Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Failing elites threaten our future (Financial Times)

Leaders richly rewarded for mediocrity cannot be relied upon when things go wrong, writes Martin Wolf. 

2. Ed Miliband should come clean – the rich will have to pay more (Daily Telegraph)

A promise to reinstate the top 50p tax band and fund child care would be a good start, says Mary Riddell. 

3. Why A&E departments are fighting for their life (Guardian)

The marketisation of the NHS pits hospital against hospital, and specialism against specialism, says Allyson Pollock. The whole service is suffering, not just A&E.

4. Benefits Street is a challenge for the right (Times)

As this brilliant TV programme suggests, vulnerable people need help to break the cycle of dependence, says Daniel Finkelstein. 

5. France was described as the ‘sick man of Europe’ in the past but returned to health when a Socialist President changed his policies (Independent)

The parallels between the François then and the François now are uncanny, says Hamish McRae.

6. The bluster of al-Qaeda hides failure (Financial Times)

Policy should focus less on the jihadis and more on the conditions that engender them, says David Gardner.

7. America has had the guts to go after banking’s rogues (Times)

UK regulators believe that prosecuting banks would be destabilising, writes Ross Clark. 

8. The squeezed middle deserves far better (Daily Telegraph)

David Cameron has to come up with an agenda that will see those suffering from that “protracted squeeze” benefit from the recovery, says a Telegraph editorial. 

9. Cost of living crisis vaporised as inflation falls (Daily Mail)

Labour’s knee-jerk response to every set of economic numbers may soon need revising, says Alex Brummer. 

10. Hollande's private life is the least of his problems (Guardian)

The president should be regretting not his personal follies but the failure of the French economic model, writes Simon Jenkins. 

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The Tories have missed a chance to show that they care about student debt

After condemning Jeremy Corbyn for his "betrayal", the government has still raised the top student interest rate to 6.1 per cent. 

For weeks, the Conservatives have assailed Jeremy Corbyn for his alleged betrayal over student debt. The Labour leader told NME during the campaign that he would "deal with" the issue. But he later clarified that this did not amount to a "commitment" to wipe out student debt (which would cost around £100bn) and that he had been "unaware of the size of it at the time". For this, the Tories have accused him of Clegg-style hypocrisy. 

There is little sign, however, that the attack has proved effective. Labour’s manifesto said nothing on the subject of student debt and Corbyn's language in the NME interview was ambiguous. "I’m looking at ways that we could reduce that [student debt], ameliorate that, lengthen the period of paying it off," he said. There is no comparison with the Liberal Democrats, who explicitly vowed not to raise tuition fees before trebling them to £9,000 as part of the coalition. Young voters still credit Corbyn for his vow to abolish tuition fees (were he to break this promise in power, it would be a different matter). 

A further problem for the Tories is that they have spotlighted a problem - student debt - without offering any solution. At present, graduates pay a marginal tax rate of 41 per cent on earnings over £21,000 (20 per cent income tax, 12 per cent national insurance and 9 per cent student loan repayment). This, combined with the average debt (£50,800), leaves them struggling to save for a home deposit, or even to pay the rent. The Conservatives, unsurprisingly, are unable to sell capitalism to voters with no capital. 

Yet rather than remedying this problem, the government has compounded it. The Department of Education has ruled out reducing the top interest rate on student loans from 6.1 per cent, meaning the average student will accrue £5,800 in interest charges even before they graduate.

By maintaining the status quo, the Tories have missed a chance to demonstrate that they have learned from their electoral humbling. Had they reduced student debt, or cut tuition fees, they could have declared that while Corbyn talks, they act. Instead, they have merely confirmed that for graduates who want change, Corbyn remains their best hope. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.