CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. This election shouldn't be close. That it is shows up Cameron (Guardian)

That the Tories are still unsure of winning a majority is an indictment of David Cameron and his party, says Jonathan Freedland. Cameron's failure fundamentally to reform the Conservative Party has turned what should have been a stroll into a slog.

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2. Weak government may be our strongest option (Times)

Contrary to conventional wisdom, a hung parliament would be the best possible outcome, suggests Anatole Kaletsky. The toughest economic decisions would have the backing of the majority of voters.

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3. I'll put a wager on a Tory victory, despite the known unknowns (Independent)

The overhyped TV debates are unlikely to prove the making of Gordon Brown, writes John Rentoul. Thanks to the Tories' audacious tax-cut pledge, Cameron will enter Downing Street with a small majority.

4. Britain prepares to take the measure of its leaders (Financial Times)

But elsewhere, in the Financial Times, Simon Schama predicts that the televised debates will make a big impression on voters at a time of deep and unrelenting trouble for Britain.

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5. The only thing you won't hear in the next 30 days is the truth (Daily Telegraph)

All that is certain after the election is that we will be governed by a social-democratic government of some sort, writes Simon Heffer. The cosy consensus between the main parties leaves millions in effect disfranchised.

6. A political manoeuvre that allows president to take moral high ground (Independent)

Barack Obama's new Nuclear Posture Review is a political statement, not a military one, argues Rupert Cornwell.

7. Do you trust David Cameron? That's the question for voters (Times)

The result of this election will be determined ultimately by whether the public believes in Cameron, says Daniel Finkelstein.

8. The worst classroom bullies? Politicians (Daily Telegraph)

A combination of government meddling and poor parenting has left schoolchildren angrier than ever, and their teachers unable to cope, writes Francis Gilbert.

9. The UK must look beyond the crisis (Financial Times)

Labour and the Tories must look beyond the Budget deficit and display a coherent vision for a better life, says an editorial in the Financial Times.

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10. Liberal Democrats could be tainted by Tory association (Guardian)

The Lib Dems may long for a hung parliament, but association with David Cameron could prove the death of the party, says Polly Toynbee.

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What do Labour's lost voters make of the Labour leadership candidates?

What does Newsnight's focus group make of the Labour leadership candidates?

Tonight on Newsnight, an IpsosMori focus group of former Labour voters talks about the four Labour leadership candidates. What did they make of the four candidates?

On Andy Burnham:

“He’s the old guard, with Yvette Cooper”

“It’s the same message they were trying to portray right up to the election”​

“I thought that he acknowledged the fact that they didn’t say sorry during the time of the election, and how can you expect people to vote for you when you’re not actually acknowledging that you were part of the problem”​

“Strongish leader, and at least he’s acknowledging and saying let’s move on from here as opposed to wishy washy”

“I was surprised how long he’d been in politics if he was talking about Tony Blair years – he doesn’t look old enough”

On Jeremy Corbyn:

"“He’s the older guy with the grey hair who’s got all the policies straight out of the sixties and is a bit of a hippy as well is what he comes across as” 

“I agree with most of what he said, I must admit, but I don’t think as a country we can afford his principles”

“He was just going to be the opposite of Conservatives, but there might be policies on the Conservative side that, y’know, might be good policies”

“I’ve heard in the paper he’s the favourite to win the Labour leadership. Well, if that was him, then I won’t be voting for Labour, put it that way”

“I think he’s a very good politician but he’s unelectable as a Prime Minister”

On Yvette Cooper

“She sounds quite positive doesn’t she – for families and their everyday issues”

“Bedroom tax, working tax credits, mainly mum things as well”

“We had Margaret Thatcher obviously years ago, and then I’ve always thought about it being a man, I wanted a man, thinking they were stronger…  she was very strong and decisive as well”

“She was very clear – more so than the other guy [Burnham]”

“I think she’s trying to play down her economics background to sort of distance herself from her husband… I think she’s dumbing herself down”

On Liz Kendall

“None of it came from the heart”

“She just sounds like someone’s told her to say something, it’s not coming from the heart, she needs passion”

“Rather than saying what she’s going to do, she’s attacking”

“She reminded me of a headteacher when she was standing there, and she was quite boring. She just didn’t seem to have any sort of personality, and you can’t imagine her being a leader of a party”

“With Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham there’s a lot of rhetoric but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of direction behind what they’re saying. There seems to be a lot of words but no action.”

And, finally, a piece of advice for all four candidates, should they win the leadership election:

“Get down on your hands and knees and start praying”

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.