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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The great NHS showdown is coming. Soon. (Times)

Jeremy Hunt has so far avoided a winter crisis but, without tough measures, the system will end up in a critical condition, warns Paul Goodman. 

2. Cameron will pay a heavy price for alienating immigrant voters (Daily Telegraph)

Hostility to minorities has destroyed the electoral hopes of US Republicans, while Labour has a huge lead in constituencies with a high percentage of British Asians, writes Mary Riddell. 

3. ‘Too big to fail’ is too big to ignore (Financial Times)

The problem is not only the subsidy for bank risk-taking, it is also the likelihood of disasters, says Martin Wolf.

4. The rational Putin has to rein in the mad one (Times)

If the unpredictable Kremlin leader goes over the edge, he’ll trigger a war, writes Roger Boyes. We’re right to be fearful.

5. How Janus-faced George Osborne defied stereotype and triumphed (Guardian)

For a chancellor four years into office after presiding over the worst slump since the war, his popularity is remarkable, writes Simon Jenkins. 

6. Scotland is the bedrock of Britain’s defences (Daily Telegraph)

The SNP's proposals for its future armed forces are risible and would undermine the UK’s safety, says Con Coughlin. 

7. I’m taking on the status quo, and the establishment’s fighting back (Independent)

As a party we have been expecting this; Ukip is doing well in the polls, writes Nigel Farage.

8. Housing in Britain: of roofs and riches (Guardian)

If the aim were exacerbating society's class divides, it is hard to think of a surer means of accomplishment than a property boom, says a Guardian editorial. 

9. George Osborne’s secret weapon (Financial Times)

The Chancellor should take care with dynamic modelling, says an FT editorial. 

10. What the Birmingham schools probe can tell us about bog-standard comps (Guardian)

Whatever the results of the education department's investigation, pupils' education has been disrupted by the academy agenda, says Zoe Williams. 

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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

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.

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