Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Baker’s vocational lesson for young Mr Gove (Times) (£)

I’ve always been a believer in an old-school generalist education but visiting the JCB Academy has shifted my thinking, says Matthew Parris.

2. Britons still don’t believe that the Tories are on their side (FT) (£)

As things stand, the Conservative party faces defeat in 2015, writes Michael Ashcroft.

3. Walking away from Leveson is not acceptable (Guardian)

The press's alternative royal charter is a brazen attempt by powerful newspaper proprietors to remain unaccountable, says Christopher Jefferies.

4. James Boswell revolutionised the way we see great men – and women (Telegraph)

Ever since the 'Life of Samuel Johnson’, the biography has been a force in British culture, says Charles Moore, authorised biographer of Margaret Thatcher.

5. The IMF's check-up will give George Osborne another headache (Independent)

Miliband may need five symbolic cuts to convince that he means business on the deficit, says Andrew Grice.

6. Want to boost the economy? Ban all meetings (Guardian)

David Cameron has had the cabinet table extended so more spads can fit around it. Wave goodbye to productivity at No 10, says Marina Hyde.

7. ‘Eton is dedicated to public service’, says No 10 adviser Jesse Norman (Times) (£)

Jesse Norman, David Cameron’s new policy adviser, insists it won’t be all Old Etonian mates at No 10, he tells Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson.

8. Could he trigger a snap general election? (Daily Mail)

Mr Clegg threatens that if David Cameron pulls out of the convention to allow the extremist Islamist to be sent to Jordan, the Coalition could collapse, writes Simon Heffer.

9. Scandal of social housing sell-offs putting more on homeless waiting lists (Mirror)

With more than two million people looking for somewhere to live, this cynical vote-buying exercise has to be reined in, says Paul Routledge.

10. Planet Tory has just got a whole lot more like today’s Planet Britain (Telegraph)

David Cameron's U-turns are reminiscent of Mrs Thatcher's banana skins in the Eighties; then, as now, the real opposition was Conservative MPs, says Graeme Archer.

Show Hide image

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