Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. It's Palestinians who have the right to defend themselves (Guardian)

Gazans are an occupied people and have the right to resist, including by armed force, says Seumas Milne.

2. A Terrible Failure (Times) (£)

The Church of England’s vote against women bishops does a disservice to half the population, says a Times leader.

3. This energy debate threatens to tear the coalition apart (Daily Telegraph)

Negotiations over the forthcoming Energy Bill have stirred up poisonous political divisions, writes Mary Riddell.

4. We’re all in this together, including savers (Financial Times)

If Osborne is to be both fair and smart, richer people must take the strain, writes Paul Goodman

5. The protests against austerity have failed. We have to try another way (Independent)

We must present a coherent alternative that resonates with people who live outside the political bubble, says Owen Jones.

6. Syrians may be better off without cheerleaders (Guardian)

Recognising the rebels won't mean the end of Assad, says James Harkin. That's not what the Gulf states want.

7. Israel demands our support because it fights its ‘war against terrorists’ in our name (Independent)

We westerners set the precedent when it comes to "collateral damage", now the Israelis are reeling out the same tired excuses, writes Robert Fisk.

8. Expenses revelations leave a nasty taste (Daily Telegraph)

Speaker John Bercow’s over-zealous attempts to 'protect' MPs have had the opposite effect, says a Telegraph editorial.

9. It's elementary, Cameron. If you want to win in 2015, pick the right fights (Daily Mail)

Lynton Crosby should advise the PM not to start a fight unless he's sure he can win it, says Andrew Alexander.

10. The monumental folly of rent-seeking (Financial Times)

The success of market economies is not achieved by policies that encourage greed, writes John Kay.

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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.