Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. From Jessica Ennis to Joey Barton. Could a contrast be more ghastly?, Guardian

The Olympic spirit we've just rejoiced in makes the return of football's greed, cheating and racism all the more depressing, writes Geoffrey Wheatcroft.

2. A-level students must be told the whole truth about the value of a degree, Telegraph

Mis-selling of higher education is one of the least remarked upon scandals of our time, argues Fraser Nelson.

3. There should be no immunity for Assange from these allegations, Independent

Owen Jones writes that Ecuador is wrong to describe the charges against the WikiLeaks founder as 'laughable'.

4. Corporate cash power is holding the state hostage Financial Times (£)

John Plender exposes the shift in relations between the public and private sectors, and asks how to combat capture.

5. Cameron must cultivate his little acorns, Times (£)

Bring back the Pre-Coalition Dave of optimism and wonder to inspire us with graphene and Raspberry Pi, begs Peter Hoskin.

6. Girls deserve top marks for catching up so quickly, Telegraph

Three cheers – girls will be more successful than boys in the latest A-level results, writes Rachel Johnson.

7. There's still (a slim) hope for the eurozone yet, Independent

You wouldn't know it from the coverage over here, but the Eurozone crisis has actually eased quite a lot of late, Adrian Hamilton explains.

8. We must clean up our act on money laundering, Financial Times (£)

Following a spate of high-profile money laundering scandals, John Cassara asks what more we can do?

9. This is not some celeb balaclava bandwagon, Times (£)

Pussy Riot are bravely risking their freedom to take on a gangster state. We can’t stay silent, says Peter Gabriel.

10. Would you be happy to live like Tony Nicklinson?

The court had no choice but to rule against Nicklinson's right to die. The law must be changed to end such brutal suffering, argues Polly Toynbee.

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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.