CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from the Sunday papers.

1. Don't destroy our universities. Our future depends on them (Observer)

With knowledge-intensive work growing ever more important, Will Hutton argues that the government must rethink its stance on university cuts. The inevitable further budget reductions will cause deep damage.

2. The new university challenge is to unravel Labour's mess (Sunday Times)

Minette Marrin looks at Labour's legacy to education -- a disastrous combination of inflation and devaluation. The Blair-Brown years have demonstrated that it is quite easy to bring down standards.

3. For Cable as chancellor, vote Labour (Independent on Sunday)

John Rentoul explores the possibilities of a hung parliament. With such a clunky mechanism, the Lib Dems need Brown to do well if they are to enter a power-sharing deal.

4. Budget 2010: David Cameron prepares for 48-hour trench warfare (Sunday Telegraph)

Labour's last-ditch Budget will herald an artillery battle over Britain's future, says Matthew d'Ancona. Cameron and George Osborne must be honest and detailed in their responses.

5. Do the right thing before you go, Alistair Darling (Sunday Times)

Dominic Lawson agrees that the Chancellor is preparing Wednesday's Budget statement with an eye to posterity. He is a mild-mannered man; if he were more abrasive, he might harangue the public-sector unions picketing the Treasury.

6. Why all these emails from Barack Obama make me feel cheap (Observer)

Andrew Rawnsley says that the internet is undermining old-fashioned campaign models and killing conventional forms of propaganda.

7. Cut off the cash and Israel might behave (Independent on Sunday)

Binyamin Netanyahu is undermining US interests, says Avi Shlaim. The sooner Barack Obama makes his support conditional, the better.

8. Care for the eldely: One question that all our politicians are agreed on (Sunday Telegraph)

Alasdair Palmer wonders how we will fund care for the elderly over the next 20 years -- neither Labour nor the Conservatives has suggested a viable way to fill the funding shortfall.

9. Saying sorry is not enough. The Church has got to change (Observer)

The paper's editorial says Pope Benedict XVI's letter to the Catholics of Ireland was inadequate, and adds to the woes of those his Church has wronged.

10. Health-care reform enters its endgame (Independent on Sunday)

Failure on health-care reform will not break Obama's presidency, says the leading article, but it could alter the political calculus.

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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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