Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The secret state is just itching to gag the press (Guardian)

Get regulation wrong, and it won't be tales of Cheryl Cole that are censored, but revelations like those of Edward Snowden, writes Jonathan Freedland.

2. Has someone got to this conspiracy theorist? (Times) (£)

Norman Baker can’t suddenly put aside his David Kelly belief, says Daniel Finkelstein.

3. US shutdown: The rise of America’s vetocracy is true to the ideals of the Founding Fathers (Independent)

Francis Fukuyama: In a system designed to empower minorities and block majorities, stalemate will go on.

4. Gazprom on the ropes (IHT)

Gazprom, the world’s biggest gas producer, is in trouble. Would the Kremlin break it up? asks Alan Riley.

5. EU referendum: Adam Afriyie, the first man of Tory self-sacrifice (Telegraph)

By reopening the debate on the EU referendum, Adam Afriyie has achieved the impossible – a united Conservative Party, writes Matthew Norman.

6. Why is the left obsessed by the Daily Mail? (Guardian)

The Mail editor Paul Dacre defends the decision to publish Geoffrey Levy's piece, and claims Mail stand up to the "liberal-left consensus" in Britain.

7. David Cameron's baiting of the BBC may betray a wider strategy (Independent)

We learnt quite a lot at PMQs. But the most intriguing revelation was the Prime Minister's dig at the beeb, writes Chris Bryant.

8. Battersea is saved. Dad would be chuffed (Times) (£)

Yet it is odd that the impetus for the rescue came not from Britain but from the other side of the world, writes Matthew Paris.

9. Who is responsible for the US shutdown? The same idiots responsible for the 2008 meltdown (Guardian)

In opposing Obamacare, the radical-populist right exposes its own twisted ideology, says Slavoj Žižek.

10. The care system has to change - not the workers who gave my dad a dignified death (The Mirror)

Fiona Phillip says that in a society so driven by a thirst for 15 minutes of fame, it is a scandal that our elderly, ill and vulnerable are the victims of 15 minutes of shame.

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Owen Smith apologises for pledge to "smash" Theresa May "back on her heels"

The Labour leader challenger has retracted his comments. 

Labour leader challenger Owen Smith has apologised for pledging to "smash" Theresa May "back on her heels", a day after vigorously defending his comments.

During a speech at a campaign event on Wednesday, Smith had declared of the prime minister, known for wearing kitten heels:

"I'll be honest with you, it pained me that we didn’t have the strength and the power and the vitality to smash her back on her heels and argue that these our values, these are our people, this is our language that they are seeking to steal.”

When pressed about his use of language, Smith told journalists he was using "robust rhetoric" and added: "I absolutely stand by those comments."

But on Thursday, a spokesman for the campaign said Smith regretted his choice of words: "It was off script and on reflection it was an inappropriate choice of phrase and he apologises for using it."

Since the murder of the MP Jo Cox in June, there has been attempt by some in politics to tone down the use of violent metaphors and imagery. 

Others though, have stuck with it - despite Jeremy Corbyn's call for a "kinder, gentler politics" his shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, described rebel MPs as a "lynch mob without the rope"

Smith's language has come under scrutiny before. In 2010, when writing about the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition, he asked: "Surely, the Liberal will file for divorce as soon as the bruises start to show through the make-up?"

After an outcry over the domestic violence metaphor, Smith edited the piece.