Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. To emulate Blair, Ed Miliband will have to stop imitating him (Guardian)

Labour's leader is brave and principled – but falls down as a future prime minister in the public projection of personality, says Steve Richards.

2. GDP is a clumsy test of economic health (Financial Times)

The gauge should be supplemented with one that tracks median household incomes, says Richard Lambert.

3. All we can do for Syria now is donate to the relief effort (Guardian)

Politics is blocked – a solution to the cause of the crisis is not likely any time soon, writes Timothy Garton Ash. But we can at least treat the symptoms.

4. Why David Cameron secretly dreads a Tory-only government (Independent)

A small majority would leave the PM dependent on the Commons votes of right-wingers, writes Andrew Grice. 

5. The irrational case for HS2 (Financial Times)

The government lacks clarity of purpose and honesty with the public, writes John McDermott.

6. Two cheers for growth. But we aren't safe yet (Times)

Today’s GDP figures should give us cause for optimism but the economy must still weather four strong winds, says Graeme Leach. 

7. Cameron’s empty gesture could spark a British rebirth (Daily Telegraph)

The EU referendum gives us the chance to re-emerge as a global trading nation, says Peter Oborne.

8. How God and Mammon can coexist (Independent)

The Archbishop’s  proposal for credit unions goes beyond moralising, notes an Independent editorial.

9. Blue-chip firms hacked phones on an industrial scale. So why aren't there dawn raids on them? (Daily Mail)

It would be an outrage if people who have done far worse than the News of the World were let off scot-free, says Stephen Glover. 

10. This English question demands an answer (Daily Telegraph)

More devolution to Scotland will be the final straw for the Union's largest country, writes Sue Cameron.

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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.