Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Ed Miliband can only create a fairer Britain with Europe's help (Guardian)

Labour's energy price freeze must be the start of a wider battle with organised capital – but the party can't win on its own, says Peter Wilby.

2. Cameron must shake up the No 10 shambles (Times)

The Prime Minister should follow Obama’s example and put an enforcer at the heart of his government, says John McTernan. 

3. Mandela has been sanitised by hypocrites and apologists (Guardian)

The ANC liberation hero has been reinvented as a Kumbaya figure in order to whitewash those who stood behind apartheid, says Seumas Milne. 

4. Universal Credit: politicians always pay a price for trying to change the world (Daily Telegraph)

Obamacare and Iain Duncan Smith's visionary Universal Credit are both struggling, but only the latter may prevail, says Peter Oborne. 

5. The Liberal Democrats are not lurching to the left or the right (Independent)

Unlike the Conservatives, our long term fiscal approach will be informed by the need to maintain good public services, says Danny Alexander. 

6. No one is immune from Beijing’s power (Financial Times)

Foreign companies once had much leverage, but the new reality is that China has the whip hand, says David Pilling. 

7. Who will win the Ukrainian tug-of-war? (Times)

The country really is at a crossroads: one path points to the EU, the other to one dictated by Russia, writes David Aaronovitch. 

8. If our politicians were brave enough, they would follow Uruguay's lead and legalise cannabis (Independent)

For the criminal underworld, the "war on drugs" is an extraordinary money-spinner, writes Owen Jones. 

9. Give Lady Ashton the credit she deserves (Daily Telegraph)

It’s hard not to suspect that gender has played a part in the treatment of the EU’s power broker, says Sue Cameron. 

10. Why do private schools still attract the most memorable teachers? (Guardian)

It's not surprising that Alan Bennett's The History Boys is Britain's most popular play, writes Martin Kettle. The unfairness within our education system endures.

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We argue over Charlie Gard, but forget those spending whole lives caring for a disabled child

The everyday misery of care work is hidden behind abstract arguments over life and death.

“Sometimes,” says the mother, “I wish we’d let him go. Or that he’d just been allowed to slip away.” The father agrees, sometimes. So too does the child, who is not a child any more.

On good days, nobody thinks this way, but not all days are good. There have been bright spots during the course of the past four decades, occasional moments of real hope, but now everyone is tired, everyone is old and the mundane work of loving takes a ferocious toll.

When we talk about caring for sick children, we usually mean minors. It’s easiest that way. That for some parents, the exhaustion and intensity of those first days with a newborn never, ever ends – that you can be in your fifties, sixties, seventies, caring for a child in their twenties, thirties, forties – is not something the rest of us want to think about.

It’s hard to romanticise devotion strung out over that many hopeless, sleepless nights. Better to imagine the tragic mother holding on to the infant who still fits in her loving arms, not the son who’s now twice her size, himself edging towards middle-age and the cliff edge that comes when mummy’s no longer around.

Writing on the tragic case of Charlie Gard, the Guardian’s Giles Fraser claims that he would “rain fire on the whole world to hold my child for a day longer”. The Gard case, he argues, has “set the cool rational compassion of judicial judgement and clinical expertise against the passion of parental love”: “Which is why those who have never smelled the specific perfume of Charlie’s neck, those who have never held him tight or wept and prayed over his welfare, are deemed better placed to determine how he is to live and die.”

This may be true. It may also be true that right now, countless parents who have smelled their own child’s specific perfume, held them tightly, wept for them, loved them beyond all measure, are wishing only for that child’s suffering to end. What of their love? What of their reluctance to set the world aflame for one day more? And what of their need for a life of their own, away from the fantasies of those who’ll passionately defend a parent’s right to keep their child alive but won’t be there at 5am, night after night, cleaning out feeding tubes and mopping up shit?

Parental – in particular, maternal – devotion is seen as an endlessly renewable resource. A real parent never gets tired of loving. A real parent never wonders whether actually, all things considered, it might have caused less suffering for a child never to have been born at all. Such thoughts are impermissible, not least because they’re dangerous. Everyone’s life matters. Nonetheless, there are parents who have these thoughts, not because they don’t love their children, but because they do.

Reporting on the Gard case reminds me of the sanitised image we have of what constitutes the life of a parent of a sick child. It’s impossible not to feel enormous compassion for Charlie’s parents. As the mother of a toddler, I know that in a similar situation I’d have been torn apart. It’s not difficult to look at photos of Charlie and imagine one’s own child in his place. All babies are small and helpless; all babies cry out to be held.

But attitudes change as children get older. In the case of my own family, I noticed a real dropping away of support for my parents and disabled brother as the latter moved into adulthood. There were people who briefly picked him up as a kind of project and then, upon realising that there would be no schmaltzy ending to the story, dropped him again. Love and compassion don’t conquer all, patience runs out and dignity is clearly best respected from a distance.

All too often, the everyday misery of care work is hidden behind abstract arguments over who gets the right to decide whether an individual lives or dies. I don’t know any parents who truly want that right. Not only would it be morally untenable, it’s also a misrepresentation of what their struggles really are and mean.

What many parents who remain lifelong carers need is adequate respite support, a space in which to talk honestly, and the recognition that actually, sometimes loving is a grim and hopeless pursuit. Those who romanticise parental love – who, like Fraser, wallow in heroic portrayals of “battling, devoted parents” – do nothing to alleviate the suffering of those whose love mingles with resentment, exhaustion and sheer loneliness.

There are parents out there who, just occasionally, would be willing to set the world on fire to have a day’s respite from loving. But regardless of whether your child lives or dies, love never ends. 

Glosswitch is a feminist mother of three who works in publishing.