Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Barack Obama and David Cameron are now both on the back foot (Guardian)

After Ed Miliband and Mitt Romney's surprise performances, the incumbents are under intense pressure to hit back soon, writes Jonathan Freedland.

2. David Cameron may not like it, but he’s been hit by a hurricane (Daily Telegraph)

The Prime Minister must convince Tories, as Mrs Thatcher did, that the recovery is his personal mission, says Charles Moore.

3. To know the beast you must face it in its lair (Times) (£)

They say party conferences are irrelevant, writes Matthew Parris. But this is where future leaders are forged and reveal their true nature

4. Osborne endures in hope of vindication (Financial Times)

The chancellor is biding his time as an election approaches, writes Janan Ganesh.

5. The Conservatives can be the new workers' party (Guardian)

For the Tories to gain a majority, David Cameron must push for blue-collar modernisation and a war on joblessness, says Neil O'Brien.

6. How Mr Cameron could win the next election (Daily Mail)

An unequivocal pledge to hold an in-out EU referendum would give the Tories a chance of winning a majority, says Simon Heffer.

7. Ed Miliband's One Nation conference speech was political transvestism at its most stylish (Independent)

Anyone half-worth electing has stolen their opponents' clothes, but for transvestism not to collapse into drag, it must be sustained and convincing, says Chris Bryant.

8. Maria Miller, a very modern feminist? Don't make me laugh (Guardian)

The minister for women lacks the courage to be pro-life, but can't understand why less privileged women choose abortion, writes Tanya Gold.

9. The Tories must prove they are willing to fight (Daily Telegraph)

As they gather in Birmingham for this year’s conference, the Tories need to recapture the spirit of 2007, says a Telegraph leader.

10. Impenitent Marxist and free thinker (Financial Times)

Hobsbawm was beloved even of those who do not share his politics, says Christopher Caldwell.

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Inside a shaken city: "I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester”

The morning after the bombing of the Manchester Arena has left the city's residents jumpy.

On Tuesday morning, the streets in Manchester city centre were eerily silent.

The commuter hub of Victoria Station - which backs onto the arena - was closed as police combed the area for clues, and despite Mayor Andy Burnham’s line of "business as usual", it looked like people were staying away.

Manchester Arena is the second largest indoor concert venue in Europe. With a capacity crowd of 18,000, on Monday night the venue was packed with young people from around the country - at least 22 of whom will never come home. At around 10.33pm, a suicide bomber detonated his device near the exit. Among the dead was an eight-year-old girl. Many more victims remain in hospital. 

Those Mancunians who were not alerted by the sirens woke to the news of their city's worst terrorist attack. Still, as the day went on, the city’s hubbub soon returned and, by lunchtime, there were shoppers and workers milling around Exchange Square and the town hall.

Tourists snapped images of the Albert Square building in the sunshine, and some even asked police for photographs like any other day.

But throughout the morning there were rumours and speculation about further incidents - the Arndale Centre was closed for a period after 11.40am while swathes of police descended, shutting off the main city centre thoroughfare of Market Street.

Corporation Street - closed off at Exchange Square - was at the centre of the city’s IRA blast. A postbox which survived the 1996 bombing stood in the foreground while officers stood guard, police tape fluttering around cordoned-off spaces.

It’s true that the streets of Manchester have known horror before, but not like this.

I spoke to students Beth and Melissa who were in the bustling centre when they saw people running from two different directions.

They vanished and ducked into River Island, when an alert came over the tannoy, and a staff member herded them through the back door onto the street.

“There were so many police stood outside the Arndale, it was so frightening,” Melissa told me.

“We thought it will be fine, it’ll be safe after last night. There were police everywhere walking in, and we felt like it would be fine.”

Beth said that they had planned a day of shopping, and weren’t put off by the attack.

“We heard about the arena this morning but we decided to come into the city, we were watching it all these morning, but you can’t let this stop you.”

They remembered the 1996 Arndale bombing, but added: “we were too young to really understand”.

And even now they’re older, they still did not really understand what had happened to the city.

“Theres nowhere to go, where’s safe? I just want to go home,” Melissa said. “I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester.”

Manchester has seen this sort of thing before - but so long ago that the stunned city dwellers are at a loss. In a city which feels under siege, no one is quite sure how anyone can keep us safe from an unknown threat

“We saw armed police on the streets - there were loads just then," Melissa said. "I trust them to keep us safe.”

But other observers were less comforted by the sign of firearms.

Ben, who I encountered standing outside an office block on Corporation Street watching the police, was not too forthcoming, except to say “They don’t know what they’re looking for, do they?” as I passed.

The spirit of the city is often invoked, and ahead of a vigil tonight in Albert Square, there will be solidarity and strength from the capital of the North.

But the community values which Mancunians hold dear are shaken to the core by what has happened here.

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