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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Protect Britain in a two-speed Europe (Financial Times)

States outside the eurozone should not be at disadvantage in the EU, write George Osborne and Wolfgang Schäuble.

2. Children don’t earn their inheritance. Tax it (Times)

A fair society would let people keep as much of their earnings as possible but take a cut from property and land, says Philip Collins. 

3. Osborne must not run scared of housing (Daily Telegraph)

If the Chancellor is charging up the nation’s credit card, he should spend it on property, says Jeremy Warner. 

4. Farage's TV debate has lit the European touchpaper – are we in or out? (Guardian)

Britain is a step closer to leaving Europe this week, writes Polly Toynbee. It is high time all who fear an exit from the union spoke out against the liars.

5. Only one person is laughing at the Farage-Clegg EU pantomime (Daily Telegraph)

The PM is offering a grown-up discussion on radical reform of the European Union, along with the Germans and Dutch, says Fraser Nelson. 

6. We should thank Putin for one thing - the west is once again the West (Independent)

Thanks to Mr Putin it is experiencing a frisson of unity it has not known for a long time, writes Peter Popham. 

7. Why foxhunting has become an unspeakable topic (Daily Telegraph)

A reluctance to address the contentious issue of foxhunting is dividing the Tory party, says Isabel Hardman. 

8. Labour is part of the problem, not the solution (Guardian)

Its rhetoric may be softer than the Tories', but the party still puts profit before people, says Ken Loach. Left Unity offers a new voice.

9. Osborne had to aid spenders over savers (Financial Times)

The Chancellor’s plans, if implemented, mean turning the government into a substantial net saver, writes Martin Wolf. 

10. Price of Power (Times)

Energy suppliers say that a competition inquiry would interfere with investment plans, but it must go ahead, says a Times editorial. 

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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

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