Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Who’ll be left standing when the Tories’ secret weapon goes bang? (Daily Telegraph)

Labour needs to up its game on immigration and welfare to see off Lynton Crosby’s threat, says Mary Riddell.

2. Real Conservatives cut spending before taxes (Times)

Bold Budget measures being urged on the Chancellor will lose money in the short term, writes Daniel Finkelstein. Ask Margaret Thatcher.

3. Why the euro crisis is not yet over (Financial Times)

If all members of the eurozone would rejoin happily today, they would be extreme masochists, says Martin Wolf.

4. How George Osborne is now being muzzled by his own watchdog (Daily Mail)

The OBR provides the lesson that top economists are no wiser in making predictions than the man next to you in the saloon bar, says Andrew Alexander. 

5. Forget fairness. This mansion tax is ideological cowardice (Guardian)

A fair extension of the council tax would be easy, lucrative, progressive – and anathema to people like Balls and Cable, says Simon Jenkins.

6. Europe needs Cameron’s tough love (Financial Times)

Determination to reform the bloc is in the interests of the whole continent, writes Andrew Mitchell.

7. The price we will pay for dithering on energy (Daily Telegraph)

For a decade and more, Britain has failed to treat energy provision as a priority - and we are further from fixing the problem than ever, says a Telegraph editorial. 

8. Hilary Mantel: bring up the royal bodies (Guardian)

The lecture was not an attack on the Duchess of Cambridge but a thoughtful and sympathetic reflection on royal woman down the ages, says a Guardian editorial.

As the world is getting more prosperous, the western share of wealth is declining, writes Ian Birell. It's a new world order and we must get used to it.

10. Think there's no alternative? Latin America has a few (Guardian)

Not only have leaders from Ecuador to Venezuela delivered huge social gains – they keep winning elections too, writes Seumas Milne.

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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.