Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Grammar schools do not aid social mobility. Stop this deluded thinking (Guardian)

The figures show clearly that selective schools entrench inequality rather than help the poor, writes John Harris. They should all be scrapped.

2. Iran will test Obama’s game plan (Financial Times)

Talks could show how easily he is outplayed by tougher opponents, including the US Congress, writes Edward Luce.

3. Western armies know they are not answerable to any overseer – they do as they please (Independent)

The murder carried out by Marine A is not just shocking in itself, says Yasmin Alibhai Brown. It speaks of a wider western attitude in all its arrogance and brutality.

4. Marine A must face justice, but the law has its limits in warfare (Daily Telegraph)

Unlike other countries, Britain is allowing its soldiers to be hobbled by the 'right to life’, says Boris Johnson.

5. The Tories' psychosis over Europe is leading them to disaster (Guardian)

David Cameron failed to face down his party's nationalist demons while in opposition, says Chris Huhne. Now he's paying the price.

6. Right treatment for the Obamacare bug (Financial Times)

There is still time to follow the basic rules of project management, says Lawrence Summers.

7. Right-wing politicians plant hate not hope in our hearts (Daily Mirror)

It suits a disreputable group of scaremongering right-wing politicians that migrants are wrongly blamed for our problems, writes Kevin Maguire. 

8. The Prime Minister is presiding over an A&E brain drain (Times)

New figures show today that half of all vacancies in casualty departments go unfilled, writes Andy Burnham.

9. Only the Tories offer opportunities for all (Daily Telegraph)

The Tories must remind voters that they are, and always have been, the party of aspiration, says a Telegraph editorial. 

10. Does China need democracy to be rich? (Times)

Westerners are subject to more economic meddling from the State than our Communist-led cousins are, writes Matt Ridley.

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David Cameron’s speech: a hymn to liberalism from a liberated PM

The Prime Minister spoke with the confidence of a man who finally has a full mandate for his approach. 

At every one of his previous nine Conservative conference speeches, David Cameron has had to confront the doubters. Those Tories who rejected his modernisation of the party from the start. Those who judged it to have failed when he fell short of a majority in 2010. Those, including many in his own party, who doubted that he could improve on this performance in 2015. Today, rather than confronting the doubters, he was able to greet the grateful. As the first majority Conservative prime minister for 18 years, he rightly savoured his moment. "Why did all the pollsters and pundits get it so wrong?" he asked. "Because, fundamentally, they didn't understand the people who make up our country. The vast majority of people aren't obsessives, arguing at the extremes of the debate. Let me put it as simply as I can: Britain and Twitter are not the same thing." Labour should pin that line to its profile. 

With a full mandate for his approach, Cameron went on to deliver his most unashamedly liberal speech to date. Early on in his address, he spoke with pride of how "social justice, equality for gay people, tackling climate change, and helping the world's poorest" were now "at the centre of the Conservative Party's mission". A lengthy section on diversity, lamenting how "people with white-sounding names are nearly twice as likely to get call backs for jobs than people with ethnic-sounding names", was greeted with a standing ovation. Proof, if needed, of how Cameron has changed his party beyond recognition. The former special adviser to Michael Howard, who avowed that "prison works", told his audience that prison too often did not. "The system is still not working ... We have got to get away from the sterile lock-em-up or let-em-out debate, and get smart about this." From now on, he declared, the system, would "treat their [prisoners'] problems, educate them, put them to work." 

There were, of course, oversights and lacuna. Cameron reaffirmed his commitment to a budget surplus but glossed over the unprecedented, and many believe undeliverable, that will be required to achieve it (and which may fail to do so). He hailed the new "national living wage" with no mention of the tax credit cuts that will leave the same "strivers" worse off. His "affordable" starter homes will be unaffordable for average-earning families in 58 per cent of local areas. But it is a mark of Cameron's political abilities that it was easy to forget much of this as he spoke. Like George Osborne, he deftly appropriated the language of the left ("social justice", "opportunity", "diversity", "equality") to describe the policies of the right. Cameron is on a mission to claim ownership of almost every concept associated with Labour. The opposition should not sleep easily as he does so. 

There was little mention of Labour in the speech, and no mention of Jeremy Corbyn by name. But when the attack came, it was ruthlessly delivered. "Thousands of words have been delivered about the new Labour leader. But you only really need to know one thing: he thinks the death of Osama bin Laden was a 'tragedy'". The description of Corbyn as the "new Labour leader" shows the Tories' ambition to permanently contaminate the party, rather than merely the man.

There are plenty of potential landmines ahead for Cameron. The comically lukewarm applause for his defence of EU membership was a reminder of how divided his party is on this issue. But today, he spoke as a man liberated. Liberated by winning a majority. Liberated by not having to fight an election again. Like a second-term US president, he was able to speak of how he was entering "the second half of my time in this job". Tributes to Osborne (the "Iron Chancellor) and Boris Johnson (greeted with a remarkable standing ovation) alluded to the contest to come. But whoever succeeds him can be confident of assuming a party in good health - and more at ease with the modern world than many ever thought possible. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.