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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Climate change deniers have grasped that markets can't fix the climate (Guardian)

The refusal to accept global warming is driven by corporate interests and the fear of what it will cost to try to stop it, says Seumas Milne. 

2. We're letting Putin win in the Ukraine (Daily Telegraph)

Ukrainians have been betrayed by the failure of a weak and divided west to stand up to the Kremlin, says Edward Lucas.

3. Alex Salmond and co are acting like spoilt children (Guardian)

The inadequacy of the SNP's engagement with serious issues like currency and Europe suggests they suspect the game is up, writes Martin Kettle. 

4. The US has bullied our banks into handing over a billion dollars (Daily Telegraph)

Quietly and without notice, Britain has surrendered control over its trade with Iran, writes Peter Oborne.

5. The drug we ignore that kills thousands (Independent)

We need to address the lack of funding for dealing with alcohol compared with other drugs, says Owen Jones.

6. Labour is impatient for an NHS disaster (Times)

Jeremy Hunt hasn’t got money to throw around but he will urge voters to look at Wales and realise it could be worse, writes Tim Montgomerie.

7. Washington rues the Abe it wished for (Financial Times)

The US fears that Japan’s departure from postwar pacifism will provoke Beijing, writes David Pilling. 

8. David Cameron and Tony Abbott are proving there’s life without spin (Daily Telegraph)

Both here and Down Under, the public are quite happy to hear less from their PMs, writes Sue Cameron. 

9. Canadian air freshens fusty Britain (Financial Times)

A non-Briton as head of the BoE accentuates the openness of the economy, says Patrick Jenkins.

10. Danish hypocrisy over animal welfare takes the biscuit (Times)

"Animal rights before religion" might be easier to accept if Denmark didn’t have such an intensive livestock industry, writes Peter Franklin. 

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George Osborne's surplus target is under threat without greater austerity

The IFS exposes the Chancellor's lack of breathing space.

At the end of the last year, I noted how George Osborne's stock, which rose dramatically after the general election, had begun to plummet. His ratings among Tory members and the electorate fell after the tax credits imbroglio and he was booed at the Star Wars premiere (a moment which recalled his past humbling at the Paralympics opening ceremony). 

Matters have improved little since. The Chancellor was isolated by No.10 and cabinet colleagues after describing the Google tax deal, under which the company paid £130m, as a "major success". Today, he is returning from the Super Bowl to a grim prognosis from the IFS. In its Green Budget, the economic oracle warns that Osborne's defining ambition of a budget surplus by 2019-20 may be unachievable without further spending cuts and tax rises. 

Though the OBR's most recent forecast gave him a £10.1bn cushion, reduced earnings growth and lower equity prices could eat up most of that. In addition, the government has pledged to make £8bn of currently unfunded tax cuts by raising the personal allowance and the 40p rate threshold. The problem for Osborne, as his tax credits defeat demonstrated, is that there are few easy cuts left to make. 

Having committed to achieving a surplus by the fixed date of 2019-20, the Chancellor's new fiscal mandate gives him less flexibility than in the past. Indeed, it has been enshrined in law. Osborne's hope is that the UK will achieve its first surplus since 2000-01 just at the moment that he is set to succeed (or has succeeded) David Cameron as prime minister: his political fortunes are aligned with those of the economy. 

There is just one get-out clause. Should GDP growth fall below 1 per cent, the target is suspended. An anaemic economy would hardly be welcome for the Chancellor but it would at least provide him with an alibi for continued borrowing. Osborne may be forced to once more recite his own version of Keynes's maxim: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.