Comment Plus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from the Sunday papers.

1. Nick Clegg sets the test which will make or break this coalition (Observer)

Clegg's political survival depends on whether this government can implement spending cuts without the savagery of the Eighties, says Andrew Rawnsley.

2. How everyone could win from the "cuts" (Sunday Telegraph)

Elsewhere, Janet Daley says that the cuts should be part of a fundamental reconstruction of the way public services are funded and delivered.

3. Cable on manoeuvres (News of the World)

Vince Cable wants to be seen as the unofficial leader of the anti-Tory resistance, writes Fraser Nelson.

4. Labour's lads fight to be twice as nice (Sunday Times)

The next Labour leader needs to learn that niceness is a weapon of war in politics, writes Martin Ivens.

5. We were wrong to allow so many eastern Europeans into Britain (Observer)

Ed Balls says that Britain was wrong not to impose transitional controls on migration from the new EU member states in 2004.

6. Obama and the oil: from "Yes, we can" to "No, we can't" (Independent on Sunday)

Barack Obama's helplessness in the face of the oil spill shows a grim pessimism is taking hold in the US, writes Rupert Cornwell.

7. In the midst of horror, be amazed at the goodness of the survivors (Observer)

The dignity and strength of the people of Cumbria shows just how far from a broken Britain we are, argues Henry Porter.

8. Cameron's "Manny State" can wean us off big government (Sunday Telegraph)

Elsewhere, Matthew d'Ancona says that David Cameron's measured response to the Cumbria shootings proves how determined he is to end our reliance on the state.

9. The deadly closing of the Israeli mind (Independent on Sunday)

The international condemnation of Israel's assault on the Gaza flotilla will not prompt the country's leaders to think again, writes Ilan Pappé.

10. Fair pay can't be defined, but still the snoops are after our wallets (Sunday Times)

The publication of private-sector pay would be a dangerous attack on privacy and freedom, says Minette Marrin.

Sign up now to CommentPlus for the pick of the day's opinion, comment and analysis in your inbox at 8am every weekday.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

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