Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The Lib Dems aren't going to rescue themselves by being timid (Observer)
They need to be seen as kinder than the Tories, safer with the economy than Labour and more radical than either, says Andrew Rawnsley

2. You'll be sorry as the wolves circle, Clegg (Sunday Times £)
Leaders are now suspiciously quick to resort to "sorry", says Martin Ivens

3. I don't believe Mitchell said the P-word (Sunday Telegraph)
The Chief Whip has a temper but it's not in him to use the word "pleb", say Matthew d'Ancona

4. The key pillars of our economy need reshaping, starting with finance (Observer)
The first in a three-part series, by Will Hutton

5. Can "three jobs" Laws really save the Lib Dems? (Daily Mail)
He is said to be working 20 hours a day, says James Forsyth

6. An EU referendum could be the crucial moment of David Cameron's career (Sunday Telegraph)
The outcome could mark Cameron as one of history's consequential Prime Ministers

7. Clegg's apology hands leadership to to Cable (Independent on Sunday)
The leader is stalked by his more popular rival, says John Rentoul

8. Mitchell must go, then we can discuss policing (Independent on Sunday)
The snobbish outburst of a cabinet minister shouldn't stop a debate about policing

9. Nick's sorry? Yeah, and the dog ate my homework (Daily Mail)
Clegg's hollow excuses have make him look like a man in a sorry state, says Viv Groskop

10. Troll away, vile trolls, you're doing us a service (Sunday Times £)
Free speech has no boundaries, says India Knight

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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.