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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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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

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.