Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Ed Miliband's big test is to make voters see him as prime minister The Observer

He can't do anything about the way he looks, but he can do something about the way he talks to the country, writes Andrew Rawnsley.

2. 'Likeability’ is the bane of modern politics The Sunday Telegraph

Clowning around on a chat show, or even being a devoted Dad, may count for less than having a serious grasp of economic reality, writes Janet Daley.

3. Casual vacancy for gloomy snob: would suit JK Rowling The Sunday Times (£)

The first Harry Potter story was astonishing in its minor public-school wannabe snobbery, argues Minette Marrin.

4. Israel and the Occupied Territories are much changed - yet peace seems more distant than ever The Independent on Sunday

As Donald Macintyre, the Sindy's Jerusalem correspondent, remembers eight years reporting from the region, he reflects on what has changed and what changes must still come.

5. What’s the point of Labour when the coffers are empty? The Sunday Telegraph

Ed Miliband’s answer to this question will help to decide the outcome of the next election, writes Matthew d'Ancona.

6. Wonkish? Yes, but Miliband could be PM in 2015 The Independent on Sunday

The Labour brand is strong because voters think Labour will protect their jobs, argues John Rentoul.

7. Is this the death knell for the Lib Dems? The Observer

At a time when the country needs them, the party seems intent on self-destruction, writes Nick Cohen.

8. Ed's set to bare his soul... and his inner geek The Mail on Sunday

One of Miliband’s closest allies admits the Labour leader is "not yet seen an alternative Prime Minister. He needs to be by the Election". The test of this conference is whether he is halfway to being there by the end of it, writes James Forsyth.

9. Stay vague, Ed — too red and you’re dead The Sunday Times (£)

If Miliband is wise, he will keep this stuff about responsible capitalism vague. Better Fuzzy Ed than Red Ed, writes Martin Ivens.

10. We need a revolution in how our companies are owned and run The Observer

Will Hutton calls for a culture dedicated to long-term, ethical goals.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Why do the words “soup, swoop, loop de loop” come to mind every time I lift a spoon to my lips?

It’s all thanks to Barry and Anita.

A while ago I was lending a friend the keys to our house. We keep spare keys in a ceramic pot I was given years ago by someone who made it while on an art-school pottery course. “That’s er . . . quite challenging,” the friend said of the pot.

“Is it?” I replied. “I’d stopped noticing how ugly it is.”

“Then it’s a grunty,” she said.

“A what?” I asked.

“A grunty. It’s something you have in your house that’s hideous and useless but you’ve stopped noticing it completely, so it’s effectively invisible.”

I was much taken with this idea and realised that as well as “grunties” there are also “gruntyisms”: things you say or do, though the reason why you say or do them has long since been forgotten. For example, every time we drink soup my wife and I say the same thing, uttered in a strange monotone: we say, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop.” How we came to say “soup, swoop, loop de loop” came about like this.

For a married couple, the years between your mid-thirties and your late forties might be seen as the decade of the bad dinner party. You’re no longer looking for a partner, so the hormonal urge to visit crowded bars has receded, but you are still full of energy so you don’t want to stay in at night, either. Instead, you go to dinner parties attended by other couples you don’t necessarily like that much.

One such couple were called Barry and Anita. Every time we ate at their house Barry would make soup, and when serving it he would invariably say, “There we are: soup, swoop, loop de loop.” After the dinner party, as soon as we were in the minicab going home, me and Linda would start drunkenly talking about what an arse Barry was, saying to each other, in a high-pitched, mocking imitation of his voice: “Please do have some more of this delicious soup, swoop, loop de loop.” Then we’d collapse against each other laughing, convincing the Algerian or Bengali taxi driver once again of the impenetrability and corruption of Western society.

Pretty soon whenever we had soup at home, Linda and I would say to each other, “Soup, swoop, loop de loop,” at first still ridiculing Barry, but eventually we forgot why we were saying it and it became part of the private language every couple develop, employed long after we’d gratefully ceased having soupy dinners with Barry and Anita.

In the early Nineties we had an exchange student staying with us for a year, a Maori girl from the Cook Islands in the southern Pacific. When she returned home she took the expression “soup, swoop, loop de loop” with her and spread it among her extended family, until finally the phrase appeared in an anthropological dissertation: “ ‘Soup swoop, loop de loop.’ Shamanistic Incantations in Rarotongan Food Preparation Rituals” – University of Topeka, 2001. 

This article first appeared in the 21 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt