Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

  1. Just remember, children born out of wedlock are loved – and will vote (£) (Telegraph)
    The Office for National Statistics predicts that most children in 2016 will be born out of wedlock - but that doesn't mean they will be raised in single parent households, writes Graeme Archer.
  2. A telling failure at G4S (£) (Financial Times)
    Service companies need to be more transparent to parliament and the public, says John McDermott.
  3. Our postman delivers a sack of bad news (£) (Telegraph)
    Things are going to go downhill with privatisation, according to the man in the hi-viz vest, writes Vicki Woods
  4. Faslane: this was a nuclear weapon for the SNP (Guardian)
    The rumoured plans for the naval base were a reminder of how deeply unpopular Trident is among Scots, writes AL Kennedy
  5. White Van voters will decide the next PM (£) (Times)
    Tories can win by cutting taxes for the low-paid, helping families to buy homes and increasing apprenticeships, writes Robert Halfon
  6. As G4S 'overcharging' and BBC payouts reveal, life in the UK just isn't fair (Guardian)
    If all this were in period costume, a Downton Abbey world of elites, we would be appalled. So why isn't there more outrage, asks Jonathan Freedland.
  7. My step-by-step programme for curing men of sexism (Independent)
    It's really not that hard to understand. Are you the man who bellows, “DON’T GET HYSTERICAL!” if a woman is trying to make point. Congrats, you're a sexist berk, writes Grace Dent.
  8. Guess who’s going to pay for politics? You! (Times)
    The political parties will ask the taxpayer to pay their bills once unions and tycoons have walked away, writes Robert Halfon.
  9. The Privatisation of Royal Mail: Are you ready to deliver your own letters? (Independent)
    Vince Cable has assured us a privatised Royal Mail would maintain all its services. Of course it will, because making a profit will hardly figure in their plans at all, writes Mark Steel
  10. Labour realised that parties need recruits, not conscripts (£) (Financial Times)
    Every political party faces possible scandals over its sources of finance, writes Peter Clarke.

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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How worried are Labour MPs about losing their seats?

Despite their party's abysmal poll ratings, MPs find cause for optimism on the campaign trail. 

Labour enters the general election with subterranean expectations. A "good result", MPs say, would be to retain 180-200 of their 229 MPs. Some fear a worse result than 1935, when the party won just 154 seats. Rather than falling, the Conservatives' poll lead has risen as the prospect of electing a government concentrates minds (last night's YouGov survey, showing the Tories a mere 16 points ahead, was an exception).

Though Conservative strategists insist they could lose the election, in an attempt to incentivise turnout, their decision to target Labour MPs with majorities as high as 8,000 shows the scale of their ambitions (a Commons majority of circa 150 seats). But as well as despair, there is hope to be found in the opposition's ranks.

Though MPs lament that Jeremy Corbyn is an unavoidable drag on their support, they cite four reasons for optimism. The first is their local reputation, which allows them to differentiate themselves from the national party (some quip that the only leaflets on which Corbyn will feature are Tory ones). The second is that since few voters believe the Labour leader can become Prime Minister, there is less risk attached to voting for the party (a point some MPs make explicit) "The problem with Ed Miliband and the SNP in 2015 was that it was a plausible scenario," a shadow minister told me. "It was quite legitimate for voters to ask us the question we didn't want to answer: 'what would you do in a hung parliament?' If voters have a complaint it's usually about Jeremy but it's not the case that he looks like he can become prime minister."

The third reason is the spectre of an omnipotent Tory government. MPs appeal to voters not to give Theresa May a "free hand" and to ensure there is some semblance of an opposition remains. Finally, MPs believe there is an enduring tribal loyalty to Labour, which will assert itself as polling day approaches. Some liken such voters to sports fans, who support their team through thick and thin, regardless of whether they like the manager. Outgoing MP Michael Dugher (who I interviewed this week) was told by an elderly woman: "Don't worry, love, I will still vote Labour. I vote for you even when you're rubbish."

Ben Bradshaw, the long-serving MP for Exter, who has a majority of 7,183, told me: "We're not anything for granted of course. On the current national polling, the Tories would take Exeter. But having covered five polling districts, although the leadership is undoubtedly a big issue on the doorstep, most people say they'll still vote for me as their local MP and we're not detecting any significant shift away from 2015. Which is slightly puzzling given the chasm in the opinion polls." Bradshaw also promotes himself as "the only non-Tory MP in the south-west outside Bristol": a leaflet shows a blue-splattered map with a lone red dot. The Labour MP warns voters not to be left in a "one-party state". 

As in 2010, Labour may yet retain more seats than its vote share suggests (aided by unchanged boundaries). But the fate of the Liberal Democrats in 2015 - when the party was reduced from 56 MPs to eight - shows that local reputations are worth less than many suppose. Theresa May has succeeded in framing herself as a figure above party interests, who needs a "strong hand" in the Brexit negotiations. At the very moment when a vigorous opposition is needed most, Labour has rarely been weaker. And when the public turn resolutely against a party, even the best men and women are not spared.  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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