Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. How to make recidivism and costs rise? Privatise probation (Guardian)

Four big firms are set to get even richer, writes Zoe Williams. We will be paying much more for the service, and failures are inevitable.

2. Ministers are still treating the Commonwealth with contempt (Daily Telegraph)

Foreign Secretary William Hague vowed to put the 'C back into the FCO’ – but things are as bad as ever, says Peter Oborne.

3. Political consensus isn’t always virtuous (Times)

The right has been vindicated on energy taxes, Europe and government debt, argues Tim Montgomerie. It deserves more respect.

4. Carney is wise to nurture the City (Financial Times)

But will take a lot of international negotiations to agree on any new bank resolution regime, writes John Gapper. 

5. What poppies, Prince George and the NSA tell us about freedom (Guardian)

While Edward Snowden revealed an over-mighty state, there are other symptoms, writes Martin Kettle. In Britain, democracy has some way to go.

6. Work should pay — and workfare should as well (Times)

Compulsory schemes should pay the minimum wage, says Ross Clark. This scheme has too much stick and too little carrot.

7. As the News of the World trial begins... Yesterday bankers were accused of rigging currency rates. So why aren't they in the dock? (Daily Mail)

The authorities — politicians, police and probably judges — favour bankers over journalists, says Stephen Glover. 

8. The Lone Star state is America’s rising star (Times)

Forget the deadlocked political elite in DC – culturally diverse, booming Texas is the true face of the US, says Michael Burleigh. 

9. End west’s deference to petrodollars (Financial Times)

There is no doubting Riyadh’s horror at the sudden prospect of US-Iranian detente, writes David Gardner. 

10. A tricky question for 'the great persuader’, Tony Blair (Daily Telegraph)

Tony Blair has plenty of advice for others, but how did he set about getting things done when prime minister, asks Sue Cameron.

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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.