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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Only deluded Tories think the crisis is over (Times)

The increase in real earnings is welcome but millions of Britons are still deeply in the red, writes Jenni Russell. 

2. As the bombs fall, the people of Damascus rally round Assad (Daily Telegraph)

The west may oppose Assad's regime, but on the streets of the capital the people fear a greater evil, writes Peter Oborne. 

3. Putin has more admirers than the west might think (Guardian)

Russia has found out who its friends are recently – and thanks to some old resentments, that includes India and China, writes Timothy Garton Ash. 

4. The Church needs more than this hapless Rev (Times)

The hero of the BBC’s religious sitcom is likeable but ineffectual, says Tim Montgomerie. Christians have to fight harder for their faith.

5. Ed Miliband will fail if he gives in to the sirens of austerity (Guardian)

Hollande's rout in the French local elections shows the price to be paid if Labour embraces cuts and corporate power, says Seumas Milne. 

6. Farage and Salmond want you to live in Outopia (Times)

The Ukip and SNP leaders come from different political traditions but they share more than they’ll ever admit, writes David Aaronovitch. 

7. Britain’s loudmouth literary crowd (Financial Times)

A few blunt words are unlikely to hurt Sajid Javid, who spent years at the sharp end in the City, writes Janan Ganesh. 

8. It’s two decades since ‘education, education, education’, but still Britain’s primary school admissions are a farce (Independent)

Choice? There is absolutely zero when it comes to getting your child into a school, writes Jane Merrick. 

9. The bear has made monkeys of the west (Financial Times)

There is no reason to fear a strong and self-confident Russia, says Bruce Anderson.

10. Scottish referendum: the UK is on shifting sands – we can't assume survival (Guardian)

A yes vote is becoming a real possibility – but we are woefully unprepared to deal with the psychological impact of Scotland rejecting the union, writes Martin Kettle. 

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You may call me a monster – but I'm glad that girl's lemonade stall got shut down

What's wrong with hard-working public servants enforcing perfectly sensible regulations?

Who could fail to be moved by the widely shared tears of a five year old whose innocent lemonade stall was brutally shut down by evil bureaucrats? What sort of monster would not have their heartstrings tugged by the plaintive “I've done a bad thing” from a girl whose father tells us she “just wanted to put a smile on people's faces”?

Well me, actually.

There are half a million cases of food poisoning each year in the UK, and one of the reasons we have stringent controls on who can sell food and drink, especially in unsealed containers, is to try to cut those figures down. And street stalls in general are regulated because we have a system of taxation, rights and responsibilities in this country which underpins our functioning society. Regulation is a social and economic good.

It’s also pretty unfair to criticise the hard-working public servants who acted in this case for doing the job they are no doubt underpaid to do. For the council to say “we expect our enforcement officers to show common sense” as they cancelled the fine is all very well, but I’m willing to bet they are given precious little leeway in their training when it comes to who gets fined and who doesn’t. If the council is handing out apologies, it likely should be issuing one to its officers as well.

“But these are decent folk being persecuted by a nanny state,” I hear you cry. And I stand impervious, I’m afraid. Because I’ve heard that line a lot recently and it’s beginning to grate.

It’s the same argument used against speed cameras and parking fines. How often have you heard those caught out proclaim themselves as “law-abiding citizens” and bemoan the infringement of their freedom? I have news for you: if you break the speed limit, or park illegally, or indeed break health and safety or trading regulations, you are not a law-abiding citizen. You’re actually the one who’s in the wrong.

And rarely is ignorance an excuse. Speed limits and parking regulations are posted clearly. In the case of the now famous lemonade stand, the father in question is even quoted as saying “I thought that they would just tell us to pack up and go home.” So he knew he was breaking the rules. He just didn’t think the consequences should apply to him.

A culture of entitlement, and a belief that rules are for other people but not us, is a disease gripping middle Britain. It is demonstrated in many different ways, from the driver telling the cyclist that she has no right to be on the road because she doesn’t pay road tax (I know), to the father holding up his daughter’s tears to get out of a fine.

I know, I’m a monster. But hooray for the enforcers, I say.

Duncan Hothersall is the editor of Labour Hame