Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Ed, you can’t remain a Medium-Sized Beast (Times) (£)

The Labour leader is surrounded by grumblers. He needs to wield the knife and assert himself as leader of the pack, writes Rafael Behr.

2. Our sepia-tinted self-image is consoling, but it hinders NHS change more than anything else (Independent)

In its organisation and buildings, it is stuck in several time-warps and only the philosophy – a universal service, free at the point of delivery – remains valid, argues Mary Dejevsky.

3. Britain's booming population is a blessing, not a curse (Guardian)

The birth rate, at its highest for 40 years, is a great opportunity for our economy and wellbeing – if we make the right choices, says Polly Toynbee.

4. How Jeremy Hunt is following head boy Michael Gove’s lead (Telegraph)

The Health Secretary’s intolerance of failure in the NHS is inspired by the Education Secretary’s example, writes Isabel Hardman.

5. Cameron delights delegates with Lib Dem jokes (Daily Mail)

Prince William, Liz Hurley and David Cameron all make a showing in Ephraim Hardcastle's diary.

6. Focus on inflation, Mr Carney. Nothing else (Times)

Disaster follows when interest rates are set to control the exchange rate or unemployment, says Steve Davies.

7. Give David Cameron his due for unleashing Tory animal spirits (Telegraph)

The Conservative Party’s fortunes are improving, but its leader’s critics remain hobbled by the past, writes Bruce Anderson.

8. The west’s errors in Afghanistan – strategic, political and military – are too legion to list (FT) (£)

The west’s errors in Afghanistan – strategic, political and military – are too legion to list, says Philip Stevens.

9. Britain's hypocrisy towards Nigeria (Guardian)

Rather than open our doors to this potential superpower, we bar invited guests and throw money at its kleptocratic elite, says Ian Birrell.

10. Cameron has a point: negative coverage for social media can prove disastrous (Independent)

Users have woken up to the power of the boycott. These sites may be free to use, but if they lose users, they will also lose advertising revenue, writes Natalie Haynes.

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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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