Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Antisemitism doesn't always come doing a Hitler salute (Guardian)

Hatred of Jews is often more coded than explicit, but the Daily Mail's attack on Ralph Miliband pressed all the same old buttons, Jonathan Freedland writes.

2.The greatest trick Fifa ever pulled was to issue a Qatar weather warning (Guardian)

 Marina Hyde: The 2022 World Cup is being built by slaves in a non-democracy, but that's not the issue for Sepp Blatter and co.

3. From Zulu to the 'White Widow', why do all African stories need a white face? (Guardian)

Samantha Lewthwaite's involvement in the Westgate mall siege in Kenya may not be complete fiction, but either way the real story is about much more than her.

4. The real target should not have been Miliband senior, but his son (Telegraph)

By saying that Labour would freeze energy prices, Ed Miliband fulfils his father Ralph’s vision of state control, writes Charles Moore.

5. Green dreams that have been blown away (Telegraph)

The Government's volte-face over the Planning and Energy Act shows how times have changed

6. You’ll soon be able to buy that AK47 again (Telegraph)

The FBI has closed Silk Road and arrested its alleged founder Ross Ulbricht, but another secret online market is bound to open before long

7.Slowly, the Whitehall machine has adapted to coalition. But it may well need to go further (Independent)

This Government has been a good advert for sharing power, writes Andrew Grice.

8. The price of a loaf is of little importance (FT)

Cameron’s critics chose a singularly useless indicator, writes Tim Harford.

9. There’s no point trying to live in London (FT)

Property fetishism pervades Britain and buyers are becoming more neurotic, says Christian Oliver

10. Geeks can be girls (Telegraph)

By Gillian Tett: ‘Computing has become culturally defined as ‘male’ in the western student world’.

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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

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