Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. China and Japan are heading for a clash (Financial Times)

It is hard to believe either side wants war – but posturing could spark accidental conflict, writes Gideon Rachman.

2. The Eds feud, but their party has moved on (Times)

Despite tensions at the top, shadow cabinet 'clean skins' have put Labour’s old factions behind them, says Rachel Sylvester.

3. Police are cracking down on students – but what threat to law and order is an over-articulate history graduate? (Guardian)

For most of my life student politics has been little more than a joke, writes Aditya Chakrabortty. Suddenly it's become both serious and admirable.

4. The baffling recovery of Teflon Labour and Unpopular Ed (Daily Telegraph)

Despite Falkirk and all its other failings, the party could still be heading back to No. 10, writes Benedict Brogan.

5. If you want a lesson in how to solve social mobility, try reading Harry Redknapp’s autobiography (Independent)

John Major’s solution to the problem of social mobility– a grammar school in every town – made matters worse, says Steve Richards.

6. If Obamacare fails, Obama’s vision dies too (Times)

American confidence in government will suffer if the President’s signature idea sinks, writes Justin Webb.

7. Whoever the 'middle class' are, they're about to be bribed with tax cuts (Guardian)

It's the autumn statement, so coalition factions are exchanging fire across the fiscal divide, writes Polly Toynbee. But their real target is the wealthy vote.

8. The British have met crisis with understatement (Financial Times)

The debate over austerity and stimulus was an elite dialogue that never got going among voters, writes Janan Ganesh.

9. For Pope Francis the liberal, this promises to be a very bloody Sunday (Guardian)

Francis is the poster pope for progressives, writes George Monbiot. But canonising a genocidal missionary like Junípero Serra epitomises the Catholic history problem.

10. The business rates burden must be eased (Daily Telegraph)

The Treasury has imposed onerous financial demands on a vulnerable yet crucial part of the economy, says a Telegraph editorial. 

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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood