Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. A-level reforms: Michael Gove's bid to grab headlines will merely narrow pupils' learning (Guardian)

The education secretary, an ex-journalist, knows how to sell reforms for the rightwing press, writes Peter Wilby. But it's no way to run our schools.

2. Coalition's constituency boundary reforms are a complete mess and an insult to voters (Daily Mail)

Trust will be reduced, confidence eroded and the political class once again will lose public faith for playing irrelevant games, writes David Blunkett.

3. Could the Tories' plan for re-election in 2015 cost just 10p? (Guardian)

A new tax band might entice hard-hit voters to look again at the party, and would be billed as righting a Labour wrong, writes Gavin Kelly. 

4. Modern Essex man who has the key to victory (Times) (£)

Europe alone won’t be enough to win in 2015, writes Tim Montgomerie. The Conservatives must become the party of the little people.

5. Why the left should support a referendum on Europe (Guardian)

 The EU is an elite project without popular support, says Vernon Bogdanor. Labour can bring it back to the people.

6. Only a coward would deny the people their voice on Europe (Daily Telegraph)

Ed Miliband's rejection of an in-out EU referendum is blatantly undemocratic, argues Boris Johnson.

7. Time to decide on UK defence policy (Financial Times)

Cameron must scale back either the rhetoric or the cuts, says an FT editorial. 

8. What my generation can learn from the Holocaust (Independent)

We should recall that hatred continues to be fanned against entire peoples, and that man is capable of both wonderful benevolence and unspeakable horrors, writes Owen Jones.

9. We need a big speech on the economy now (Sun)

The measures planned by new Bank of England governor Mark Carney will be controversial, writes Trevor Kavanagh. Cameron must explain them to voters worried about their jobs and savings.

10. An open letter to Nick Clegg on the matter of his children possibly being educated privately (Independent)

The Deputy Prime Minister, educated at Westminster School himself, says the State sector isn't good enough for his children, writes John O'Farrell. He doesn't know what he's talking about.

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I can’t follow Marie Kondo's advice – even an empty Wotsits packet “sparks joy” in me

I thought I’d give her loopy, OCD theories a go, but when I held up an empty Wotsits bag I was suffused with so many happy memories of the time we’d spent together that I couldn’t bear to throw it away.

I have been brooding lately on the Japanese tidying freak Marie Kondo. (I forgot her name so I typed “Japanese tidying freak” into Google, and it was a great help.) The “Japanese” bit is excusable in this context, and explains a bit, as I gather Japan is more on the case with the whole “being tidy” thing than Britain, but still.

Apart from telling us that we need to take an enormous amount of care, to the point where we perform origami when we fold our underpants, which is pretty much where she lost me, she advises us to throw away anything that does not, when you hold it, “spark joy”. Perhaps I have too much joy in my life. I thought I’d give her loopy, OCD theories a go, but when I held up an empty Wotsits bag I was suffused with so many happy memories of the time we’d spent together that I couldn’t bear to throw it away.

After a while I gave up on this because I was getting a bit too happy with all the memories, so then I thought to myself, about her: “This is someone who isn’t getting laid enough,” and then I decided that was a crude and ungallant thought, and besides, who am I to wag the finger? At least if she invites someone to her bedroom no one is going to run screaming from it, as they would if I invited anyone to my boudoir. (Etym: from the French “bouder”, to sulk. How very apt in my case.) Marie Kondo – should bizarre circumstance ever conspire to bring her to the threshold – would run screaming from the Hovel before she’d even alighted the stairs from the front door.

I contemplate my bedroom. As I write, the cleaning lady is in it. To say that I have to spend half an hour cleaning out empty Wotsits packets, and indeed wotnot, before I let her in there should give you some idea of how shameful it has got. And even then I have to pay her to do so.

A girlfriend who used to be referred to often in these pages, though I think the term should be a rather less flippant one than “girlfriend”, managed to get round my natural messiness problem by inventing a game called “keep or chuck”.

She even made up a theme song for it, to the tune from the old Spiderman TV show. She would show me some object, which was not really rubbish, but usually a book (it may not surprise you to learn that it is the piles of books that cause most of the clutter here), and say, “Keep or chuck?” in the manner of a high-speed game show host. At one point I vacillated and so she then pointed at herself and said, “Keep or chuck?” I got the message.

These days the chances of a woman getting into the bedroom are remote. For one thing, you can’t just walk down the street and whistle for one much as one would hail a cab, although my daughter is often baffled by my ability to attract females, and suspects I have some kind of “mind ray”. Well, if I ever did it’s on the blink now, and not only that – right now, I’m not even particularly bothered that it’s on the blink. Because, for another thing, I would frankly not care to inflict myself upon anyone else at the moment.

It was all a bit of a giggle eight years ago, when I was wheeled out of the family home and left to my own devices. Of course, when I say “a bit of a giggle”, I mean “terrifying and miserable”, but I had rather fewer miles on the clock than I do now, and a man can, I think, get away with a little bit more scampish behaviour, and entertain a few more illusions about the future and his own plausibility as a character, when he is squarely in his mid-forties than when he is approaching, at speed, his middle fifties.

Death has rather a lot to do with it, I suppose. I had not actually seen, or touched, a dead body until I saw, and touched, my own father’s a few weeks ago. That’s what turns an abstract into a concrete reality. You finally put that to one side and gird up your loins – and then bloody David Bowie snuffs it, and you find yourself watching the videos for “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” over and over again, and reach the inescapable conclusion that death is not only incredibly unpleasant, it is also remorseless and very much nearer than you think.

And would you, dear reader, want to be involved with anyone who kept thinking along those lines? I mean, even if he learned how to fold his undercrackers into an upright cylinder, like a napkin at a fancy restaurant, before putting them in his drawer? When he doesn’t even have a drawer?

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war