Morning Call: the pick of the papers

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

1. A third runway, Boris Island, better rail? Please, just decide (Guardian)

Prevarication over aviation policy breeds a dangerous mistrust. The cabinet must take a firm decision, and act on it, writes Jackie Ashley.

2. The German people will decide Europe's fate (Guardian)

Hans Kundnani argues that starkly divided opinion in the EU's biggest economy could be as big a threat to the euro as Greek debt.

3. Will the real David Cameron please stand up? (Times £)

The Prime Minister must stop calculating which way is safest to jump and get out and fight for what he believes, writes Conservative Home's editor Tim Montgomerie.

4. David Cameron praises Paralympians, but his policies will crush them (Independent)

With just days to go until the Paralympics start, the Government still intends to drive 500,000 people off the Disability Living Allowance, writes Owen Jones.

5. The elephant in the room: Romney the pragmatist (Financial Times)

Romney's trademark used to be pragmatism and competency. So how will he survive yoked to the modern-day Republican party, asks Edward Luce.

6. We need much simpler rules to rein in the banks (Financial Times)

Rather than creating complex sets of regulations, banking authorities should focus on naming and enforcing a "bright line" which it is clear that banks should not cross, writes Nicholas Brady.

7. What GCSE English needs is more red ink (Times £)

Libby Purves writes that letting students make errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation is far crueller than altering their grades.

8. I have a confession to make – I go to church (Independent)

Andrew Martin applauds a new report that says religion makes people happier, denies that religion is irrational, and wonders why his friends are so resistant to it.

9. The Thick of It: the agony of tight spaces (Guardian)

Crises come and go but one thing never changes in this show – the politicians are stuck, with no room for manoeuvre, says Ian Martin, one of the show's writers.

10. Terrorists seek a safe haven in Strasbourg (Telegraph)

The Telegraph editorialises against the European Court of Human Rights' "interference" – it is proceeding with an appeal by two British terrorists.

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Ignored by the media, the Liberal Democrats are experiencing a revival

The crushed Liberals are doing particularly well in areas that voted Conservative in 2015 - and Remain in 2016. 

The Liberal Democrats had another good night last night, making big gains in by-elections. They won Adeyfield West, a seat they have never held in Dacorum, with a massive swing. They were up by close to the 20 points in the Derby seat of Allestree, beating Labour into second place. And they won a seat in the Cotswolds, which borders the vacant seat of Witney.

It’s worth noting that they also went backwards in a safe Labour ward in Blackpool and a safe Conservative seat in Northamptonshire.  But the overall pattern is clear, and it’s not merely confined to last night: the Liberal Democrats are enjoying a mini-revival, particularly in the south-east.

Of course, it doesn’t appear to be making itself felt in the Liberal Democrats’ poll share. “After Corbyn's election,” my colleague George tweeted recently, “Some predicted Lib Dems would rise like Lazarus. But poll ratings still stuck at 8 per cent.” Prior to the local elections, I was pessimistic that the so-called Liberal Democrat fightback could make itself felt at a national contest, when the party would have to fight on multiple fronts.

But the local elections – the first time since 1968 when every part of the mainland United Kingdom has had a vote on outside of a general election – proved that completely wrong. They  picked up 30 seats across England, though they had something of a nightmare in Stockport, and were reduced to just one seat in the Welsh Assembly. Their woes continued in Scotland, however, where they slipped to fifth place. They were even back to the third place had those votes been replicated on a national scale.

Polling has always been somewhat unkind to the Liberal Democrats outside of election campaigns, as the party has a low profile, particularly now it has just eight MPs. What appears to be happening at local by-elections and my expectation may be repeated at a general election is that when voters are presented with the option of a Liberal Democrat at the ballot box they find the idea surprisingly appealing.

Added to that, the Liberal Democrats’ happiest hunting grounds are clearly affluent, Conservative-leaning areas that voted for Remain in the referendum. All of which makes their hopes of a good second place in Witney – and a good night in the 2017 county councils – look rather less farfetched than you might expect. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.