Morning Call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from the Sunday papers.

1. Don't laugh at Europe's woes. The travails facing Greece are also ours (Observer)

Will Hutton warns that all of Europe, including the UK, will suffer if the struggle to reform Greece and to make the euro work is lost. As long as Britain owns a fifth of Greek bonds, it cannot stand on the sidelines.

2. We can be safe without torturing (Sunday Times)

Torture may sometimes work but it is always morally wrong, argues Martin Ivens. Nonetheless, it is no longer acceptable for us to offer terrorist suspects asylum in this country.

3. Why master juggler Cameron is suddenly dropping the balls (Observer)

Andrew Rawnsley afgues that David Cameron is short of two qualities essential for a leader: a clear sense of purpose and a committed body of followers. He has failed to resolve the underlying tensions in the Conservative Party.

4. Touchy-feely catchy voter (Independent on Sunday)

We should give Gordon Brown credit for deciding he can do the "touchy-feely stuff" after all, says John Rentoul about Brown's TV interview with Piers Morgan.

5. Gordon Brown deserves our sympathy, not our vote (Sunday Telegraph)

But Matthew d'Ancona argues that although viewers will sympathise with Brown, their overall opinion of him will not change. For 13 years they have watched him intimidate his foes and destroy those who stand in his way.

6. The north is not history -- but it badly needs a new chapter (Independent on Sunday)

The world of EastEnders, 25 years old this week, is thriving but northernness is in decline, writes Andrew Martin. The BBC and any incoming government must assist its revival.

7. The hidden battle for parliament's soul (Observer)

Henry Porter says that MPs' struggle to repeal Standing Order 14, which allows the executive control over parliamentary business, is one of the most important moments for democracy in the past five years.

8. Where's the risk in Mrs Cable's tapestry needle? (Mail on Sunday)

The control freakery of the state and the futile pursuit of zero risk must end, writes Vince Cable.

9. Maybe this is the end of the beginning (Sunday Times)

A leading article in the Sunday Times argues that the military surge under way in Afghanistan is a bold and necessary move. If it succeeds, it could mark the beginning of the end of the insurgency and the start of Afghan autonomy.

10. The "Eye" has it -- the rest of us wish we had (Independent on Sunday)

The remarkable success of Private Eye, which has just recorded its highest circulation since 1992, reminds the rest of the media not to take themselves too seriously, writes Sarah Sands.

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Why is Marine Le Pen getting more popular?

The latest French polls have people panicked. Here's what's going on. 

In my morning memo today, I wrote that Emmanuel Macron, who is campaigning in London today – the French émigré population makes it an electoral prize in of itself – was in a good position, but was vulnerable, as many of his voters were “on holiday” from the centre-left Socialist Party and the centre-right Republican Party, and he is a relatively new politician, meaning that his potential for dangerous gaffes should not be ruled out.

Now two polls show him slipping. Elabe puts him third, as does Opinionway. More worryingly, Marine Le Pen, the fascist Presidential candidate, is extending her first round lead with Elabe, by two points. Elabe has Le Pen top of the heap with 28 per cent, Republican candidate François Fillon second with 21 per cent, and Macron third with 18.5 per cent. Opinionway has Le Pen down one point to 26 per cent, and Macron and Fillon tied on 21 per cent.
(Under the rules of France’s electoral system, unless one candidate reaches more than half of the vote in the first round, the top two go through to a run-off. All the polls show that Marine Le Pen will top the first round, and have since 2013, before losing heavily in the second. That’s also been the pattern, for the most part, in regional and parliamentary elections.)

What’s going on? Two forces are at play. The first is the specific slippage in Macron’s numbers. Macron ended up in a row last week after becoming the first presidential candidate to describe France’s colonisation of Algeria as a “crime against humanity”, which has hurt him, resulting in a migration of voters back to the main centre-right candidate, François Fillon, which is why he is back in third place, behind Le Pen and Fillon.

Le Pen has been boosted by a bout of rioting following the brutal arrest of a 22-year-old black man who was sodomised with a police baton.

As I’ve written before, Le Pen’s best hope is that she faces a second round against the scandal-ridden Fillon, who is under fire for employing his wife and children in his parliamentary office, despite the fact there is no evidence of them doing any work at all. She would likely still lose – but an eruption of disorder on the streets or a terrorist attack could help her edge it, just about. (That’s also true if she faced Macron, so far the only other candidate who has come close to making it into the second round in the polling.)

For those hoping that Macron can make it in and prevent the French presidency swinging to the right, there is some good news: tomorrow is Wednesday. Why does that matter? Because Le Canard Enchaîné, the French equivalent of Private Eye which has been leading the investigation into Fillon is out. We’ve known throughout the election that what is good for Fillon is bad for Macron, and vice versa. Macron’s Algeria gaffe has helped Fillon – now Macron must hope that Fillon’s scandal-ridden past has more gifts to give him. 

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