CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from the Sunday papers.

1. An early warning of the tornadoes of trouble facing the coalition (Observer)

The furore around Michael Gove is a foretaste of the troubles the coalition will face over cuts, says Andrew Rawnsley.

2. Labour must leave a door ajar for Clegg (Independent on Sunday)

The party's priority ought to be to ensure that it would be a more attractive coalition partner than the Tories if there is another hung parliament, argues John Rentoul.

3. Face it, Palin will be the Republican nominee (Sunday Times)

Everything Sarah Palin has done these past few months confirms her deadly seriousness about the future, writes Andrew Sullivan.

4. Rupert Murdoch may be evil, but that doesn't mean his paywall is (Observer)

Those, like the Guardian, who argue that content should be free for moral reasons are playing an extremely dangerous game, says David Mitchell.

5. Slippery ahead, so avoid Greece (News of the World)

Fraser Nelson says that the question terrifying ministers is a fairly simple one: will the cuts cause riots?

6. Copying the NHS is the last thing the US should do (Sunday Telegraph)

The future of health care lies in a combination of state provision and private contribution, argues Janet Daley. It is a lesson that Britain and the US need to accept.

7. Liam Fox has a lot to prove in the coming months (Mail on Sunday)

Fox, one of the few genuine right-wingers in the cabinet, must now persuade a sceptical country that trying to fix a "broken, 13th-century country" is worth the bones of even one British soldier, says James Forsyth.

8. In the face of narcissism, the police should stick to policing (Independent on Sunday)

Northumberland Police's decision to appeal to Raoul Moat's emotions was a horribly misplaced attempt at empathy, argues Joan Smith.

9. Yes, minister -- we're still not fit for purpose (Sunday Times)

Unless Michael Gove quickly gets rid of the officials responsible for his discomfiture, it will be his head on the block next time, says Martin Ivens.

10. We have abandoned the Haitians (Observer)

It is time to demonstrate that the developed world can engage in the affairs of a troubled state without special interest, says an Observer editorial.

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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.