Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Even if Iran gets the bomb, it won’t be worth going to war (Daily Telegraph)

Containment is a better response than conflict in dealing with a country we have long mishandled, argues Jack Straw.

2. Voters expect Osborne to stay his course (Financial Times)

The British are busy hunkering down for years of squeezed living standards, writes Janan Ganesh.

3. The Lord Rennard scandal marks the moment the Lib Dems discovered they are on the big stage (Independent)

Clegg would not for a second be indifferent to precise allegations, but the response to this media frenzy does expose his party's inexperience, says Steve Richards.

4. Will EDF become the Barbra Streisand of climate protest? (Guardian)

The energy giant is part of a global strategy by corporations to stifle democracy, writes George Monbiot. Clearly it hasn't heard of the Streisand effect

5. The Lib Dems’ problem isn’t sex. It’s power (Times) (£)

Senior figures joined the party never expecting to be in the spotlight, writes Rachel Sylvester. Now it’s revealing political and personal flaws.

6. What Kerry needs to know about Iran (Financial Times)

Tehran is willing to enter into talks with the US, says Hossein Mousavian.

7. In Eastleigh, it's the worst kind of Westminster charade (Guardian)

While austerity rages on, the town's already disillusioned voters are being offered merely sordid spectacle, says Polly Toynbee.

8. A cap on bankers’ bonuses would be lunacy (Daily Telegraph)

If Europe does insist on bringing in legislation, it will make Britain’s EU exit even more likely, says Norman Lamont.

9. Downgrade exposes the myth about cuts (Daily Mail)

George Osborne must stop talking about cutting spending and actually do it, says a Daily Mail editorial. 

10. Why is free admission to art galleries and museums sacrosanct, when free swimming is not? (Independent)

Even in a time of straitened national finances, it never pays to underestimate the awesome power of the arts lobby in Britain, writes Dominic Lawson.

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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood