Morning Call: pick of the papers

Ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Cameron should beware the Australian master strategist (Sunday Telegraph)

Peter Oborne sees weakness and panic in the plan to hire the architect of Michael Howard's 2005 campaign.

2. A tip for Labour about planning for power: listen to the Tories (Observer)

It isn't hard to guess how the Conservatives will attack Miliband and Balls in a campaign, says Andrew Rawnsley. They're practising their lines already.

3. Alex Salmond - both an asset and a challenge to the 'yes' cause (Scotland on Sunday)

Euan McColm finds volatile tension between confidence and arrogance in Scotland's First Minister.

4. Only a radical childcare strategy will meet our needs (Observer)

Editorial calling on the coalition to embrace the idea of universal state-funded childcare.

5. Gang violence cannot be solved by enforcement alone (Observer)

Nothing of substance has been done to tackle the root of the problem since last year's riots, says Patrick Regan

6. How the tax facts get in the way of the Tory story (Independent on Sunday)

Cameron and Osborne's claims that richest are contributing the most tax sound dodgy because they are, John Rentoul discovers.

7. British crime is none of the EU's business (Sunday Telegraph)

Tory MP Dominic Raab sees talks on European policing cooperation as a practice run for wider renegotiation of Britain's relations with Brussels. 

8. The misery index that spells joy for Number 10 (Sunday Times

Dominic Lawson sees relief for the coalition in low unemployment and falling inflation.

9. Barack Obama for re-election (New York Times)

Editorial in venerable, mostly liberal US paper endorses the incumbent. 

10. Dear Madam, we've axed your child benefit ... (Mail on Sunday)

The Tories are bracing for an industrial scale backlash against middle class welfare cut, notes James Forsyth.

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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.