Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Antisemitism doesn't always come doing a Hitler salute (Guardian)

Hatred of Jews is often more coded than explicit, but the Daily Mail's attack on Ralph Miliband pressed all the same old buttons, Jonathan Freedland writes.

2.The greatest trick Fifa ever pulled was to issue a Qatar weather warning (Guardian)

 Marina Hyde: The 2022 World Cup is being built by slaves in a non-democracy, but that's not the issue for Sepp Blatter and co.

3. From Zulu to the 'White Widow', why do all African stories need a white face? (Guardian)

Samantha Lewthwaite's involvement in the Westgate mall siege in Kenya may not be complete fiction, but either way the real story is about much more than her.

4. The real target should not have been Miliband senior, but his son (Telegraph)

By saying that Labour would freeze energy prices, Ed Miliband fulfils his father Ralph’s vision of state control, writes Charles Moore.

5. Green dreams that have been blown away (Telegraph)

The Government's volte-face over the Planning and Energy Act shows how times have changed

6. You’ll soon be able to buy that AK47 again (Telegraph)

The FBI has closed Silk Road and arrested its alleged founder Ross Ulbricht, but another secret online market is bound to open before long

7.Slowly, the Whitehall machine has adapted to coalition. But it may well need to go further (Independent)

This Government has been a good advert for sharing power, writes Andrew Grice.

8. The price of a loaf is of little importance (FT)

Cameron’s critics chose a singularly useless indicator, writes Tim Harford.

9. There’s no point trying to live in London (FT)

Property fetishism pervades Britain and buyers are becoming more neurotic, says Christian Oliver

10. Geeks can be girls (Telegraph)

By Gillian Tett: ‘Computing has become culturally defined as ‘male’ in the western student world’.

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Could Labour lose the Oldham by-election?

Sources warn defeat is not unthinkable but the party's ground campaign believe they will hold on. 

As shadow cabinet members argue in public over Labour's position on Syria and John McDonnell defends his Mao moment, it has been easy to forget that the party next week faces its first election test since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. On paper, Oldham West and Royton should be a straightforward win. Michael Meacher, whose death last month triggered the by-election, held the seat with a majority of 14,738 just seven months ago. The party opted for an early pre-Christmas poll, giving second-placed Ukip less time to gain momentum, and selected the respected Oldham council leader Jim McMahon as its candidate. 

But in recent weeks Labour sources have become ever more anxious. Shadow cabinet members returning from campaigning report that Corbyn has gone down "very badly" with voters, with his original comments on shoot-to-kill particularly toxic. Most MPs expect the party's majority to lie within the 1,000-2,000 range. But one insider told me that the party's majority would likely fall into the hundreds ("I'd be thrilled with 2,000") and warned that defeat was far from unthinkable. The fear is that low turnout and defections to Ukip could allow the Farageists to sneak a win. MPs are further troubled by the likelihood that the contest will take place on the same day as the Syria vote (Thursday), which will badly divide Labour. 

The party's ground campaign, however, "aren't in panic mode", I'm told, with data showing them on course to hold the seat with a sharply reduced majority. As Tim noted in his recent report from the seat, unlike Heywood and Middleton, where Ukip finished just 617 votes behind Labour in a 2014 by-election, Oldham has a significant Asian population (accounting for 26.5 per cent of the total), which is largely hostile to Ukip and likely to remain loyal to Labour. 

Expectations are now so low that a win alone will be celebrated. But expect Corbyn's opponents to point out that working class Ukip voters were among the groups the Labour leader was supposed to attract. They are likely to credit McMahon with the victory and argue that the party held the seat in spite of Corbyn, rather than because of him. Ukip have sought to turn the contest into a referendum on the Labour leader's patriotism but McMahon replied: "My grandfather served in the army, my father and my partner’s fathers were in the Territorial Army. I raised money to restore my local cenotaph. On 18 December I will be going with pride to London to collect my OBE from the Queen and bring it back to Oldham as a local boy done good. If they want to pick a fight on patriotism, bring it on."  "If we had any other candidate we'd have been in enormous trouble," one shadow minister concluded. 

Of Corbyn, who cancelled a visit to the seat today, one source said: "I don't think Jeremy himself spends any time thinking about it, he doesn't think that electoral outcomes at this stage touch him somehow."  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.