Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from the Sunday papers.

1. Those who say history will absolve the Iraq warmongers are deluded (Observer)

Those who argue that last week's election in Iraq vindicated the decision to go to war there in 2003 ignore the huge number of civilians killed in the invasion, writes Henry Porter.

2. Warning -- Women are people, too (Independent on Sunday)

The party leaders are mistaken if they think that women voters are only concerned with family-friendly issues, says John Rentoul. The big issues -- taxation, public spending, jobs -- matter just as much to them.

3. It's Nick Clegg's chance to shine, so he'd better not fluff his lines (Observer)

The prospect of a hung parliament could finally give the Lib Dems a chance to shape government to their agenda, writes Andrew Rawnsley. But they will need to show exceptional discipline during the campaign.

4. Welcome to life under Nick Clegg (Sunday Times)

Meanwhile, in the Sunday Times, Martin Ivens argues that, unlike his predecessors, Clegg gives the appearance of being genuinely equidistant between Labour and the Conservatives.

5. A general election is a battle for hearts more than minds (Sunday Telegraph)

To have any hope of winning a Commons majority, David Cameron has to conquer a generation-old national assumption that the Tories are up to no good, writes Matthew d'Ancona.

6. Sam the one to play it for Cam (News of the World)

Cameron's greatest personal asset is his wife, Samantha, says Fraser Nelson. Now she must help to offset the Tory leader's perceived insincerity.

7. A shameful day for the House of Lords (Sunday Times)

A leader attacks the "establishment stitch-up" that has allowed peers who abused expenses to escape legal action.

8. David Cameron is selling a new Tory brand -- but I'm not buying it yet (Sunday Telegraph)

The Tory modernisers' crucial error was to allow their rebranding project to be exhibited in the light of day, argues Janet Daley. Voters now recognise it for the mindless, manipulative, media-driven technique that it is.

9. Don't celebrate these billionaires, be horrified by their existence (Observer)

We are wrong to welcome the growing number of billionaires, argues Will Hutton. Wealth is not always a sign of economic progress.

10. Wives, TV debates . . . How about fixed terms, too? (Sunday Times)

Having adopted TV election debates, we should also import fixed terms from the United States, argues a leader in the Sunday Times.

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The joy of only winning once: why England should be proud of 1966

We feel the glory of that triumphant moment, 50 years ago, all the more because of all the other occasions when we have failed to win.

There’s a phrase in football that I really hate. It used to be “Thirty years of hurt”. Each time the England team crashes out of a major tournament it gets regurgitated with extra years added. Rather predictably, when England lost to Iceland in Euro 2016, it became “Fifty years of hurt”. We’ve never won the European Championship and in 17 attempts to win the World Cup we have only won once. I’m going to tell you why that’s a record to cherish.

I was seven in 1966. Our telly was broken so I had to watch the World Cup final with a neighbour. I sat squeezed on my friend Colin’s settee as his dad cheered on England with phrases like “Sock it to them Bobby”, as old fashioned now as a football rattle. When England took the lead for the second time I remember thinking, what will it feel like, when we English are actually Champions of the World. Not long after I knew. It felt good.

Wembley Stadium, 30 July 1966, was our only ever World Cup win. But let’s imagine what it would be like if, as with our rivals, we’d won it many times? Brazil have been World Champions on five occasions, Germany four, and Italy four. Most England fans would be “over the moon” if they could boast a similarly glorious record. They’re wrong. I believe it’s wonderful that we’ve only triumphed once. We all share that one single powerful memory. Sometimes in life less is definitely more.

Something extraordinary has happened. Few of us are even old enough to remember, but somehow, we all know everything that happened that day. Even if you care little about the beautiful game, I’m going to bet that you can recall as many as five iconic moments from 50 years ago. You will have clearly in your mind the BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme’s famous lines, as Geoff Hurst tore down the pitch to score his hat-trick: “Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over. It is now”. And it was. 4 - 2 to England against West Germany. Thirty minutes earlier the Germans had equalised in the dying moments of the second half to take the game to extra time.

More drama we all share: Geoff Hurst’s second goal. Or the goal that wasn’t, as technology has since, I think, conclusively proved. The shot that crashed off the cross bar and did or didn’t cross the line. Of course, even if you weren’t alive at the time, you will know that the linesman, one Tofiq Bakhramov, from Azerbaijan (often incorrectly referred to as “Russian”) could speak not a word of English, signalled it as a goal.

Then there’s the England Captain, the oh-so-young and handsome Bobby Moore. The very embodiment of the era. You can picture him now wiping his muddy hands on his white shorts before he shakes hands with a youthful Queen Elizabeth. Later you see him lifted aloft by his team mates holding the small golden Jules Rimet trophy.

How incredible, how simply marvellous that as a nation we share such golden memories. How sad for the Brazilians and Germans. Their more numerous triumphs are dissipated through the generations. In those countries each generation will remember each victory but not with the intensity with which we English still celebrate 1966. It’s as if sex was best the first time. The first cut is the deepest.

On Colin’s dad’s TV the pictures were black and white and so were the flags. Recently I looked at the full colour Pathe newsreel of the game. It’s the red, white and blue of the Union Jack that dominates. The red cross of Saint George didn’t really come into prominence until the Nineties. The left don’t like flags much, unless they’re “deepest red”. Certainly not the Union Flag. It smacks of imperialism perhaps. In 1966 we didn’t seem to know if we were English or British. Maybe there was, and still is, something admirable and casual about not knowing who we are or what is our proper flag. 

Twelve years later I’m in Cuba at the “World Festival of Youth” – the only occasion I’ve represented my country. It was my chance to march into a stadium under my nation’s flag. Sadly, it never happened as my fellow delegates argued for hours over what, if any, flag we British should walk behind. The delegation leaders – you will have heard of them now, but they were young and unknown then – Peter Mandelson, Trevor Phillips and Charles Clarke, had to find a way out of this impasse. In the end, each delegation walked into the stadium behind their flag, except the British. Poor Mandelson stood alone for hours holding Union Jack, sweltering in the tropical sun. No other country seemed to have a problem with their flag. I guess theirs speak of revolution; ours of colonialism.

On Saturday 30 July BBC Radio 2 will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup Final, live from Wembley Arena. Such a celebration is only possible because on 16 occasions we failed to win that trophy. Let’s banish this idea of “Fifty years of hurt” once and for all and embrace the joy of only winning once.

Phil Jones edits the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2. On Saturday 30 July the station celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup Final live from Wembley Arena, telling the story of football’s most famous match, minute by minuteTickets are available from: www.wc66.org