Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The nuclear deal with Iran is a historic victory for diplomacy (Guardian)

There are risks, and much still to be done, but after more than a decade of interventionist wars this nuclear deal is welcome, writes Michael Axworthy. 

2. A divorce from Scotland would be stupid, wretched and painful (Daily Telegraph)

Like a bickering couple, our countries need a counsellor to step in and make us see sense, writes Boris Johnson.

3. The Iran deal does limited things for a limited time (Financial Times)

The interim accord is overwhelmingly better than the alternatives, writes Richard Haass.

4. London’s zombies are about to feel the economic pain (Times)

In economic terms the past five years have felt unreal in the capital, writes Ed Conway. The illusion could end any day now.

5. Politics is too valuable to be paid for by union barons, fat cats or Methodist ministers. It should be state funded (Guardian)

The spotlight is now on Labour's money from the Co-op, but the whole system needs to be reviewed, says Steve Richards.

6. Is Iran about to return to the fold? (Daily Telegraph)

There could be many reasons to celebrate a rapprochement between Tehran and the west following the deal in Geneva, says Con Coughlin.

7. 'Greenest government ever' or 'green crap': which way will David Cameron jump? (Guardian)

If the PM backs off from his energy-saving promises, he will tarnish his image – one of the most valuable Tory polling assets, writes Chris Huhne.

8. Help to Buy is nothing but an election ploy (Daily Telegraph)

Britain will solve its housing crisis only if it builds more homes and lets in fewer people, says Jeff Randall.

9. Tragedy is spreading from Iran’s western border to the Mediterranean (Independent)

The suicide attack in Beirut last week was unusual in several respects, not least that the target was the Iranian embassy, writes Robert Fisk.

10. Europe will struggle even to disintegrate (Financial Times)

The hard reality is that all the radical options require a consensus that does not exist, writes Wolfgang Münchau.

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UK to reconsider blood donation ban for men who have sex with men

Under current rules, men who have had sex with another man in the past twelve months cannot donate blood.

During Women and Equalities questions this morning, Jane Ellison MP slipped in a bombshell: men who have sex with other men may soon be able to donate blood. 

Ellision, who is Undersecretary of State for Public Health, said that Public Health England has carried out a new survey of blood donors which is currently being analysed. Next year, the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood Tissues and Organs (SaBTO), which sets blood donation guidelines, will use the evidence to review the current policy. 

She said:

Donor referrel for MSM [men who have sex with men] was changed from lifetime to 12 months referral in 2011. Four years later it is time again to look at this issue. Public Health England has conducted an anonymous survey of donors and I'm pleased that the advisory SaBTO will review this issue in 2016.

The current ban (which also applies to a range of other groups including sex workers) is based on the fact that MSM are at higher risk of contracting HIV, according to every Public Health England survey ever conducted on the disease. Both HIV and Hepatitis C don't show up in blood tests immediately, so the 12 month rule is based on leaving a "window" for the diseases to develop and be testable. The rules are ostensibly based on sexual activity, not on sexual orientation.

However, as Michael Fabricant pointed out in response to Ellison's announcement, in practice, it also looks a lot like discrimination - there is no ban on blood donation from straight people who have had unprotected sex, for example. Fabricant continued that "equality on this issue" is needed, and clinicians themselves feel a change is "long overdue".

Blood donations in the UK have fallen by 40 per cent in the last decade, a fact which may have contributed to the decision to review the current rules.

A Stonewall spokesperson said:

We’re delighted the Department of Health Minister Jane Ellison has announced this review.

We want a donation system that is fair and based on up-to-date medical evidence. Currently gay and bi people cannot give blood if they have had sex in the past 12 months,  regardless of whether they used protection. Yet straight people who may have had unprotected sex can donate. These current rules are clearly unfair and we want to see people asked similar questions - irrespective of their sexual orientation - to accurately assess the risk of infection. Screening all donors by sexual behaviour rather than by sexual orientation would increase blood stocks in times of shortage and create a safer supply by giving a more accurate, non-discriminatory assessment.

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.