Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

  1. Politics should be guided by principle, not populism (Guardian)
    Labour ought to resist 'the people', as heard through the Ukip megaphone. Convictions are popular too, as Thatcher showed, writes Roy Hattersley.
  2. Monsieur Normal has turned into Mr Bean (Times)
    France wants the bold action of a Bonaparte. Instead, it’s had a year of ‘creative vagueness’, writes Charles Bremner.
  3. The first important conservative thinker (Telegraph)
    Charles Moore reviews Jesse Norman's biography of Edmund Burke.
  4. If Boris Johnson is the answer to Ukip, Tories are asking the wrong question (Guardian)
    Cameron and his A-list have alienated swaths of voters. Until they understand how, Ukip will be the beneficiary, writes John Harris.
  5. When jihad is a lifestyle choice, it cannot last (Times)
    The lesson of Boston and Birmingham is that the new generation of fanatics is less committed, writes Peter Watson.
  6. The buck does not stop with Reinhart and Rogoff (Financial Times)
    Political leaders pushing austerity made their choice, then cast about for intellectual buttresses, writes former US Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers.
  7. Niall Ferguson's wrong to say child-free people care less about the world (Guardian)
    His remarks suggested that people who don't reproduce are selfish. In my experience it's parents who give up their principles, writes Julie Bindel.
  8. Syria’s tragedy can no longer be contained (Telegraph)
    The world needs to confront the implications of its inability to keep Syria’s horror within its frontiers, write the Telegraph's editors.
  9. Italy’s change from austerity is all talk (Financial Times)
    Germany will not accept a fiscal stimulus for the sake of southern European countries, writes Wolfgang Münchau.
  10. A common sense policy to create jobs and combat what ails Britain (Independent)
    Britain ought to be constructing 230,000 homes a year to meet the demand, writes Owen Jones.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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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.