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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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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