Comment Plus: pick of the papers

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

1. The Tea Party: lofty ideals, grubby facts (Guardian)

Far from being a grass-roots movement, the orginal "tea party" was brewed up by wealthy merchants, writes Tristram Hunt. Today, once more, corporate elites are winding up an angry populace.

2. Gordon Brown needs to focus fast on what women really want (Daily Telegraph)

The defection of female voters to the Tories could lose the government this election, says Mary Riddell. In order to win women back, Brown should avoid gimmicks and giveaways and focus on protecting public services.

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3. Cameron should be offering hope, not pain (Financial Times)

Philip Stephens argues that David Cameron's biggest mistake was to join George Osborne in promising a new "age of austerity". Until then, the Tory leader had defined himself as a centrist post-Thatcherite, more keen on healing society than on slashing public services.

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4. Polls do much more for the pollsters than for the public (Independent)

It would be marvellous to have an election campaign free of opinion polls, writes Dominic Lawson. The uncertainty about the outcome would likely produce a sharp rise in turnout and more discussion of the real issues.

5. It takes more than Play-Doh to plug a deficit (Times)

The Budge deficit cannot be reduced by cutting back on middle-class perks alone, writes Rachel Sylvester. The scope and remit of public services may have to change so they can stay universal.

6. Is this Labour's death rattle or a rare new optimism? (Guardian)

Michael White explores whether Labour's plans for high-speed rail and a national care service prove that the government has not run out of steam.

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7. Spare us from politicians and their "difficult decisions" (Daily Telegraph)

Politicians should simply say, in concrete terms, what their policies are and what the consequences will be, rather than using the disingenuous phrase "difficult decisions", says Michael Deacon.

8. Our attitude to kids shows we need to grow up (Times)

Our society's failure to treat child offenders as children feeds our vengeful instincts towards young killers and rapists, argues David Aaronovitch.

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9. The only question asked of Nick Clegg (Independent)

The national media are only interested in asking Clegg one question: what would you do in the event of a hung parliament? But, says Steve Richards, he does not know the answer and will not know it until the election is over.

10. Bubble or not, China's rise is real (Financial Times)

China's political system may be inherently unstable, writes Gideon Rachman, but the country has emerged as a far more serious challenge to US hegemony than Japan ever was.

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Would you jump off a cliff if someone told you to? One time, I did

I was walking across the bridge in Matlock park, which is about 12 feet high, with a large group of other kids from my year, in the pouring rain.

Ever heard the phrase, “Would you jump off a cliff if they told you to?” It was the perpetual motif of my young teenage years: my daily escapades, all of which sprang from a need to impress a peer, were distressing and disgusting my parents.

At 13, this tomboyish streak developed further. I wrote urgent, angry poems containing lines like: “Who has desire for something higher than jumping for joy and smashing a light?” I wanted to push everything to its limits, to burst up through the ceiling of the small town I lived in and land in America, or London, or at least Derby. This was coupled with a potent and thumping appetite for attention.

At the height of these feelings, I was walking across the bridge in Matlock park, which is about 12 feet high, with a large group of other kids from my year, in the pouring rain. One of the cool girls started saying that her cousin had jumped off the bridge into the river and had just swum away – and that one of us should do it.

Then someone said that I should do it, because I always did that stuff. More people started saying I should. The group drew to a halt. Someone offered me a pound, which was the clincher. “I’m going to jump!” I yelled, and clambered on to the railing.

There wasn’t a complete hush, which annoyed me. I looked down. It was raining very hard and I couldn’t see the bottom of the riverbed. “It looks really deep because of the rain,” someone said. I told myself it would just be like jumping into a swimming pool. It would be over in a few minutes, and then everyone would know I’d done it. No one could ever take it away from me. Also, somebody would probably buy me some Embassy Filter, and maybe a Chomp.

So, surprising even myself, I jumped.

I was about three seconds in the air. I kept my eyes wide open, and saw the blur of trees, the white sky and my dyed red hair. I landed with my left foot at a 90-degree angle to my left ankle, and all I could see was red. “I’ve gone blind!” I thought, then realised it was my hair, which was plastered on to my eyes with rain.

When I pushed it out of the way and looked around, there was no one to be seen. They must have started running as I jumped. Then I heard a voice from the riverbank – a girl called Erin Condron, who I didn’t know very well. She pushed me home on someone’s skateboard, because my ankle was broken.

When we got to my house, I waited for Mum to say, “Would you jump off another cliff if they told you to?” but she was ashen. I had to lie that Dave McDonald’s brother had pushed me in the duck pond. And that’s when my ankle started to throb. I never got the pound, but I will always be grateful to Erin Condron. 

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser