Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Ed Miliband has got answers, so stop asking the wrong questions (Guardian)

The leader's biggest task will be to tackle the despairing belief most British people have that nothing will ever really change, writes Jackie Ashley.

2. Tories still have a trump card: Ed Miliband (Financial Times)

Leader ratings are not always decisive but they matter, says Paul Goodman.

3. The PM can rise above the battle of the tiddlers (Times) (£)

Both Labour and the Tories are in trouble, writes Tim Montgomerie. Much will depend on staving off the Lib Dems and UKIP respectively.

4. Whatever happened to the Labour Party? (Independent)

The party must offer a coherent alternative that defends those it was founded to represent, says Owen Jones.

5. Obama will need more than luck (Financial Times)

If he returns to the White House, the president will face a daunting second term, writes Edward Luce.

6. Why Andrew Mitchell shouldn't be too confident (Daily Mail)

Cameron may have given the chief whip the kiss of death, writes Andrew Pierce.

7. Cardboard man is dead. Now let's redefine masculinity (Guardian)

A new book is right to highlight the identity crisis caused by economic change, writes John Harris. But where's the manifesto for a new man?

8. Unions have a gun to his head (Sun)

As long as union dinosaurs such as McCluskey call the tune, Labour is irrelevant, pointless and doomed, says Trevor Kavanagh.

9. How the public lost its appetite for breakfast telly (Independent)

It used to set the rhythm of the daily news cycle, writes Ian Burrell. But now lifestyles have changed, and with them the way we consume our media.

10. What China could learn from Romney and Obama (Guardian)

The rise and fall of Bo Xilai shows that the country's approach to leadership change is still lacking, says Jonathan Fenby.

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Emmanuel Macron can win - but so can Marine Le Pen

Macron is the frontrunner, but he remains vulnerable to an upset. 

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is campaigning in the sixth largest French city aka London today. He’s feeling buoyed by polls showing not only that he is consolidating his second place but that the voters who have put him there are increasingly comfortable in their choice

But he’ll also be getting nervous that those same polls show Marine Le Pen increasing her second round performance a little against both him and François Fillon, the troubled centre-right candidate. Her slight increase, coming off the back of riots after the brutal arrest of a 22-year-old black man and Macron’s critical comments about the French empire in Algeria is a reminder of two things: firstly the potential for domestic crisis or terror attack to hand Le Pen a late and decisive advantage.  Secondly that Macron has not been doing politics all that long and the chance of a late implosion on his part cannot be ruled out either.

That many of his voters are former supporters of either Fillon or the Socialist Party “on holiday” means that he is vulnerable should Fillon discover a sense of shame – highly unlikely but not impossible either – and quit in favour of a centre-right candidate not mired in scandal. And if Benoît Hamon does a deal with Jean-Luc Mélenchon – slightly more likely that Fillon developing a sense of shame but still unlikely – then he could be shut out of the second round entirely.

What does that all mean? As far as Britain is concerned, a Macron or Fillon presidency means the same thing: a French government that will not be keen on an easy exit for the UK and one that is considerably less anti-Russian than François Hollande’s. But the real disruption may be in the PR battle as far as who gets the blame if Theresa May muffs Brexit is concerned.

As I’ve written before, the PM doesn’t like to feed the beast as far as the British news cycle and the press is concerned. She hasn’t cultivated many friends in the press and much of the traditional rightwing echo chamber, from the press to big business, is hostile to her. While Labour is led from its leftmost flank, that doesn’t much matter. But if in the blame game for Brexit, May is facing against an attractive, international centrist who shares much of the prejudices of May’s British critics, the hope that the blame for a bad deal will be placed solely on the shoulders of the EU27 may turn out to be a thin hope indeed.

Implausible? Don’t forget that people already think that Germany is led by a tough operator who gets what she wants, and think less of David Cameron for being regularly outmanoeuvered by her – at least, that’s how they see it. Don’t rule out difficulties for May if she is seen to be victim to the same thing from a resurgent France.

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