Morning Call: pick of the comment

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

1. Gordon Brown has voters in a trance . . . (Daily Telegraph)

The Tories must show the kind of ruthless killer instinct that comes naturally to Labour, says Benedict Brogan. For now, Brown's act of hypnosis appears to be working.

2. Prepare for the fourth transport revolution (Times)

The Transport Secretary, Andrew Adonis, argues that now is the right time to push ahead with his high-speed rail plan. British exceptionalism must be put to bed.

3. Step forward, the minister with a scheme to make a difference (Independent)

Elsewhere, in the Independent, Steve Richards praises Adonis's creativity and ambition and says he is a role model for future cabinet ministers.

4. The City is not in love with Osborne (City AM)

A poll of London's finance and business professionals shows that they would prefer Kenneth Clarke, not George Osborne, to become chancellor, reports Allister Heath.

5. Voters are far ahead of the elite -- so they'll get no say (Guardian)

The increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan should be at the heart of the election campaign, writes Seumas Milne. But the decision of all three main parties to support the surge means public opinion has been ignored.

6. If interest rates rise, our prospects plummet (Times)

We must reject the dogmatic belief that low inflation takes priority over everything else, says Anatole Kaletsky.

7. Mismanaging China's rural exodus (Financial Times)

Chinese urbanisation could be the biggest business opportunity of the coming decades, writes David Pilling. But most of the 200 million migrants who have left the land have no right of permanent residence in the cities.

8. The Janus face of recession politics (Independent)

Almost all the measures designed to combat recession actually serve to prolong the very seductions of easy credit, argues Adrian Hamilton.

9. Remember the Crimea. Look after the army (Times)

The disastrous underequipping of soldiers in Afghanistan has uncomfortable echoes of the Crimean war, says Ben Macintyre.

10. Beyond the voodoo void of finance

The moral gulf between citizens and banks can be overcome with an ethic of responsibility, argues William Brittain-Catlin.

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn bids for the NHS to rescue Labour

Ahead of tomorrow's by-elections, Corbyn damned Theresa May for putting the service in a "state of emergency".

Whenever Labour leaders are in trouble, they seek political refuge in the NHS. Jeremy Corbyn, whose party faces potential defeat in tomorrow’s Copeland and Stoke by-elections, upheld this iron law today. In the case of the former, Labour has already warned that “babies will die” as a result of the downgrading of the hospital. It is crude but it may yet prove effective (it worked for No to AV, after all).

In the chamber, Corbyn assailed May for cutting the number of hospital beds, worsening waiting times, under-funding social care and abolishing nursing bursaries. The Labour leader rose to a crescendo, damning the Prime Minister for putting the service in a “a state of emergency”. But his scattergun attack was too unfocused to much trouble May.

The Prime Minister came armed with attack lines, brandishing a quote from former health secretary Andy Burnham on cutting hospital beds and reminding Corbyn that Labour promised to spend less on the NHS at the last election (only Nixon can go to China). May was able to boast that the Tories were providing “more money” for the service (this is not, of course, the same as “enough”). Just as Corbyn echoed his predecessors, so the Prime Minister sounded like David Cameron circa 2013, declaring that she would not “take lessons” from the party that presided over the Mid-Staffs scandal and warning that Labour would “borrow and bankrupt” the economy.

It was a dubious charge from the party that has racked up ever-higher debt but a reliably potent one. Labour, however, will be satisfied that May was more comfortable debating the economy or attacking the Brown government, than she was defending the state of the NHS. In Copeland and Stoke, where Corbyn’s party has held power since 1935 and 1950, Labour must hope that the electorate are as respectful of tradition as its leader.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.