Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. It's not the names that matter but the policies (Independent)

Only two reshuffles in 30 years have made a big difference to the fate of a government, writes Steve Richards.

2. Now Obama must build the case for government (Financial Times)

The president will have to avoid treading on the American dream, writes Gideon Rachman.

3. The cracks between the two Eds could swallow Labour’s hopes (Daily Telegraph)

Like Midas, the Labour leader appears to have it all – but he must show where the power lies, says Mary Riddell.

4. Free schools are a disaster (Guardian)

Michael Gove's flagship policy is a huge waste of money, socially divisive and won't raise educational standards, argues Francis Gilbert.

5. We deserve better than this yoni-centric claptrap (Independent)

Claims that the vagina is 'part of the female soul' are, frankly, insulting, says Laurie Penny.

6. These angry Tories can't see what 'no alternative' means (Guardian)

So blinded by dogma are they that the reality of the cuts to come has not yet hit home with Cameron's critics, writes Polly Toynbee. But it soon will.

7. The US economy may surprise us all (Financial Times)

Five factors suggest a coming surge in growth, writes Roger Altman.

8. Game changer? No, more an echo chamber (Times) (£)

David Cameron’s reshuffle today will be secateurs in the Rose Garden rather than a Night of the Long Knives, says Rachel Sylvester.

9. We must shift science out of the geek ghetto (Daily Telegraph)

Britain’s future rests on taking numbers seriously, says Liz Truss.

10. The Gentle Tory is alive and well – on television (Guardian)

Period dramas like Parade's End reveal a yearning for a conservative type that politics has left behind, says David Priestland.

Show Hide image

For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood