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 dog at the end of the lead may be small, but in fact what I’m walking is a hound of love

There is a new, hairy face in the Hovel.

There is a new, hairy face in the Hovel. I seem to have become a temporary co-owner of an enthusiastic Chorkie. A Chorkie, in case you’re not quite up to speed with your canine crossbreeds, is a mixture of a chihuahua and a Yorkshire Terrier, and while my friend K— busies herself elsewhere I am looking after this hound.

This falls squarely into the category of Things I Never Thought I’d Do. I’m a cat person, taking my cue from their idleness, cruelty and beauty. Dogs, with their loyalty, their enthusiasm and their barking, are all a little too much for me, even after the first drink of the day. But the dog is here, and I am in loco parentis, and it is up to me to make sure that she is looked after and entertained, and that there is no repetition of the unfortunate accident that occurred outside my housemate’s room, and which needed several tissues and a little poo baggie to make good.

As it is, the dog thinks I am the bee’s knees. To give you an idea of how beeskneesian it finds me, it is licking my feet as I write. “All right,” I feel like saying to her, “you don’t have to go that far.”

But it’s quite nice to be worshipped like this, I have decided. She has also fallen in love with the Hovel, and literally writhes with delight at the stinky cushions on the sofa. Named after Trude Fleischmann, the lesbian erotic photographer of the Twenties, Thirties and Forties, she has decided, with admirable open-mindedness, that I am the Leader of the Pack. When I take the lead, K— gets a little vexed.

“She’s walking on a loose lead, with you,” K— says. “She never does that when I’m walking her.” I don’t even know what that means, until I have a think and work it out.

“She’s also walking to heel with you,” K— adds, and once again I have to join a couple of mental dots before the mists part. It would appear that when it comes to dogs, I have a natural competence and authority, qualities I had never, not even in my most deranged flights of self-love, considered myself to possess in any measurable quantity at all.

And golly, does having a dog change the relationship the British urban flâneur has with the rest of society. The British, especially those living south of Watford, and above all those in London, do not recognise other people’s existence unless they want to buy something off them or stop them standing on the left of the sodding escalator, you idiot. This all changes when you have a dog with you. You are now fair game for any dog-fancier to come up to you and ask the most personal questions about the dog’s history and genealogy. They don’t even have to have a dog of their own; but if you do, you are obliged by law to stop and exchange dog facts.

My knowledge of dog facts is scant, extending not much further beyond them having a leg at each corner and chasing squirrels, so I leave the talking to K—, who, being a friendly sort who could probably talk dog all day long if pressed, is quite happy to do that. I look meanwhile in a kind of blank wonder at whichever brand of dog we’ve just encountered, and marvel not only at the incredible diversity of dog that abounds in the world, but at a realisation that had hitherto escaped me: almost half of London seems to have one.

And here’s the really interesting thing. When I have the leash, the city looks at me another way. And, specifically, the young women of the city. Having reached the age when one ceases to be visible to any member of the opposite sex under 30, I find, all of a sudden, that I exist again. Women of improbable beauty look at Trude, who looks far more Yorkie than chihuahua, apart from when she does that thing with the ears, and then look at me, and smile unguardedly and unironically, signalling to me that they have decided I am a Good Thing and would, were their schedules not preventing them, like to chat and get to know me and the dog a bit better.

I wonder at first if I am imagining this. I mention it to K—.

“Oh yes,” she says, “it’s a thing. My friend P-J regularly borrows her when he wants to get laid. He reckons he’s had about 12 shags thanks to her in the last six months. The problems only arise when they come back again and notice the dog isn’t there.”

I do the maths. Twelve in six months! That’s one a fortnight. An idea begins to form in my mind. I suppose you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out what it is. But no. I couldn’t. Could I?

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism