Morning call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from the Sunday papers.

1. It's the party leaders' debates -- cue the yawn-ometer (Sunday Times)

It would be a genuine loss if the party leaders used the heavily rehearsed TV debates as an excuse not to enter the Newsnight studios during the campaign, says Dominic Lawson.

2. The Ashcroft saga shows why the Tories need to embrace transparency (Sunday Telegraph)

It is pointless to preach the virtues of open government if your own party is being economical with the actualité, argues Matthew d'Ancona.

3. What are you afraid of, Dave? (Independent on Sunday)

The Sindie leading article agrees, saying that the Ashcroft affair undermines our confidence that David Cameron possesses the judgement required to be a successful prime minister.

4. Lord Ashcroft: worse than a crime, a mistake (Sunday Times)

Martin Ivens thinks that the whole process should be tightened up: if the state really feels the need to bestow honours, only people who pay British taxes in full should get them.

5. Carol, if you fancy politics -- get elected first (Observer)

Gabby Hinsliff says that Carol Vorderman's performance on Question Time proves that celebrities can't become politicians overnight.

6. Cam heading for a flip-flop (Sunday Mirror)

David Cameron likes to present himself as a candidate for change, but from what and to what, asks the New Statesman editor, Jason Cowley.

7. Get downwind of a senior Tory and you'll smell the anxious sweat (Observer)

Andrew Rawnsley looks at what has gone wrong with the Tory campaign. With the damage done to Cameron's claim to offer a fresh start to Britain, it is no longer outlandish to wonder if Gordon Brown might stay in office.

8. Your choice: the old politics, or the new (Independent on Sunday)

The electorate is weary of two-party wrangling and tactical voting. The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, urges Britain to vote for a third option that breaks new ground.

9. As chancellor, Gordon Brown did not understand defence (Sunday Telegraph)

Following the Prime Minister's appearance at the Iraq inquiry on Friday, the former chief of the army General Sir Richard Dannatt says that Brown knows the importance of the armed forces now -- but, when he was chancellor, it was a different story.

10. A unique chance to hold Europe together must not be wasted (Observer)

Will Hutton discusses the role of Baroness Ashton. Charged with creating coherence between 27 countries on foreign and security policy, she must stamp her authority on the individual countries that would undermine her.

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David Cameron addresses pupils at an assembly during a visit to Corby Technical School on September 2, 2015. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Can Cameron maintain his refugee stance as he comes under attack from all sides?

Tory MPs, the Sun, Labour and a growing section of the public are calling on the PM to end his refusal to take "more and more". 

The disparity between the traumatic images of drowned Syrian children and David Cameron's compassionless response ("I don't think there is an answer that can be achieved simply by taking more and more refugees") has triggered a political backlash. A petition calling for greater action (the UK has to date accepted around 5,000) has passed the 100,000 threshold required for the government to consider a debate after tens of thousands signed this morning. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has tweeted: "This is not an immigration issue, it's a humanitarian one, and the human response must be to help. If we don't, what does that make us?" Tory MPs such as Nicola Blackwood, David Burrowes, Jeremy Lefroy and Johnny Mercer have similarly appealed to Cameron to reverse his stance.

Today's Sun declares that the UK has "a proud record of taking in desperate people and we should not flinch from it now if it is beyond doubt that they have fled for their lives." Meanwhile, the Washington Post has published a derisive piece headlined "Britain takes in so few refugees from Syria they would fit on a subway train". Labour has called on Cameron to convene a meeting of Cobra to discuss the crisis and to request an emergency EU summit. Yvette Cooper, who led the way with a speech on Monday outlining how the UK could accept 10,000 refugees, is organising a meeting of councils, charities and faith groups to discuss Britain's response. Public opinion, which can turn remarkably quickly in response to harrowing images, is likely to have grown more sympathetic to the Syrians' plight. Indeed, a survey in March found that those who supported accepting refugees fleeing persecution outnumbered opponents by 47-24 per cent. 

The political question is whether this cumulative pressure will force Cameron to change his stance. He may not agree to match Cooper's demand of 10,000 (though Germany is poised to accept 800,000) but an increasing number at Westminster believe that he cannot remain impassive. Surely Cameron, who will not stand for election again, will not want this stain on his premiership? The UK's obstinacy is further antagonising Angela Merkel on whom his hopes of a successful EU renegotiation rest. If nothing else, Cameron should remember one of the laws of politics: the earlier a climbdown, the less painful it is. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.