Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Austerity Labour is on its way and Ed Balls is leading the charge (Daily Telegraph)

The shadow chancellor must save money – and the NHS – if his party is to win the general election in 2015, writes Mary Riddell. 

2. The challenges of a post-crisis world (Financial Times)

Nations must nurture recovery and promote reform, writes Martin Wolf. Co-operation and communication should be the order of the day.

3. One tax rise too far and suddenly . . . crash! (Times)

Labour thinks it can increase tax on wealth creators without consequence, writes Daniel Finkelstein. Eventually it will reach a tipping point.

4. RBS is the people's bank. So let's stop this annual festival of bribery (Guardian)

Bonus culture has become so warped that bankers presiding over losses of £8bn still think they deserve a reward, writes Simon Jenkins. 

5. After a decade of pre-eminence, the balance of the world economy is tilting away from the BRICS (Independent)

While these countries were growing so fast we tended to ignore the warning signs, writes Hamish McRae. 

6. Our workplaces are about as family-friendly as a 19th-century mill (Guardian)

Maternity leave, sick pay, the minimum wage – the ability to claim these vital rights has been torched by our zero-hours economy, writes Zoe Williams. 

7. Will Obama stand with Japan against China? (Times)

Washington’s weakness – from Kiev to Damascus – has encouraged Beijing to assert itself, says Roger Boyes.

8. Imagine the explosion of growth if we got serious about tax-cutting (Daily Telegraph)

Those on the lowest incomes should pay no tax at at all; while the hard-pressed middle class should face a flat tax, says Allister Heath. 

9. Politicians must lead on immigration (Financial Times)

If we want the world’s best ideas we need innovators living among us, writes Gus O’Donnell.

10. Why I'm speaking up for Islam against the loudmouths who have hijacked it (Guardian)

I tweeted a cartoon of Jesus and Mo, writes Maajid Nawaz. My aim was to carve out a space where Muslims can be heard without fearing the blasphemy charge.

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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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