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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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.