Morning Call: pick of the comment

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

1. After 1929 a generation leapt leftward. Not today. Socialism has been buried (Guardian)

Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes that Europe has witnessed a remarkable shift to the right since the WWII. The Wall Street crash drove a whole generation leftward but the latest financial crisis has only strengthened the right.

2. How Amnesty chose the wrong poster-boy (Times)

David Aaronovitch argues that Amnesty International's partnership with the former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg and the Muslim group Cageprisoners was a huge misjudgement.

3. Two cheers for the new crying game (Independent)

We should welcome emotional displays such as Alastair Campbell's, writes Steve Richards. They invite voters to consider the human side of politics and the nerve-racking judgements leaders must make.

4. It is too soon for Cameron's Tories to panic (Financial Times)

David Cameron has little to fear from Labour at the election, writes Philip Stephens. The Tories are likely to perform well in the marginals and win a comfortable majority. Cameron's biggest enemy is the incompetence of some of those running his campaign.

5. Tory cuts pave the way for a return to Eighties dole queues (Guardian)

Elsewhere, Polly Toynbee warns that Conservative plans to axe long-term support for the jobless suggest they still think unemployment is a price worth paying.

6. Labour's Puritans should let us live our lives (Financial Times)

Andy Burnham's latest anti-smoking proposals embody the illiberal streak in New Labour, writes Richard Reeves. With its hands full running the economy, the government should abandon its zeal for interfering in personal behaviour.

7. Ukraine is at last throwing off the shackles of the cold war (Independent)

Mary Dejevsky welcomes the way the Ukrainian election was free of outside meddling. Finally, everyone is getting used to the idea of an independent nation.

8. They're all ignoring political climate change (Times)

Rachel Sylvester writes that Labour and the Tories speak the langugage of change, but seem unable to face what that means. David Cameron promises transparency, but not in the case of Lord Ashcroft, and Gordon Brown has failed to support major parliamentary reform.

9. General Election 2010: Trust is in tatters -- and the best we can hope for is transparency (Daily Telegraph)

Mary Riddell says that Cameron's priority appears to be attacking Brown, not constitutional reform. His mockery of Brown's conversion to electoral reform masks the fact that the status quo, which he defends, is worse.

10. A bully and liar who played the system (Times)

Andy Hayman argues that the guilty verdict against Ali Dizaei shows that the police can be less frightened now about dealing with racially sensitive issues.

 

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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