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Opinion Digest: the rights and wrongs of welfare reform and the failure of the Rio Earth Summit

LAST UPDATED AT 10:19 ON Tue 26 Jun 2012

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IT'S NOT HEARTLESS TO ASK BRITS TO WORK
PHILIP JOHNSTON ON WELFARE REFORM
The two big political speeches of the past few days – Cameron's on welfare and Miliband's on immigration - are linked, says Philip Johnston in The Daily Telegraph. Seventy years ago the Beveridge Report set out the foundations of the welfare state, including the essential principle that benefits should not be set so high as to deter a low-paid worker from taking a menial job. The Left argues that cutting benefits to encourage young people to work is heartless because there are no jobs. But there are jobs as hundreds of thousands of Eastern Europeans can testify. If the state pays British people enough money to live and do nothing "then it is hardly surprising that many choose to remain idle". Governments have avoided these twin issues for years. "Mr Miliband and Mr Cameron have finally opened up the debate and both are right to have done so".

TORIES ARE ASSAULTING ORDINARY PEOPLE
KEVIN MAGUIRE ON WELFARE REFORM
There is no more nauseating sight in British politics than a Prime Minister born into privilege hypocritically declaring war on a supposed culture of entitlement, says Kevin Maguire in The Daily Mirror. "Here is a toff married to an heiress" who has been offered a series of secure jobs because of his family connections, daring to claim some people have it easy. "Bashing the unfortunate on benefits is the scapegoat tactic of a classic divide-and-ruler, turning the low income households against those even worse off." But destroying the welfare state is just part of a wider attack "to create a country of drones to toil cut-price in the interests of fatcats who bankroll the Tories". The PM is also stripping away employment rights and impoverishing public services. Cameron has offered us "a terrifying glimpse of the damage that a Tory regime, unfettered by Liberal Democrat restraint, would wreak if it secured a Commons majority".

OUR LEADERS HAVE GIVEN UP ON THE PLANET  
GEORGE MONBIOT ON THE RIO EARTH SUMMIT
The Rio summit was a massive failure of collective leadership, says George Monbiot in The Guardian. The earth's ecosystems are collapsing, but the leaders of some of the most powerful nations – the United States, the UK, Germany, Russia – could not even be bothered to turn up and discuss it. Those that did turn up agreed "to keep stoking the destructive fires" with a pledge to pursue "sustained growth" - the primary cause of environmental destruction. Governments will focus "not on defending the living Earth from destruction, but on defending the machine that is destroying it." The idea that it might be the wrong machine can never be voiced in mainstream politics. The machine of growth benefits the economic elites and insulates politicians – bread and circuses. Giving up on global agreements is "almost a relief". It means we can turn away from a place where we have no power, and take things into our own hands.

MOHAMMED MORSI OFFERS HOPE  
AHDAF SOUEIF ON EGYPT'S NEW PRESIDENT
The new Egyptian president's first address offered hope, says Ahdaf Soueif in The Guardian. The Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohamed Morsi, stated that he saw himself "as president of all Egyptians". He spoke of Christians and women – "knowing they have special reason to be wary of an MB man". He spoke of Egypt's murdered young people and their families, of freedom, human rights and social justice. His words were positive, but "we still have a major struggle ahead". The old military regime, Scaf, "wants a degree of political control and economic independence that would make a democratic, transparent, accountable state impossible". This isn't new. What is new is that in its recent legalised power grab, Scaf has revealed its hand. Something else is also new. At last, "we have voted in a president whom we can support, or oppose with honour – without being shot". · 

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