Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Wisconsin is making the battle lines clear in America's hidden class war (Guardian)

The brazen choices of the Republican governor show the real ideology behind the attacks on unions, writes Gary Younge.

2. I can't support the coalition plan for the NHS (Times) (£)

We should oppose the government's untried and disruptive reorganisation of the health service, argues Shirley Williams.

3. Insecurity is fuel for the far right's hate (Guardian)

The political mainstream needs more convincing responses to the far right, says David Miliband.

4. AV was a last gasp from Gordon Brown's bunker – and it's a gigantic fraud (Daily Telegraph)

We would be mad to adopt an electoral system that is less fair than the one we already have, writes Boris Johnson.

5. How can we be so blindly stupid as to sell arms to despots then bleat about democracy? (Daily Mail)

We should never have sold weapons to the appalling Muammar al-Gaddafi, says Stephen Glover.

6. Nobody likes quotas, but they work (Independent)

Good intentions are all very well, but the progress they achieve is achingly slow, writes Mary Ann Sieghart.

7. Female quotas would target the wrong women (Financial Times)

Elsewhere, Lucy Kellaway says that the debate about women's representation shouldn't be about the boardroom at all.

8. The coalition has sneaked a coup on a sleeping public (Guardian)

The government is speeding ahead with its project to remodel British society without any regard for what it told voters last year, writes John Harris.

9. Our young Muslims must see what freedom means to Arabs (Independent)

The Arab spring should inspire the most sullen of our young British Muslims, says Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

10. No-fly zone will help stop Gaddafi's carnage (Financial Times)

Military options can't be excluded in extreme cases such as Libya, writes Gareth Evans.

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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.