Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The rush to judgment on Syria is a catastrophic and deadly error (Daily Telegraph)

Britain and America show contempt for the lessons of the past in pressing for action, says Peter Oborne. 

2. Today Ed Miliband can speak for Britain on Syria (Guardian)

The UK parliament has more power than many realise, writes Martin Kettle. A Labour leader told to show boldness now has a chance to so.

3. Cameron risks a war with his own party (Daily Mail)

Despite his bellicose rhetoric, there are also serious reservations over the Prime Minister’s chosen course of action among his own cabinet ministers, writes Simon Heffer. 

4. The Syrian regime cannot use chemical weapons without being punished (Guardian)

If, as seems certain, the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons there is no choice but to take military action with or without a UN mandate, says Malcolm Rifkind. 

5. We need regime change, not a wrist slap (Times)

‘Punitive strikes’ don’t work, writes Roger Boyes. The only way to protect the suffering Syrian people is to rid them of Bashar Assad.

6. Syria - not quite like the run-up to Iraq... but not that different either (Independent)

The contrast ceases when it comes to the evasive justifications for military intervention, writes Steve Richards.

7. If our MPs still have any doubts, they've a moral duty to vote no (Daily Mail)

MPs should be asking themselves today and over the coming weekend if there’s a danger that attacking Syria will cause more suffering than it can possibly prevent, says a Daily Mail editorial.

8. Even if Assad used chemical weapons, the west has no mandate to act as a global policeman (Guardian)

By ordering air strikes against Syria without UN security council support, Obama will be doing the same as Bush in 2003, writes Hans Blix.

9. Without HS2 our railways will be full to bursting (Times)

The government will not suddenly spend on commuter lines, says Daniel Knowles. 

10. Whitehall offers transparency by the overstuffed truckload (Daily Telegraph)

The facts and figures of government are all there, if only we knew how to find them, writes Sue Cameron. 

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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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