Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The state must end the UK housing crisis (Financial Times)

Government needs to become engaged in building communities again, says Andrew Adonis.

2. Why do private-sector zealots choose to ignore the countless ways public money underpins daily life? (Independent)

Free market capitalism is a con, says Owen Jones. The state is the backbone of modern British capitalism.

3. Miliband gambles that recovery will be weak (Times)

A confident Labour leader plans more policies to help people to make ends meet, says Jenni Russell. 

4. The moment David Cameron lost the 2015 general election (Guardian)

By extolling the virtues of permanent austerity, the prime minister has abandoned the middle ground he needs to win, says Martin Kettle.

5. We can’t leave A&E reform to our children (Times)

Flunking big decisions on the NHS, energy generation or transport is a fatal and expensive error, says David Aaronovitch.

6. Immigration: Britain’s doors are wide open, and we can’t even talk about it (Daily Telegraph)

A wave of Romanians and Bulgarians is heading our way, thanks to the EU’s lack of democracy, says Peter Oborne.

7. A campaign to leave the EU is taking shape (Times)

Those who want Britain to become an independent nation again are preparing a populist plan of action, writes Tim Montgomerie.

8. Unite can't be left to resist Cameron's smear campaign alone (Guardian)

David Cameron and the Tory press have launched a retro anti-union drive to damage Ed Miliband, says Seumas Milne. But it won't fly in today's Britain.

9. Abe’s first arrow is the one that matters (Financial Times)

What is really radical is the bold gamble to rid Japan of 15 years of deflation, writes David Pilling.

10. How the EU is thwarting states from continuing with capital punishment (Independent)

Some states are trying to keep the show on the road with risky improvisation, writes David Usborne. 

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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.