Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The decline of interest in politics is worse news for Labour (Guardian)

Behind the fun fisticuffs between Labour and the unions is a grim trend that threatens all politics, writes Geoffrey Wheatcroft.

2. Australia will reveal what politicians we want (Times)

Voters Down Under will show our MPs whether people want directionless crowd-pleasers or leaders with conviction, writes Tim Montgomerie.

3. The west's influence in Egypt is as limited as its will for democracy there (Guardian)

If the country is to avoid a return to entrenched dictatorship, secular progressives and Islamists must find common cause, writes Jonathan Steele. 

4. Last US frontier shows need for government (Financial Times)

Thanks to local and state spending, funding of public goods is in better shape than many realise, writes Martin Dickson.

5. This government attack on unions will gag charities and campaign groups, too (Guardian)

Even local campaigns against fracking or a new road may be criminalised under draconian proposals to limit political spending, says Frances O'Grady.

6. This might not be a recovery, but a good old-fashioned boom (Daily Telegraph)

It’s no time for caution – we’re learning to have fun again, so let’s enjoy it while we can, says George Trefgarne.

7. It’s time for a new Labour guru – Coco Chanel (Daily Telegraph)

The only route to power for Ed Miliband is to adopt a very simple maxim: less is more, says Dan Hodges.

8. If the PM doesn't hit the brakes, his legacy will be one of the biggest white elephants in history (Daily Mail)

More and more evidence is stacking up to suggest that HS2, if it goes ahead, will be one of the greatest follies of any British government, writes Stephen Glover. 

9. When did university become a factory? (Independent)

What has happened to the places of free thought and experimentation, where minds expanded, asks Yasmin Alibhai Brown.

10. Push too hard and we lose our faith in charity (Times)

People are becoming alienated by overpaid chiefs, overzealous interference and overemphasis on political lobbying, writes Libby Purves.

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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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