Morning call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's newspapers

1. The plot was a flop but a revealing one none the less (Observer)

Andrew Rawnsley says that the first chapter of the long election campagn showed Conservative weakness on policy, while the delay in cabinet ministers coming out in support of Gordon Brown showed their anger with him.

2. Labour's implosion is bad news for us all (Sunday Telegraph)

The paper's leader recaps the failed coup plot, saying that a dying government is bad for the country -- not least the Conservatives, whose policies need to be tested in a proper campaign to gain true public support.

3. Be bold, Gordon Brown, and call an early election (Sunday Times)

The leading article says that calling an early election would show Brown to be a man of courage, expose the Tories as nervous and insecure, and save Labour from a decisive election defeat.

4. Putting wounded Brown out of his misery would be a disaster for the UK (Sunday Mirror)

Meanwhile, at the Mirror, the New Statesman editor, Jason Cowley, gives his verdict on last week, saying that there has never been a coherent plot against Brown.

5. Of course class still matters -- it influences everything that we do (Observer)

Nobody wants to believe that our society is still class-bound, says Will Hutton, but the only way to create a fairer society is to start talking about it. The media must not shut down discussion of private education as "irrelevant".

6. A proper purpose for Chilcot (Independent on Sunday)

The appearance of Alastair Campbell at the Iraq inquiry on Tuesday will be as much a trial for John Chilcot and his colleagues as for the star witness, argues the Indie leading article.

7. Banning the burqa unveils some nasty traits in us (Sunday Times)

India Knight rehearses the arguments for and against the French burqa ban. While there are rational arguments in its favour, the legislation uncomfortably appears to be aimed firmly at one (huge) section of society, based on one skin colour and one religion.

8. Health reform, the states and Medicaid (New York Times)

As part of a series examining the policy changes and politics behind the debate over health-care reform, the NYT editorial explores Medicaid and the deficits that states funding it face.

9. Wind is the revolution needed in this country (Independent on Sunday)

Renewable power is a great environmental and economic opportunity: it could put us out of carbon dependency and into green economic growth.

10. Save the pub or let it die? It's your shout (Sunday Times)

A crackdown on supermarkets advertising cheap alcohol, coupled with lower tax for weaker beer, could turn back the clock and draw people to more civilised drinking -- down the pub, says Charles Clover.

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Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

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