Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. From rescue to recovery? It's not as simple as that, George (Independent)

Labour’s position in relation to spending is more astute than the Chancellor suggests, writes Steve Richards. 

2. Balls appeals to the few, Osborne the many (Guardian)

Labour's attack on the chancellor's spending plans is smart, but will only work with those who have made their minds up, says Martin Kettle. 

3. Julia Gillard: Sadly, this lady was for turning (Independent)

As with Thatcher, she had become an electoral liability to her party, writes Geoffrey Robertson.

4. Soon, we are likely to need a braver chancellor than this one (Daily Telegraph)

Osborne is good at the politics, but flunks the economics, writes Peter Oborne. For how long can this continue?

5. George Osborne master of the game of divisive politics (Guardian)

The Chancellor has tried to gloss over a dire financial situation by playing the game he knows best, writes Jonathan Freedland. 

6. Gordon Brown's plans to join the euro (Daily Telegraph)

The great saviour of the pound actually toyed with ditching it, says Sue Cameron.

7. On the spectrum of deceit, ministers have gone off the scale (Guardian)

Statistics have long been argued one way or the other, but this government twists them beyond reality to suit its ruthless agenda, writes Zoe Williams.

8. Shock horror: Britain less secretive than ever (Times)

Revelations about police subterfuge and the alleged CQC cover-up show how much more open we are as a society, says David Aaronovitch. 

9. Osborne sets a trap for Labour on welfare (Financial Times)

Sticking to the government’s benefits cap will torture the opposition, writes Janan Ganesh.

10. Can the state be trusted to do anything right? (Daily Telegraph)

Revelations of unacceptable snooping and the draconian treatment of whistleblowers are making a mockery of the government's quest for 'transparency', says Allison Pearson.

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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.