Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Tory free-market hurricane will blow our NHS apart (Guardian)

David Cameron's silken words won't hide the grim truth, writes Polly Toynbee. This week's Health and Social Care Bill will turn a unified health service into a purchasing agency.

2. The last thing the NHS needs is more reform (Daily Mirror)

Cameron promised to protect health service spending and to avoid "top-down reorganisations". He is about to break both promises, says Robert Winston.

3. Rushed reform can seriously damage health (Times) (£)

Even Cameron is jittery about his Health Secretary's plan to "throw a hand grenade" into the NHS, writes Rachel Sylvester.

4. US democracy has little to teach China (Financial Times)

The American system shows little appetite for dealing with long-term fiscal challenges, writes Francis Fukuyama.

5. A dangerous liaison for Cameron – an emerging Lib-Lab pact (Daily Telegraph)

Relations between Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg – and their parties – are thawing rapidly, says Mary Riddell.

6. "Alarm Clock Britain" is the new political label for hard-working ordinary people. How patronising (Daily Mail)

If you exclude rock stars and the unemployed, it's hard to think of anyone who is not an Alarm Clock Hero, writes John Humphrys.

7. Eco-terrorism: the non-existent threat we spend millions policing (Guardian)

Acpo is a state-sanctioned private militia, fighting public protest on behalf of corporations, writes George Monbiot.

8. A revolution that shows Cameron in his true colours (Independent)

Approve or disapprove of the coalition's reforms, the new health policy marks the end of the NHS, says Steve Richards.

9. Beijing feels that time is on its side (Financial Times)

Post-crisis, Americans are taking a less benign view of China, writes Gideon Rachman.

10. Yes, bonuses do work – but for fruit-pickers, not City bankers (Guardian)

The justification that banks need to fork out huge payouts to retain top talent is a fallacy, argues Aditya Chakrabortty.

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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood