CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. What we'll lose if we reject Labour (Independent)

Johann Hari says that a vote against Labour would be a betrayal of the party that gave us higher public spending, the minimum wage, tax credits and civil partnerships. Tactical voting by the anti-Tory majority could deny David Cameron outright victory and pave the way for electoral reform.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

2. The last Brown and Cameron battle could be yet to come (Guardian)

If Labour comes a decent second in the popular vote and even wins the largest number of seats, Gordon Brown will stay put in Downing Street and call the Lib Dems' bluff, says Seumas Milne. The Prime Minister is even expected to offer a referendum on full proportional representation.

3. Unsure how to vote? My contortions may help (Times)

David Aaronovitch argues that while Britain needs a new prime minister, the country also needs a Labour Party that can still be the best hope for social justice at home and progress abroad. Voters should choose Labour over the opportunistic and self-interested Liberal Democrats.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

4. Reform the euro or bin it (Guardian)

The Greek financial crisis has put the very survival of the euro at risk, says Joseph Stiglitz. Europe must implement the institutional reforms that should have been made when the currency was launched.

5. BP is drilling itself into deep water (Financial Times)

The BP Gulf of Mexico disaster is an example of the safety and environmental dangers that it and other oil companies face by drilling in such difficult spots, writes John Gapper.

6. Back the person, not the party (Independent)

Voters should support the candidate most likely to raise the quality of the House of Commons, says Andreas Whittam Smith. That means ruling out expenses cheats as well as timeservers.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

7. Call in the IMF to tell us how bad it really is (Times)

If the Conservatives win tomorrow, they should turn to the IMF to lay out a plan that the government can present as the Authorised Version, writes Camilla Cavendish.

8. The fantastical dream of a united Korea (Financial Times)

Polls may suggest that half of all South Koreans wish for national reunification, but North Koreans rarely receive a warm welcome when they enter the country, says David Pilling.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

9. My moment is yours, Balls (Guardian)

Ed Balls should not despair if he loses his seat tonight, says Michael Portillo. Life is better outside Westminster.

10. A bracing reminder of the price we pay for political freedom (Daily Telegraph)

Benedict Brogan reflects on a visit to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and recalls that the greatest duty of the nation and its politicians is to remember the cost of freedom.

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Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

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