Comment Plus: pick of the papers

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

1. Breaking the electoral mould may not have a happy ending (Guardian)

The remarkable rise of the Lib Dems may not have a happy ending, writes Seumas Milne. It could lead to the elite stitch-up that is a national unity government.

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2. The Tories have a fortnight to save themselves from disaster (Daily Telegraph)

If David Cameron is not prime minister on or soon after May 7, the Tory party will turn on him, warns Benedict Brogan. To avoid this fate, Cameron must better explain to the public why a hung parliament would be a disaster.

3. Brown looks ever more like King Lear (Independent)

In tonight's debate the focus will be on Cameron and Clegg, but it is Brown who needs to give the performance of his life, says Steve Richards.Labour's shapeless campaign has led to an extraordinary shift against the party.

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4. A hung parliament would be a tragedy for Britain (Financial Times)

The uncertainty of a hung parliament would kill the economic recovery, warns Ken Clarke. A period of weak government would do nothing to improve the reputation of our political system.

5. The 'no win' nightmare (Sun)

Warming to the same theme, Trevor Kavanagh warns that a hung parliament would lead to economic disaster. Worse, by demanding Brown's head, Nick Clegg could leave the country with another unelected Labour prime minister.

6. Only the Lib Dems listen to Britain (Guardian)

But elsewhere, Nick Clegg says that only the Lib Dems can seize the opportunity for fundamental reform. Labour seems to have given up trying and the Tories only offer the illusion of change.

7. Our foreign aid target is absurd and outdated (Times)

The pledge by all three parties to raise aid spending to 0.7 per cent of GDP makes no sense, says Bronwen Maddox. It says nothing about how much aid the poorest really need and distracts attention away from the need for good government.

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8. 9½ vital questions for our would-be leaders on Britain's role in the world (Guardian)

With the one big exception of Europe, the foreign policy differences between the three parties are astonishingly small, writes Timothy Garton Ash. But all the leaders need to clarify what they think Britain's role in the world should be.

9. Let Letwin Be Letwin (Times)

Were Oliver Letwin to lose his seat to the Lib Dems he would be much missed, says a Times leader. It was he who provided the intellectual backbone to modern conservatism.

10. Fly less and we'll all be happier (Independent)

The next government must demonstrate how we can all fly less and stay competitive, says Peter Lockley.

 

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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.