Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from today's newspapers.

  1. The numbers that add up to trouble for all political parties (Observer)
    Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems must reinvent themselves as mass-membership organisations, writes Andrew Rawnsley.
  2. Ed Miliband's bid to make us pay for his party (Daily Mail)
    There is undoubtedly a hidden agenda behind Ed Miliband’s decision to try to reform the way the unions help finance Labour, writes Simon Heffer.
  3. On school meals, has Michael Gove gone all socialist? (Observer)
    The minister's faith in a food plan suggests he accepts the state has a role to play, writes Jay Rayner.
  4. Modern voters are very receptive to the Right's old economic values (Sunday Telegraph)
    Many ethnic minority populations are aspirational and hard-working. They should be natural conservative voters, writes Janet Daley.
  5. What's so wrong with marriage? (Independent on Sunday)
    Janet Street-Porter would like to see it rebranded, because children whose parents live together may suffer when relationships break down.
  6. Government reshuffle rumours bode ill for forward-looking Tories (Sunday Telegraph)
    A government that ejects a politician of David Willetts' calibre, intellect and experience to make space for (say) an Etonian with a full head of hair is practising self-harm, writes Matthew d’Ancona.
  7. Ed’s offering to give up £10m. What about you Dave? (Sunday Times)
    The old maxim had it that the Tories got into trouble over sex and Labour over money. No more, writes Adam Boulton.
  8. Bravo, Ed Miliband! But who'll pay for the election now? (Independent on Sunday)
    It takes an unusual form of political principle to say no to £9m a year, writes John Rentoul
  9. The one that didn’t get away: small fishermen net a little justice (Sunday Times)
    Charles Clover praises the High Court's ruling in favour of small-boat fishermen.
  10. Open season on black boys after a verdict like this (Guardian)
    Calls for calm after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin are empty words for black families, writes Gary Younge.

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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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood