Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. A welfare crisis engulfs the nation, but Labour sits idly by (Daily Telegraph)

Caution has served Ed Miliband well so far, but the time has come for more than rhetoric, says Mary Riddell.

2. Why China’s economy might topple (Financial Times)

As Japan has shown, shifting to a lower-growth model is risky, writes Martin Wolf.

3. Tunisia and Egypt need the Arab revolutions to spread (Guardian)

Conflict over religion and identity risks diverting attention from the battle for social justice and national independence, writes Seumas Milne.

4. The Ed Miliband experiment has been tried before. Remember Gordon Brown? (Independent)

The worst outcome of the next election would be for Labour to win it so ill-prepared, says John Rentoul.

5. Welfare state can be cheaper and popular (Financial Times)

To satisfy deficit hawks and social justice doves a radical reshaping is needed, writes Graeme Cooke.

6. European Union: time to get aboard (Guardian)

Britain ought to be playing a more active role than this self-isolation permits, says a Guardian editorial.

7. North Korean missile crisis? Remember Cuba (Times)

It’s easy to dismiss Pyongyang’s threats as empty rhetoric, says Daniel Finkelstein. Postwar history should teach us to take the noise seriously.

8. Tell youngsters the truth: the UK needs you to work not go to university (Daily Telegraph)

The decision to massively increase the number of school-leavers going to university ranks as one of the greatest social and industrial policy blunders of recent decades, argues Allister Heath. 

9. A gurning DG and the question of bias (Daily Mail)

Seen through the BBC prism, every modest attempt to trim public spending is a wanton act of cruelty, says a Daily Mail editorial.

10. The religious side of Easter seemed to pass almost unnoticed (Independent)

Not so long ago almost everything shut down on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, notes Mary Dejevsky.

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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.