Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1.  We're rewriting the nation's future. Here's how it looks... (The Independent)

Big projects, stamped with a Union Jack, were ecstatically embraced by public opinion, writes Mary Dejevsky.

2. The grades are down – well done to you all! (The Telegraph)

After decades of exam inflation, yesterday’s GCSE results herald a return to credibility, writes Anthony Seldon.

3.Celebrate Paralympians, but remember they needed state help to get there (Guardian)

As we celebrate these super-fit athletes, benefits for disabled people are being cut and views against them are hardening, writes Polly Toynbe.

4.The Lib Dems don't need a new leader. They need a point (The Independent)

Searching for cheap populist policies and silent on issues long held sacred, what do they stand for now? writes Ian Birrell.

5. How an extraordinary day spent with Tony Nicklinson changed my views on right-to-die (The Telegraph)

Visiting the severely disabled man with locked-in syndrome revealed the depth of his suffering, the seriousness of his intent and the extent to which he had explored every other avenue, writes Peter Stanford.

6. Time to put a stop to speculating on hunger (The Independent)

Even the slightest increase in prices may mean that people go hungry, writes The Independent.

7. Orwell should have his statue at the BBC (The Telegraph)

Far from considering him 'Left-wing’, we conservatives rather admire the writer, writes Daniel Hannan.

8. To Republicans, women are simply the sum of their parts (Guardian)

The GOP's adoption of an anti-abortion platform is further indication of a party that has no clue about reproductive life, writes Ana Marie Cox.

9. How food insecurity keeps the workforce cowed (Guardian)

The development of food banks in the UK marks a shift from welfare to the punitive management of poverty, writes Richard Seymour.

10. The real worry is how have we fallen so far behind the rest of the world (The Independent)

Our system is at best in the middle of the global pack and at worst it is slipping down it, writes Hamish McRae.

 

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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

Too close to call, neck-and-neck, down to the wire. Pick your cliché for a close-run thing, and that’s what the parties are saying about Copeland.

No governing party has won a seat in a by-election since 1982, and the seat has been Labour-held since 1935, but the circumstances could scarcely be more favourable to the Conservative Party. They are well ahead in the opinion polls and Labour’s electoral coalition is badly split over Brexit.

To add to the discomfort, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has a long history of opposing nuclear power, though he has sounded a more supportive note since becoming leader. Sellafield is the main employer there, so regardless of the national picture, that would be an added complication.

Given the competing pressures from the Liberal Democrats on one side and the Conservatives and Ukip on the other, Labour should expect significant erosion in the 42 per cent of the vote they got in 2015. To win, all the Conservatives have to do is tread water. And it's worth noting that so far in this parliament, the results in by-elections have been what you'd expect according to the current state of the parties in the polls - which would mean you'd back Labour to win Stoke but the Tories to win Coepland. 

That Theresa May has visited the seat attests to the closeness. Privately, neither party can be confident of winning. For the Conservatives, that makes it worth putting Theresa May, currently the most popular politician in Britain if the polls are to be believed, into the fray, because what have they got to lose? For the Labour leadership, there is nothing to "win" if they hold a seat in opposition, but there is something to lose if they cannot hold it and Corbyn has visited in the final week. 

What is keeping Labour competitive is the state of the health service in Cumbria. If West Cumberland, the hospital, is closed, then residents will face a two hour drive to the nearest hospital.

The local “success regime” is the cause of significant public opposition. "There are a lot of people who are angry about Jeremy, angry about Trident [the submarines are made nearby]," says one MP, "But they also understand that if they vote Labour they will not be bringing in a government that closes Sellafield but they can send a message about West Cumberland [the hospital that is under threat of closure]."

So Labour have reason to be more cheerful than the bookmakers are concerned. The outcome will come down to what the question that voters are asking when they vote is: if it is nuclear power, the Tories will win. If it is healthcare, Labour will triumph.

In that, May’s visit has probably helped Labour on balance. She could have decisively shifted the contest by making a commitment to keep West Cumberland open and to secure the future of the Moorside nuclear plant. But she did neither, and instead that meant that the local newspaper splashed on her refusal to confirm that the hospital was safe. Which, in a close election, may well be the difference as far as winning and losing are concerned. 

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