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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Who really wants to roll back the state? Not the right (Guardian)

While this government props up big business and delves into our private lives, there is a tradition of individualism on the left waiting to be reclaimed, says Owen Jones. 

2. Hedge fund titans are testing US democracy (Financial Times)

If branches of government bow to big business, public policy will be decided by the highest bidder, warns Edward Luce. 

3. John Smith would have led us to a decent world (Guardian)

The Labour leader, who died 20 years ago today, was a political giant who ought to inspire a better kind of politics, says John McTernan. 

4. Unemployment will scar us for years (Independent)

The figures make it look as if unemployment is going down, but they hide a multitude of sins and as usual it is the poorest that suffer the most, writes David Blanchflower. 

5. Local elections matter more than their European equivalents (Daily Mirror)

They may be at the bottom of the democratic pile, writes Kevin Maguire. But we need good councillors much more than we need MEPs.

6. Could John Smith have envisaged where his "parliament" would lead? (Daily Telegraph)

The institution he so desired has nourished the very political ideology he despised, writes Alan Cochrane. 

7. The NHS is being suffocated by cynical politicking (Independent)

But let’s never forget that it represents the best of British idealism and energy, says Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. 

8. In our own modest way, we’re living in a Boko Haram world (Daily Telegraph)

There is no consistency or fairness in the BBC’s disgraceful treatment of its Radio Devon DJ, says Boris Johnson. 

9. There is a way to cut knife crime – the Tories just aren't delivering it (Guardian)

Grayling and co, eager to win headlines and dish the Lib Dems, aren't so bothered about a policy that actually works, writes Chris Huhne. 

10. Humans are not all the same under the skin (Times)

There are genetic variations between races, but they don’t matter, writes Matt Ridley. It is co-operation that brings progress to our species. 

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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.