In defence of page 3

Page 4 is the real issue.

Amid the furore over Rupert Murdoch possibly axing page 3, a key issue has been left unexplored. Without page 3 how can they print page 4?

I would argue that axing page 3 would rapidly lead to an abolition of both. And if our national broadsheets start skipping straight from page 2 to page 5, what kind of message does this send our children, some of whom are still learning to count?

Page 3 may have become "anachronistic" or "obvious" to Murdoch critics, but there are still some traditionalists out there who think we shouldn't try to fix what's not broken - let's not forget that 2 has been followed by 3 since The Sun was founded, if not before. It's simply the natural order of things. And as someone who has actually been 3, I for one applaud the "freshness"  and "youth" that the number has come to be associated with.

The possible move has been further criticised by some as a sly bid by Murdoch to save on paper and printing ink. But many other publications have been doing the same for quite some time - The Sun, for example, has been systematically stripping all quality content from its pages for the last 20 years, and none of its readers have noticed.

3. Photograph:@Chris_Samuel via Flickr

Martha Gill writes the weekly Irrational Animals column. You can follow her on Twitter here: @Martha_Gill.

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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.