Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Miliband and Balls look to the past to plan for their future (Independent)

The Labour leader and shadow chancellor are unusual in having experience of shaping policy while working in opposition, writes Steve Richards.

2. Why has Cameron put us on al-Qaeda's side? (Daily Telegraph)

Just like Tony Blair over Iraq, the Prime Minister has lost touch with reality when it comes to Syria, says Peter Oborne.

3. France should copy Germany’s reforms (Financial Times)

Staying ahead in competitiveness on a worldwide scale must be the priority for France and for Europe, says Gerhard Schröder.

4. Sometimes it’s right to tell voters they’re wrong (Times)

Everyone knows some hospitals must close to improve healthcare, writes David Aaronovitch. Politicians on all sides must make the case.

5. Me-first parents do the rest of us an injustice (Guardian)

Like James Caan, I want the best for my children, writes Zoe Williams. But seeing people in power privileging their own just entrenches inequality.

6. Wash the dirty linen in private, minister (Daily Telegraph)

Politicians’ relentless criticism of their civil servants is bad manners – and bad tactics, says Sue Cameron.

7. How the French lost their je ne sais quoi (Independent)

They see globalisation as a process that destroys individual cultures and identities, writes Andreas Whittam Smith.

8. At last it’s springtime for Britain’s economy (Times)

Barely a month ago, the talk was of a triple-dip recession, writes Ian King. Now the momentum is growing.

9. I admit it - I hog the middle lane. But how will picking my pocket make our roads safer? (Daily Mail)

Bit by bit, our freedoms are eroding under this Tory-led government, says Stephen Glover.

10. Google is this era’s General Electric (Financial Times)

Larry Page has boundless ambition and the capacity to deliver unexpected products, writes John Gapper.

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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.