climate change and Brexit, Tory MPs have cheered the Prime Minister's stances but she has now upheld a key component of David Cameron's legacy. George Osborne was one of the first to praise May's decision, tweeting: "Recommitment to 0.7% aid target very welcome. Morally right, strengthens UK influence & was key to creating modern compassionate Conservatives".

A Conservative aide told me that the announcement reflected May's personal commitment to international development, pointing to her recent speech to International Development staff. 

But another Cameron-era target - the state pension "triple lock" - appears less secure. Asked whether the government would continue to raise pensions every year, May pointed to the Tories' record, rather than making any future commitment. The triple lock, which ensures pensions rise in line with average earnings, CPI inflation or by 2.5 per cent (whichever is highest), has long been regarded by some Conservatives as unaffordable. 

Meanwhile, Philip Hammond has hinted that the Tories' "tax lock", which bars increases in income tax, VAT and National Insurance, could be similarly dropped. He said: "I’m a Conservative. I have no ideological desire to to raise taxes. But we need to manage the economy sensibly and sustainably. We need to get the fiscal accounts back into shape.

"It was self evidently clear that the commitments that were made in the 2015 manifesto did and do today constrain the ability to manage the economy flexibly."

May's short speech to workers at a GlaxoSmithKline factory was most notable for her emphasis that "the result is not certain" (the same message delivered by Jeremy Corbyn yesterday). As I reported on Wednesday, the Tories fear that the belief that Labour cannot win could reduce their lead as voters conclude there is no need to turn out. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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