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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Merkel will not bend EU rules for Britain (Financial Times)

The union will always be a club that the UK does not lead, says Philip Stephens. 

2. Our economy’s getting bigger, but not better (Daily Telegraph)

Self-congratulation over Britain’s growth figures masks a crippling productivity problem, writes Jeremy Warner. 

3. There was no conspiracy. It was a cock-up (Times)

We should not over-react to an administrative error by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, writes Jonathan Powell. 

4. Free schools will stumble – the test is how well they recover (Daily Telegraph)

Michael Gove’s academies have their critics, but new schools are as likely to fail as new companies, says Fraser Nelson. 

5. Dave is utterly deluded if he thinks the Iron Chancellor's going to help end his Euro nightmare (Daily Mail)

Merkel's determination that Germany should continue leading the EU according to her iron-rod agenda was predictable to all — except to a few wildly optimistic souls, writes Simon Heffer. 

6. Labour and Ed Miliband disagree about party prospects (Daily Telegraph)

Labour HQ doubts the party can get an election majority, but the leader is more bullish, writes Isabel Hardman.

7. Politics, not law, has become the master of British justice (Guardian)

 From amnesties for the IRA to calls for the Woolwich murderers to be lynched, crime and punishment is now a politicised mess, writes Simon Jenkins. 

8. A symptom of broken Britain is fixed at last (Times)

Teen pregnancy is falling, thanks to decisions made 15 years ago, says Philip Collins. That’s how long it takes to tackle big social problems.

9. While politicians bicker over self-serving definitions of poverty, a simple measure of ‘need’ is being overlooked (Independent)

The obvious place to start is with the consumption of food, writes Andreas Whittam Smith. 

10. First world war bravery was not confined to the soldiers (Guardian)

As we mark the conflict, we must not forget those who were ridiculed, jailed and worse for daring to fight for peace, writes Priyamvada Gopal.

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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.