Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Britain cannot afford to be the friendless pariah of Europe (Daily Telegraph)

A country increasingly unsure of its role and standing should be embracing its allies, writes Mary Riddell. 

2. A separate NHS tax would rein in spending (Times)

We can’t go on pouring more and more into healthcare, writes Daniel Finkelstein. Voters must be made aware of the real cost.

3. George Osborne is not the only one who will cut welfare. The numbers can’t add up otherwise (Independent)

Even two more years of decent growth will not close the gap in the public finances, writes Hamish McRae.

4. The return of dynastic wealth (Financial Times)

In a world with more inherited riches, it makes no sense to cut estate taxes, says Robin Harding.

5. Has Osborne got the bottle for cuts? (Daily Telegraph)

The Chancellor promises to trim £12bn off welfare in the next parliament – it can be done as governments all over the world have shown, says Andrew Haldenby.

6. Fairness and the minimum wage (Financial Times)

Pay not price-fixing is the answer to the cost-of-living crisis, argues an FT leader.

7. George Osborne talks tough but acts like a Labour chancellor (Guardian)

Despite the claims to austerity, Britain has seen nothing to compare with the cuts imposed on the Greeks or Spaniards, writes Simon Jenkins.

8.  If cannabis is legal, more teenagers will smoke it – and that can’t be good (Independent)

People who want to legalise drugs talk about harm reduction, and they are right to, says John Rentoul. 

9. The poverty of US political journalism (Financial Times)

It pains me to say the trade has not been in such a grievous state since Watergate, writes Jurek Martin.  

10. Don’t gamble with the poorest in society (Times)

Forget the tax income, Cameron, just pull the plug on the social curse of high street mini-casinos, says Alice Thomson. 

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Jeremy Corbyn challenged by Labour MPs to sack Ken Livingstone from defence review

Former mayor of London criticised at PLP meeting over comments on 7 July bombings. 

After Jeremy Corbyn's decision to give Labour MPs a free vote over air strikes in Syria, tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting was less fractious than it could have been. But one grandee was still moved to declare that the "ferocity" of the attacks on the leader made it the most "uplifting" he had attended.

Margaret Beckett, the former foreign secretary, told the meeting: "We cannot unite the party if the leader's office is determined to divide us." Several MPs said afterwards that many of those who shared Corbyn's opposition to air strikes believed he had mishandled the process by appealing to MPs over the heads of the shadow cabinet and then to members. David Winnick declared that those who favoured military action faced a "shakedown" and deselection by Momentum activists. "It is completely unacceptable. They are a party within a party," he said of the Corbyn-aligned group. The "huge applause" for Hilary Benn, who favours intervention, far outweighed that for the leader, I'm told. 

There was also loud agreement when Jack Dromey condemned Ken Livingstone for blaming Tony Blair's invasion of Iraq for the 7 July 2005 bombings. Along with Angela Smith MP, Dromey demanded that Livingstone be sacked as the co-chair of Labour's defence review. Significantly, Benn said aftewards that he agreed with every word Dromey had said. Corbyn's office has previously said that it is up to the NEC, not the leader, whether the former London mayor holds the position. In reference to 7 July, an aide repeated Corbyn's statement that he preferred to "remember the brilliant words Ken used after 7/7". 

As on previous occasions, MPs complained that the leader failed to answer the questions that were put to him. A shadow minister told me that he "dodged" one on whether he believed the UK should end air strikes against Isis in Iraq. In reference to Syria, a Corbyn aide said afterwards that "There was significant support for the leader. There was a wide debate, with people speaking on both sides of the arguments." After David Cameron's decision to call a vote on air strikes for Wednesday, leaving only a day for debate, the number of Labour MPs backing intervention is likely to fall. One shadow minister told me that as few as 40-50 may back the government, though most expect the total to be closer to the original figure of 99. 

At the end of another remarkable day in Labour's history, a Corbyn aide concluded: "It was always going to be a bumpy ride when you have a leader who was elected by a large number outside parliament but whose support in the PLP is quite limited. There are a small number who find it hard to come to terms with that result."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.