Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Make no mistake: Iain Duncan Smith wants the end of social security (Guardian)

Don't let the bluster, incompetence and misinformation obscure the Quiet Man's true, Tory purpose: destroying the welfare safety net, says Zoe Williams. 

2. Now Labour could become the party of marriage and the family (Daily Telegraph)

Voters want leaders who can promise good care for their children and elderly relatives, writes Mary Riddell. 

3. Don’t wallow in victimhood. Rise above it (Times)

Figures such as Sharansky and Mandela understood that saying ‘it’s tough being me’ is self-destructive, writes Daniel Finkelstein. 

4. Asset managers could blow us all up (Financial Times)

When funding conditions turn, relying on cheap dollars to finance local assets can be lethal, says Martin Wolf. 

5. The Mandela coverage and the banality of goodness (Guardian)

To discuss Mandela alongside Mother Teresa, Gandhi and Jesus is barking mad, writes Simon Jenkins. I bet he's laughing his head off right now.

6. Taxes will rise if we reject the nanny state (Times)

We may resent encouragements to stop smoking and improve our health but we all benefit in the end, says Alice Thomson. 

7. Netanyahu’s refusal to attend Mandela’s memorial service speaks of Israel’s growing isolationism (Independent)

The Israeli prime minister's apparent devotion to penny-pinching represents a startling change of heart, says Matthew Norman. 

8. Why must our governments be so incompetent at IT? (Times)

If supermarkets and airlines can do it, so should civil servants, says Ross Clark. 

9. Despite the economic misery of the last five years, Europe remains a success story (Independent)

Now the target is human capital – clever, talented and rich people, writes Hamish McRae. 

10. As society ages, care leave is the new frontline (Guardian)

About 5 million people have given up work partly or entirely to look after others, writes Jackie Ashley. They need a bit of help and legal protection.

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.
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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

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