CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Forget football. The coalition's game is different (Times)

The parties' differing attitudes to football reveal much about their wider social outlook, writes Rachel Sylvester. While Labour is obsessed with football, a tribal, collective and team-based sport, the Lib-Con government is focused on harnessing individual talent.

2. As the pain begins, Labour must again become the people's party (Daily Telegraph)

Of the four potential Labour leaders, the one who best explains how austerity can shape the common good will win, says Mary Riddell.

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3. Bus pass test for Cameron's mettle (Financial Times)

The PM's willingness or otherwise to remove unjustified perks from wealthy pensioners is a test of his commitment to fairness, says Philip Stephens.

4. The most perilous of cuts is to sever the historical record (Guardian)

Whether or not the government abandons the highly valuable birth cohort studies will tell us a lot about its true intentions, writes Polly Toynbee.

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5. Cameron can't blame it all on Labour (Independent)

David Cameron is determined to suggest that every unpleasant thing the coalition needs to do is the fault of its predecessor, writes Dominic Lawson. But this card will not remain trumps for long.

6. Cameron must address his rhetorical deficit (Times)

Elsewhere, Ben Macintrye says that Cameron must emulate Winston Churchill and use words not merely to explain and persuade, but to inspire and soothe.

7. The oil firms' profits ignore the real costs (Guardian)

Like the banks, the energy industry has long made scant provision against disaster, says George Monbiot. Oil companies should now be forced to pay in to a decommissioning fund.

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8. ID cards were a bad idea from the start (Daily Telegraph)

It was always clear that the passport could act perfectly well as an identity document, writes Philip Johnston.

9. Time to plan for post-Keynesian era (Financial Times)

Jeffrey Sachs administers the last rites to Keynesianism and argues that investment, not stimulus, must be our watchword.

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10. Not so much progressive as painful (Independent)

Cameron and Clegg are genuinely united in their approach to cuts, writes Steve Richards. But the impact of their vision of a smaller state could be damaging.

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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.