Morning Call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from the Sunday papers

1. Britain's dirty secret: class still matters (Sunday Times)

Jenni Russell argues that neither of the two main parties is being honest about what is needed to improve class mobility. Labour fails to look closely enough at behaviour and character, while the Tories refuse to confront the realities of structural privilege.

2. Why Ulster should celebrate its sex and money scandal (Observer)

Andrew Rawnsley says that the Iris Robinson scandal demonstrates that the politics of Northern Ireland, abnormal for so long, are becoming a little bit more like everywhere else's. Sex and money scandals are the stuff of ordinary politics the world over.

3. How many years out in the cold? (Independent on Sunday)

John Rentoul says there are hopeful signs that Labour will not fall into open warfare if defeated at the next election. Jon Cruddas, a thoughtful and unifying figure, is said to be open to running as David Miliband's deputy.

4. There's no shame in hiring a pariah (Observer)

By hiring Sir Fred Goodwin as a senior adviser, the international architecture firm RMJM has recognised the talent beneath the tarnish, says Heather McGregor.

5. The world expects the US to do its duty (Independent on Sunday)

Barack Obama has responded well to the Haitian crisis but he must now ensure that more aid gets through, says James Moore.

6. Forget it -- Blair will never be branded a war criminal (Observer)

Nick Cohen argues that opponents of the Iraq war are still unable to substantiate their claim that the 2003 invasion was "illegal". The Ba'athist regime was not entitled to treat the country as its private prison.

7. Gordon Brown's election strategy is doomed, but you have to admire the cheek of it (Sunday Telegraph)

Matthew d'Ancona predicts that Brown's attempt to present himself as the champion of the middle classes will backfire.

8. Be afraid, China, the Google dragon stirs (Sunday Times)

Dominic Lawson says that when civilisations clash, there is generally only one winner. Despite its genius for repression, the Chinese Communist Party will be beaten by Google.

9. Our troops need aid too (News of the World)

Fraser Nelson argues that, with Britain at war, David Cameron should give priority to the defence budget over international development.

10. Say what you like, as long as it meets with the mob's approval (Observer)

Catherine Bennett says that, following the rise of the Twitter mob, the privilege of free expression carries with it a grave responsibility: not to say anything that people might not like.

 

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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

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