Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Ed Miliband is no weakling but this union battle could destroy him (Daily Telegraph)

The Labour leader has picked a fight that has very little relevance to voters, warns Mary Riddell.

2. It’s unavoidable: we need a directly elected PM (Times

The party system is crumbling, writes Daniel Finkelstein. More primaries and less biddable politicians will lead to a constitutional revolution.

3. Miliband, Labour and Falkirk: the real problem is unions aren't influential enough (Guardian)

If Falkirk is used to weaken trade unionists' role in politics it can only entrench the closed circle of corporate power, says Seumas Milne.

4. Why China will not buy the world (Financial Times)

The Chinese economy is marked by its dependence on others, writes Martin Wolf.

5. Jimmy Mubenga's unlawful killing was a death waiting to happen (Guardian)

Mubenga's inquest has shed light on the murky world of the privatised deportation business, write Deborah Coles and Mark Scott.

6. Egypt will spark terrorism across the globe (Times

The deaths of 51 people in Cairo is like a recruiting sergeant’s bugle call to violent radicals, writes Roger Boyes.

7. Labour and the unions: Mr Miliband rolls the dice (Guardian)

The party leader has set big things running, not all of which were fully spelled out in a speech at London's St Bride Foundation, says a Guardian editorial.

8. Some protests suit Blair more than others (Independent)

Now the coup threatens to boost extremists, and sends a terrible message worldwide, says Ian Birrell.

9. Royal Mail will have the freedom to thrive (Daily Telegraph)

Privatising Royal Mail will help secure our postal service's long-term future, says Michael Fallon.

10. The story of the QE2 symbolises the shifting wealth of the world (Independent)

The west’s new role: supplier of luxury we can’t afford ourselves, writes Hamish McRae.

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Ignored by the media, the Liberal Democrats are experiencing a revival

The crushed Liberals are doing particularly well in areas that voted Conservative in 2015 - and Remain in 2016. 

The Liberal Democrats had another good night last night, making big gains in by-elections. They won Adeyfield West, a seat they have never held in Dacorum, with a massive swing. They were up by close to the 20 points in the Derby seat of Allestree, beating Labour into second place. And they won a seat in the Cotswolds, which borders the vacant seat of Witney.

It’s worth noting that they also went backwards in a safe Labour ward in Blackpool and a safe Conservative seat in Northamptonshire.  But the overall pattern is clear, and it’s not merely confined to last night: the Liberal Democrats are enjoying a mini-revival, particularly in the south-east.

Of course, it doesn’t appear to be making itself felt in the Liberal Democrats’ poll share. “After Corbyn's election,” my colleague George tweeted recently, “Some predicted Lib Dems would rise like Lazarus. But poll ratings still stuck at 8 per cent.” Prior to the local elections, I was pessimistic that the so-called Liberal Democrat fightback could make itself felt at a national contest, when the party would have to fight on multiple fronts.

But the local elections – the first time since 1968 when every part of the mainland United Kingdom has had a vote on outside of a general election – proved that completely wrong. They  picked up 30 seats across England, though they had something of a nightmare in Stockport, and were reduced to just one seat in the Welsh Assembly. Their woes continued in Scotland, however, where they slipped to fifth place. They were even back to the third place had those votes been replicated on a national scale.

Polling has always been somewhat unkind to the Liberal Democrats outside of election campaigns, as the party has a low profile, particularly now it has just eight MPs. What appears to be happening at local by-elections and my expectation may be repeated at a general election is that when voters are presented with the option of a Liberal Democrat at the ballot box they find the idea surprisingly appealing.

Added to that, the Liberal Democrats’ happiest hunting grounds are clearly affluent, Conservative-leaning areas that voted for Remain in the referendum. All of which makes their hopes of a good second place in Witney – and a good night in the 2017 county councils – look rather less farfetched than you might expect. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.