CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Labour has forgotten how to box clever on "tax and spend" (Independent)

Labour failed to make the political and economic case for a rise in National Insurance, writes Steve Richards, allowing the Tories to get away with contradictory proposals. The party now finds itself on the back foot on tax and spend for the first time since 1992.

Read the full CommentPlus summary.

2. No, Gordon Brown, we have not been deceived (Times)

Elsewhere, Simon Wolfson, chief executive of Next, attacks Brown's claim that business leaders have been deceived by the Tories. Everyone knows there are huge savings to be made in the public sector.

3. The Tories can't muzzle election talk of Europe (Guardian)

The Tories' hostility to the European Union will return to haunt them, predicts Timothy Garton Ash. Britain's European partners are in no mood to renegotiate anything, let alone do any favours to a new Conservative government.

Read the full CommentPlus summary.

4. Look beyond the spin to find candidates with character (Daily Telegraph)

A large number of authentic and independent-minded candidates has emerged in this election campaign, writes Benedict Brogan. Nigel Farage in Buckingham, Caroline Lucas in Brighton and Esther Rantzen in Luton are all evidence of a sea change.

Read the full CommentPlus summary.

5. The iPad's scary counter-revolution (Financial Times)

The iPad may generally be good news for publishers but there's a catch, warns John Gapper: only those with the ability to create original multimedia content will thrive on this platform.

6. Dave may be popular, but there's danger in the Tories becoming a one-man band (Daily Mail)

Given that he does not have the extraordinary appeal of a Tony Blair, David Cameron must present himself as part of a team, writes Stephen Glover. The Tories have several big hitters who can give a good account of themselves.

7. The real political battle will begin after the election (Guardian)

Even more important than who wins the election will be the struggle over what to put in place of a failed neoliberal model, argues Seumas Milne.

8. Nobody will use the "D" word (Independent)

Britain's £167bn Budget deficit has been written out of the script as politicians replace hard choices with soft options, writes Andrew Grice.

9. Progress and democracy collide in India (Financial Times)

India must work out how to reconcile development with indigenous land rights, writes David Pilling.

Read the full CommentPlus summary.

10. The Tories' policies on economic change fall short of the rhetoric (Daily Telegraph)

The Conservatives are so scared of overturning the status quo that they will not adopt desperately needed financial reforms, says Edmund Conway.

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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