Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Can Ed Miliband find an antidote to the politics of fear and loathing? (Daily Telegraph)

The blood spilt in Arizona is a grim reminder of what can happen when the voters lose faith, writes Mary Riddell.

2. Bed of roses? Or sleeping with the enemy? (Times) (£)

Listing their hits, pitching their policies, the Lib Dems are drifting away. Rachel Sylvester argues that Oldham could be the tipping point.

3. So, Simon Hughes, what would it take for you to walk away? (Guardian)

After a heated row with Hughes on the telephone, Polly Toynbee is still mystified why he defends coalition policy.

4. Labour's profligacy is a myth that Miliband must debunk (Independent)

Cameron, Osborne and Clegg have placed their every move in the context of an apparently bleak inheritance. Steve Richards argues that Labour must counter this myth.

5. Paranoia disfigures the Tea Party (Financial Times)

Gideon Rachman suggests that the radical right has fuelled the rage and paranoia of US political debate.

6. A new opening in Afghanistan's theatre of war (Times) (£)

Ben Macintyre discusses a fringe play, transferring from London to the Pentagon, which will teach soldiers that their enemy's history is their own.

7. The rich will reap none of the pain and all of the gain of Kenneth Clarke's legal aid cuts (Guardian)

To understand the government's phoney war on fat-cat lawyers, don't just look at the victims, says George Monbiot – look at the beneficiaries.

8. A Pakistan in mourning will not be silenced (Financial Times)

Those who have sounded the death knell for liberalism have been too hasty, writes Fatima Bhutto.

9. We're sorry, but Heathrow did all it could (Times) (£)

Airports everywhere were hit by snow, says Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA – but he promises that the lessons of December's disruption will be learned.

10. The fallacy of Osbornomics (Guardian)

John Ross points out that the Tories claim deficit reduction is the urgent task when it was already falling without cuts in public spending.

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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.