Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. For all Lord Rennard's supporters: a guide to sexual harassment, and why it matters (Guardian)

Sexual harassment is all about who has the power, writes Polly Toynbee. And what women hear from the Lib Dems – yet again – is "not you".

2. Miliband’s mysterious aversion to public sector reform (Financial Times)

The Labour leader’s case for competition just happens to stop at the boundaries of the state, writes Janan Ganesh. 

3. Who are the new middle classes around the world? You'd be surprised how poor some are (Guardian)

The International Labour Organisation has identified a rapid growth of 'the developing middle class' – a group earning between $4 and $13 a day, writes Paul Mason.

4. Geneva II is the only hope for Syria – and Iran should have been part of it (Independent)

A long-term peace deal will have to take place, and it will take place with Iranian involvement, writes Kim Sengupta. 

5. All of England should become a bit Scottish (Times)

If Yorkshire, the Midlands and the South West want to be free of London’s domination they should emulate Holyrood, says Hugo Rifkind. 

6. Rennard won’t budge. The world moves on (Times)

Public opinion has become more enlightened about gender equality, as the Lib Dem fiasco unintentionally shows, says Rachel Sylvester.

7. George Osborne’s Whack-a-Mole tactic is denying Labour any advantage (Daily Telegraph)

The Conservative high command is focusing its 2015 campaign on neutralising the enemy, writes Benedict Brogan. 

8. Get ready, the indispensable Americans are pulling back (Financial Times)

The rest of the world is adjusting to an emerging political and security vacuum, writes Gideon Rachman.  

9. Nick Clegg can’t sack Lord Rennard, and Lord Rennard can’t apologise. It’s just another day of lose-lose politics (Independent)

The term "sexual harassment" is part of the problem with this saga, writes Steve Richards. 

10. Don’t mislead us about our medical records (Daily Telegraph)

The NHS wants us to hand over our personal health details – yet it cannot guarantee anonymity, writes Philip Johnston. 

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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.