CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Nick Clegg held on in a gripping debate. This will go to the wire (Guardian)

David Cameron and Gordon Brown both went up a gear in last night's televised debate, says Martin Kettle, but Nick Clegg impressively consolidated his performance. TheLib Dems are in it to the finish.

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2. Voters have waited for this for years (Times)

Policies and ties don't matter, argues David Aaronovitch. Whether this perception is accurate or not, Clegg represents the break from stale two-party politics that many crave.

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3. The forces blocking British democracy (Independent)

Cameron is concealing his real agenda of tax cuts for the rich and lower public spending, because the polling and focus groups indicate that the public will loathe it. That's why his performances in this campaign are so stilted, says Johann Hari.

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4. Britain's election debate is rewriting the political rules (Financial Times)

No-one knows what the outcome of the election will be, says Philip Stephens. The campaign is now about what voters think of politics and politicians.

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5. Who's afraid of a big bad hung Parliament? (Times)

Only in Britain are coalition or minority governments seen as dangerous. Peter Riddell advises that we look abroad to see how they can work.

6. Being patriotic doesn't make you a fascist (Daily Telegraph)

Billy Bragg -- fresh from a clash with a BNP member in Barking -- discusses the rise of the far right. Without its own parliament, it is no wonder that England's nationalism has been hijacked.

7. Danger lurks everywhere. Let the pilots handle ash (Guardian)

Simon Jenkins criticises the response to the volcanic ash cloud. As with terrorism, swine flu and now aviation, the scientists offer absolutes rather than probabilities and the authorities panic.

8. The sad return of state worship (Financial Times)

British liberties have been steadily eroded by recent governments, writes Samuel Brittan, drawing a link between economic policy and issues of personal freedom.

9. I have a future. So many Afghans my age don't (Times)

As the leaders last night debated foreign affairs, a young refugee, Hewod Azizjan, reflects on the conflict as seen from Britain and his home country.

10. Bolivia's fight for survival can help save democracy too (Guardian)

Naomi Klein writes from the world climate change summit in Bolvia. This people's summit is a radical, transformative response to the failure of the Copenhagen club, that could save our democracy as well as our warming planet.


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Michael Gove definitely didn't betray anyone, says Michael Gove

What's a disagreement among friends?

Michael Gove is certainly not a traitor and he thinks Theresa May is absolutely the best leader of the Conservative party.

That's according to the cast out Brexiteer, who told the BBC's World At One life on the back benches has given him the opportunity to reflect on his mistakes. 

He described Boris Johnson, his one-time Leave ally before he decided to run against him for leader, as "phenomenally talented". 

Asked whether he had betrayed Johnson with his surprise leadership bid, Gove protested: "I wouldn't say I stabbed him in the back."

Instead, "while I intially thought Boris was the right person to be Prime Minister", he later came to the conclusion "he wasn't the right person to be Prime Minister at that point".

As for campaigning against the then-PM David Cameron, he declared: "I absolutely reject the idea of betrayal." Instead, it was a "disagreement" among friends: "Disagreement among friends is always painful."

Gove, who up to July had been a government minister since 2010, also found time to praise the person in charge of hiring government ministers, Theresa May. 

He said: "With the benefit of hindsight and the opportunity to spend some time on the backbenches reflecting on some of the mistakes I've made and some of the judgements I've made, I actually think that Theresa is the right leader at the right time. 

"I think that someone who took the position she did during the referendum is very well placed both to unite the party and lead these negotiations effectively."

Gove, who told The Times he was shocked when Cameron resigned after the Brexit vote, had backed Johnson for leader.

However, at the last minute he announced his candidacy, and caused an infuriated Johnson to pull his own campaign. Gove received just 14 per cent of the vote in the final contest, compared to 60.5 per cent for May. 


Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.