Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Cameron had the chance to defy the 'swivel-eyed loons' and remake his party. He failed (Guardian)

This week Cameron's been exposed, writes Steve Richards. There was little thinking on what modern Conservatism might be like. Now he can only busk it.

2. Kerry displays his vaulting ambitions (Financial Times)

Since February, there has been a new sense of purpose to US diplomacy, writes Edward Luce.

3. Here’s the speech Cameron should give now (Times)

If the Tory leader is self-effacing and makes peace with his restless party he can still defeat Labour in 2015, writes Tim Montgomerie.

4. The moral case on tax avoidance is overwhelming - and we all know Google wants to do the right thing (Independent)

There is nothing law-breaking about tax avoidance and this is of course the point, writes Owen Jones. The law is rigged in favour of the wealthy and the state is at the service of the rich.

5. Britain needs a broader debate over cuts (Financial Times)

We need a serious debate about whether to protect health, pensions and schools while other areas are cut by 30 per cent, says Paul Johnson.

6. Swivel-eyed, or seeing clearly? (Daily Telegraph)

The latest row between the Conservative leadership and the base shows that the Tories can no longer rely on unquestioning loyalty, says Tim Bale.

7. Apologise for expecting the best? No chance (Times)

The defeatism I heard from some head teachers only encourages me to press on with reform, says Michael Gove.

8. Housing market: the rule of bad ideas (Guardian)

Britain urgently needs more public housing and this is the ideal time to underwrite local-council building of new homes, says a Guardian editorial.

9. PM must swivel view on Europe (Sun)

David Cameron must rapidly choose which side to be on, writes Trevor Kavanagh. Right now, he looks like a man swept along by forces beyond his control.

10. The Republican wolves are out for Obama but they are yet to draw blood (Guardian)

Beset by scandal at home and abroad, Obama's only luck has been in his opponents' tin ear for the public mood, says Gary Younge.

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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.