Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. China and Japan are heading for a clash (Financial Times)

It is hard to believe either side wants war – but posturing could spark accidental conflict, writes Gideon Rachman.

2. The Eds feud, but their party has moved on (Times)

Despite tensions at the top, shadow cabinet 'clean skins' have put Labour’s old factions behind them, says Rachel Sylvester.

3. Police are cracking down on students – but what threat to law and order is an over-articulate history graduate? (Guardian)

For most of my life student politics has been little more than a joke, writes Aditya Chakrabortty. Suddenly it's become both serious and admirable.

4. The baffling recovery of Teflon Labour and Unpopular Ed (Daily Telegraph)

Despite Falkirk and all its other failings, the party could still be heading back to No. 10, writes Benedict Brogan.

5. If you want a lesson in how to solve social mobility, try reading Harry Redknapp’s autobiography (Independent)

John Major’s solution to the problem of social mobility– a grammar school in every town – made matters worse, says Steve Richards.

6. If Obamacare fails, Obama’s vision dies too (Times)

American confidence in government will suffer if the President’s signature idea sinks, writes Justin Webb.

7. Whoever the 'middle class' are, they're about to be bribed with tax cuts (Guardian)

It's the autumn statement, so coalition factions are exchanging fire across the fiscal divide, writes Polly Toynbee. But their real target is the wealthy vote.

8. The British have met crisis with understatement (Financial Times)

The debate over austerity and stimulus was an elite dialogue that never got going among voters, writes Janan Ganesh.

9. For Pope Francis the liberal, this promises to be a very bloody Sunday (Guardian)

Francis is the poster pope for progressives, writes George Monbiot. But canonising a genocidal missionary like Junípero Serra epitomises the Catholic history problem.

10. The business rates burden must be eased (Daily Telegraph)

The Treasury has imposed onerous financial demands on a vulnerable yet crucial part of the economy, says a Telegraph editorial. 

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Every day, Theresa May's mask slips a little further

First the Human Rights Act, now Dfid. What's next, asks Jon Ashworth.

The news that the new International Development Secretary is about to slash development spending and channel Britain's aid budget into defence spending is yet another major slip of the new government's centrist mask.

Theresa May has tried to pitch her policy agenda as prioritising social justice and a “Britain that works for everyone” but the reality is that this announcement is the true right-wing colours of her government shining through.

The appointment of the most right-wing Cabinet for decades was a major warning sign, with figures such as David Davis, who said he was “very worried” about sexual discrimination legislation, and Liam Fox, who said equal marriage was “social engineering”, now at the highest level in government.

Those of us passionate about development were horrified when Priti Patel, who has previously called for the Department for International Development to be scrapped, was appointed as the department's new Secretary of State, but few of us would have imagined such a dramatic break with Britain's strong development legacy so soon.

Not only is what is reported very dubious in terms of the strict regulations placed on development spending- and Priti Patel has already come dangerously close to crossing that line by saying we could use the aid budget to leverage trade deals - it also betrays some of the very poorest in the world at a time when many regions are facing acute humanitarian crises.

It was Gordon Brown who put international development at the heart of 13 years of Labour government, massively increasing aid spending and focusing minds in Britain and abroad on the plight of those suffering from poverty, famine and the ravages of war. David Cameron followed Gordon’s lead, enshrining the 0.7 per cent aid budget in law, making Britain the first G7 country to do so. In light of these new revelations Theresa May must now restate her commitment to the target.

Sadly, it now seems that Theresa May and Priti Patel want to turn the clock back on all that progress, diminishing Britain's role in international development and subverting the original mission of the department by turning it into a subsidiary of the Ministry of Defence, focused on self-interest and security. Not only will this create the opposite of the "outward-looking and globally-minded country" Theresa May said just weeks ago she wanted Britain to be, it’s also a betrayal of some of the poorest people across the planet.

Other examples of the right-wing traits of this Government surfaced earlier this week too. On Friday it emerged that Gerard Lopez, a tax-haven based businessman with links to Russian State banks that have been sanctioned in the wake of the Ukrainian conflict, donated £400,000 to the Tory party just months ago. Theresa May needs to tell us what meetings and interactions she has had with Lopez.

Earlier in the week Liz Truss, the new Justice Secretary, brazenly insisted that the Government would proceed with scrapping the Human Rights Act, despite fierce opposition from politicians of all parties and the public.

With so many right-wing announcements trickling though when the government has hardly had time to change the name plaques above the doors you've got to wonder and worry about what else is set to come.

Jon Ashworth is Labour MP for Leicester South.