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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Merkel will not bend EU rules for Britain (Financial Times)

The union will always be a club that the UK does not lead, says Philip Stephens. 

2. Our economy’s getting bigger, but not better (Daily Telegraph)

Self-congratulation over Britain’s growth figures masks a crippling productivity problem, writes Jeremy Warner. 

3. There was no conspiracy. It was a cock-up (Times)

We should not over-react to an administrative error by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, writes Jonathan Powell. 

4. Free schools will stumble – the test is how well they recover (Daily Telegraph)

Michael Gove’s academies have their critics, but new schools are as likely to fail as new companies, says Fraser Nelson. 

5. Dave is utterly deluded if he thinks the Iron Chancellor's going to help end his Euro nightmare (Daily Mail)

Merkel's determination that Germany should continue leading the EU according to her iron-rod agenda was predictable to all — except to a few wildly optimistic souls, writes Simon Heffer. 

6. Labour and Ed Miliband disagree about party prospects (Daily Telegraph)

Labour HQ doubts the party can get an election majority, but the leader is more bullish, writes Isabel Hardman.

7. Politics, not law, has become the master of British justice (Guardian)

 From amnesties for the IRA to calls for the Woolwich murderers to be lynched, crime and punishment is now a politicised mess, writes Simon Jenkins. 

8. A symptom of broken Britain is fixed at last (Times)

Teen pregnancy is falling, thanks to decisions made 15 years ago, says Philip Collins. That’s how long it takes to tackle big social problems.

9. While politicians bicker over self-serving definitions of poverty, a simple measure of ‘need’ is being overlooked (Independent)

The obvious place to start is with the consumption of food, writes Andreas Whittam Smith. 

10. First world war bravery was not confined to the soldiers (Guardian)

As we mark the conflict, we must not forget those who were ridiculed, jailed and worse for daring to fight for peace, writes Priyamvada Gopal.

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David Cameron’s starter homes: poor policy, but good politics

David Cameron's electoral coalition of buy-to-let retirees and dual-earner couples remains intact: for now.

The only working age demographic to do better under the Coalition was dual-earner couples – without children. They were the main beneficiaries of the threshold raise – which may “take the poorest out of tax” in theory but in practice hands a sizeable tax cut to peope earning above average. They will reap the fruits of the government’s Help to Buy ISAs. And, not having children, they were insulated from cuts to child tax credits, reductions in public services, and the rising cost of childcare. (Childcare costs now mean a couple on average income, working full-time, find that the extra earnings from both remaining in work are wiped out by the costs of care)

And they were a vital part of the Conservatives’ electoral coalition. Voters who lived in new housing estates on the edges of seats like Amber Valley and throughout the Midlands overwhelmingly backed the Conservatives.

That’s the political backdrop to David Cameron’s announcement later today to change planning to unlock new housing units – what the government dubs “Starter Homes”. The government will redefine “affordable housing”  to up to £250,000 outside of London and £450,000 and under within it, while reducing the ability of councils to insist on certain types of buildings. He’ll describe it as part of the drive to make the next ten years “the turnaround decade”: years in which people will feel more in control of their lives, more affluent, and more successful.

The end result: a proliferation of one and two bedroom flats and homes, available to the highly-paid: and to that vital component of Cameron’s coalition: the dual-earner, childless couple, particularly in the Midlands, where the housing market is not yet in a state of crisis. (And it's not bad for that other pillar of the Conservative majority: well-heeled pensioners using buy-to-let as a pension plan.)

The policy may well be junk-rated but the politics has a triple A rating: along with affluent retirees, if the Conservatives can keep those dual-earner couples in the Tory column, they will remain in office for the forseeable future.

Just one problem, really: what happens if they decide they want room for kids? Cameron’s “turnaround decade” might end up in entirely the wrong sort of turnaround for Conservative prospects.

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