Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Sir John Major has broken his silence – let’s hope the party is listening (Daily Telegraph)

The former PM wants less 'ideology’ and more talk about what matters to ordinary people, writes Peter Oborne. 

2. It's not all immigrants who the Tories fear. It's the mobile poor (Guardian)

The real aim of recent policies is to segregate belonging according to income, writes Zoe Williams. The more you earn, the more rights you have.

3. Drone strikes set a dangerous precedent (Financial Times)

A nation at war with an abstract threat has no right to mount a pre-emptive killing spree, says David Pilling. 

4. Osborne is best when he’s most unpopular (Times)

There is a Bad Osbo who obsesses about political tactics and a Good Osbo who takes long-term decisions, writes Tim Montgomerie.

5. Grangemouth could help shape the Scottish referendum (Guardian)

The SNP has cast itself as defender of the economy from the icy wind of global markets, writes Martin Kettle. What's icier than closure on the Forth?

6. Oil and troubled waters for Alex Salmond (Daily Telegraph)

The closure of Scotland’s sole refinery would be a body-blow to the SNP’s dream of independence, says Alan Cochrane.

7. John Major's snide attack on the PM over fuel prices was as flawed as his six disastrous years in Number 10 (Daily Mail)

The more one re-reads Sir John’s words, the more they read like a calculated act of treacher, says Simon Heffer. 

8. Cameron must stop Europe’s latest assault on Britain (Times)

New regulations on technology are utter madness, writes Rohan Silva. 

9. The Prime Minister is in a bind over energy prices, but cutting green levies is no way out (Independent)

Cameron has sounded the death knell of his once-vaunted green conservatism, says an Independent leader.

10. Companies must adapt to new rules (Financial Times)

Banks and utilities need to make their case, be open and look beyond immediate troubles, writes John Gapper.

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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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