Morning call: pick of the papers

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

1. Bobbing Obama leaves Putin holding the Syrian powder keg (Sunday Times) (£)

Obama achieved far more by the threat of force, than by using force, writes Andrew Sullivan.

2. The question that the Lib Dems are desperate not to answer (Observer)

The party is split in so many ways over whether it would prefer to govern with Labour or the Tories, writes Andrew Rawnsley.

3. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have put Russia back on the top table (Independent on Sunday)

World View: Deal in Geneva shows the Kremlin’s influence is at its greatest for more than 20 years, writes Patrick Cockburn.

4. The Lib Dems know their future lies in power-sharing (Sunday Telegraph)

One of Nick Clegg’s greatest strengths is his ability to think strategically. Thanks to him, no one can now claim that coalition governments are a recipe for disaster, writes Matthew D'Ancona.

5. Yarl's Wood affair is a symptom, not the disease (Observer)

Increasing numbers of vulnerable people are being denied redress under our criminal justice system, writes Nick Cohen.

6. Miliband should stop, wait and let the coalition fail (FT) (£)

The Labour leader should keep his head down and his party united, according to Robert Ford.

7. Two-state illusion (IHT)

The idea of a state for Palestinians and one for Israelis is a fantasy that blinds us, writes Ian S Lustick.

8. Clegg looks doomed but the cavalry are coming (Sunday Times) (£)

If Clegg can stay standing, the polls indicate his party are due a recovery, writes Adam Boulton. 

9. My veil epiphany (Observer)

Just what was Birmingham Met thinking of when it tried to stop women wearing the niqab? asks Victoria Coren.

10. Tina Brown leaves journalism in her wake (FT) (£)

The media’s most irrepressible trend-surfer was the editor who was always bigger than her cover stories, by John Gapper.

Cock-a-doodle-doo: the ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.
Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

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.

0800 7318496