CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. By playing nasty, Labour is wrecking its own chances (Guardian)

Jackie Ashley says that the public likes the shift in tone to more amiable, co-operative politics -- but still Labour's leadership hopefuls are acting tribal, competing to see who can be nastiest to the Lib Dems.

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2. The Liberals have a history of splitting (Daily Telegraph)

What's unique about the Charles Kennedy silly-season rumour is that it doesn't matter if it's true or not, says Stephen Pollard. Most Lib Dems would feel happier with Labour.

3. Labor paid the price for its lack of principle (Times)

The Australian MP Malcolm Turnbull argues that on 21 August Julia Gillard learned that voters will forgive incompetence, but not failure of conviction.

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4. Can talks bring peace at last? (Independent)

Donald Macintyre looks at the Middle East peace process, and asks whether Binyamin Netanyahu remains the opportunistic rightist of old, or if he has decided he wants a real place in history.

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5. A missed chance to quell the fanatics (Financial Times)

Barack Obama's statement on the "Ground Zero mosque" looked vacillating, says Clive Crook. Whether or not he made the case for the project to go ahead, he could have sought to unify, and insisted on tolerance on both sides.

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6. Democrats' fright club (Guardian)

Obama's approval rating is fine, says Michael Tomasky, but his party's fear of the Republicans means they'll suffer at the polls.

7. Children of addicts deserve a chance of a better life (Times)

Looking at the coalition's proposals on cutting welfare for addicts, Libby Purves argues that it's not taking away benefits that will make a difference, but taking away children from damaging and chaotic parents.

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8. Cuts are one thing, revenue another (Independent)

Mary Ann Sieghart warns that if tax takes fall, we could end up with spending cuts, a spiral back into recession and a deficit just as big as it was before -- the worst outcome for the country and the coalition.

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9. Why Europe fears Petraeus's urge to surge (Financial Times)

General Petraeus is expected to push for a troop surge, notes Ahmed Rashid, but Europe wants a negotiated endgame and regional settlement -- and that must include talking to the Taliban.

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10. Generational warriors have a point. But go easy on the old (Guardian)

Political short-termism has failed the young, says Madeline Bunting. Yet attacking the elderly and sick instead of inequality will only help Osborne.

Steve Garry
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The footie is back. Three weeks in and what have we learned so far?

Barcleys, boots and big names... the Prem is back.

Another season, another reason for making whoopee cushions and giving them to Spurs fans to cheer them up during the long winter afternoons ahead. What have we learned so far?

Big names are vital. Just ask the manager of the Man United shop. The arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger has done wonders for the sale of repro tops and they’ve run out of letters. Benedict Cumberbatch, please join Carlisle United. They’re desperate for some extra income.

Beards are still in. The whole Prem is bristling with them, the skinniest, weediest player convinced he’s Andrea Pirlo. Even my young friend and neighbour Ed Miliband has grown a beard, according to his holiday snaps. Sign him.

Boots Not always had my best specs on, but here and abroad I detect a new form of bootee creeping in – slightly higher on the ankle, not heavy-plated as in the old days but very light, probably made from the bums of newborn babies.

Barclays Still driving me mad. Now it’s screaming from the perimeter boards that it’s “Championing the true Spirit of the Game”. What the hell does that mean? Thank God this is its last season as proud sponsor of the Prem.

Pitches Some groundsmen have clearly been on the weeds. How else can you explain the Stoke pitch suddenly having concentric circles, while Southampton and Portsmouth have acquired tartan stripes? Go easy on the mowers, chaps. Footballers find it hard enough to pass in straight lines.

Strips Have you seen the Everton third kit top? Like a cheap market-stall T-shirt, but the colour, my dears, the colour is gorgeous – it’s Thames green. Yes, the very same we painted our front door back in the Seventies. The whole street copied, then le toot middle classes everywhere.

Scott Spedding Which international team do you think he plays for? I switched on the telly to find it was rugby, heard his name and thought, goodo, must be Scotland, come on, Scotland. Turned out to be the England-France game. Hmm, must be a member of that famous Cumbrian family, the Speddings from Mirehouse, where Tennyson imagined King Arthur’s Excalibur coming out the lake. Blow me, Scott Spedding turns out to be a Frenchman. Though he only acquired French citizenship last year, having been born and bred in South Africa. What’s in a name, eh?

Footballers are just so last season. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane can’t score. The really good ones won’t come here – all we get is the crocks, the elderly, the bench-warmers, yet still we look to them to be our saviour. Oh my God, let’s hope we sign Falcao, he’s a genius, will make all the difference, so prayed all the Man United fans. Hold on: Chelsea fans. I’ve forgotten now where he went. They seek him here, they seek him there, is he alive or on the stairs, who feckin’ cares?

John Stones of Everton – brilliant season so far, now he is a genius, the solution to all of Chelsea’s problems, the heir to John Terry, captain of England for decades. Once he gets out of short trousers and learns to tie his own laces . . .

Managers are the real interest. So refreshing to have three young British managers in the Prem – Alex Neil at Norwich (34), Eddie Howe at Bournemouth (37) and that old hand at Swansea, Garry Monk, (36). Young Master Howe looks like a ball boy. Or a tea boy.

Mourinho is, of course, the main attraction. He has given us the best start to any of his seasons on this planet. Can you ever take your eyes off him? That handsome hooded look, that sarcastic sneer, the imperious hand in the air – and in his hair – all those languages, he’s so clearly brilliant, and yet, like many clever people, often lacking in common sense. How could he come down so heavily on Eva Carneiro, his Chelsea doctor? Just because you’re losing? Yes, José has been the best fun so far – plus Chelsea’s poor start. God, please don’t let him fall out with Abramovich. José, we need you.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism