Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. We don't need secret courts to protect our US relations (Guardian)

The claim that America's intelligence agencies won't share material if our justice remains open is bogus, says David Davis.

2. Britain suffers delusions of weakness not grandeur (Financial Times)

Nowhere is the UK’s imagined irrelevance less true than in the European Union, writes Janan Ganesh.

3. The fight for the centre ground between Clegg and Cameron makes the coalition fragile (Independent)

The Deputy Prime Minister has created tensions that may be his undoing, writes Steve Richards.

4. Today’s challenges go beyond Keynes (Financial Times)

A different kind of growth path is required, says Jeffrey Sachs.

5. In the US, mass child killings are tragedies. In Pakistan, mere bug splats (Guardian)

Barack Obama's tears for the children of Newtown are in stark contrast to his silence over the children murdered by his drones, says George Monbiot.


6. Let us concentrate on real human rights (Daily Telegraph)

The European Court has drifted too far from its principles – and we want to put that right, says Chris Grayling.


7. The Leveson report is a charter for control freaks in policing (Guardian)

Lord Justice Leveson's proposals would silence whistleblowers and make the police even more secretive and less accountable, argues Vikram Dodd.

8. Can our leaders find their inner Hercules? (Times) (£)

Obama already embodies a narrative, but Cameron, Miliband and Clegg must find one to explain their actions, writes Rachel Sylvester.

9. Shadow of fear over public's right to know (Daily Mail)

The message sent out by the arrest of a police officer is that the public ought to have been kept in ignorance of Andrew Mitchell’s tirade, says a Daily Mail editorial.

10. A not-so-new dawn in Japan (Independent)

The patriotism that Abe is keen to nurture can easily develop into a dangerous nationalism, says an Independent leader.

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Could Labour lose the Oldham by-election?

Sources warn defeat is not unthinkable but the party's ground campaign believe they will hold on. 

As shadow cabinet members argue in public over Labour's position on Syria and John McDonnell defends his Mao moment, it has been easy to forget that the party next week faces its first election test since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. On paper, Oldham West and Royton should be a straightforward win. Michael Meacher, whose death last month triggered the by-election, held the seat with a majority of 14,738 just seven months ago. The party opted for an early pre-Christmas poll, giving second-placed Ukip less time to gain momentum, and selected the respected Oldham council leader Jim McMahon as its candidate. 

But in recent weeks Labour sources have become ever more anxious. Shadow cabinet members returning from campaigning report that Corbyn has gone down "very badly" with voters, with his original comments on shoot-to-kill particularly toxic. Most MPs expect the party's majority to lie within the 1,000-2,000 range. But one insider told me that the party's majority would likely fall into the hundreds ("I'd be thrilled with 2,000") and warned that defeat was far from unthinkable. The fear is that low turnout and defections to Ukip could allow the Farageists to sneak a win. MPs are further troubled by the likelihood that the contest will take place on the same day as the Syria vote (Thursday), which will badly divide Labour. 

The party's ground campaign, however, "aren't in panic mode", I'm told, with data showing them on course to hold the seat with a sharply reduced majority. As Tim noted in his recent report from the seat, unlike Heywood and Middleton, where Ukip finished just 617 votes behind Labour in a 2014 by-election, Oldham has a significant Asian population (accounting for 26.5 per cent of the total), which is largely hostile to Ukip and likely to remain loyal to Labour. 

Expectations are now so low that a win alone will be celebrated. But expect Corbyn's opponents to point out that working class Ukip voters were among the groups the Labour leader was supposed to attract. They are likely to credit McMahon with the victory and argue that the party held the seat in spite of Corbyn, rather than because of him. Ukip have sought to turn the contest into a referendum on the Labour leader's patriotism but McMahon replied: "My grandfather served in the army, my father and my partner’s fathers were in the Territorial Army. I raised money to restore my local cenotaph. On 18 December I will be going with pride to London to collect my OBE from the Queen and bring it back to Oldham as a local boy done good. If they want to pick a fight on patriotism, bring it on."  "If we had any other candidate we'd have been in enormous trouble," one shadow minister concluded. 

Of Corbyn, who cancelled a visit to the seat today, one source said: "I don't think Jeremy himself spends any time thinking about it, he doesn't think that electoral outcomes at this stage touch him somehow."  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.