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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Miliband must aim to reduce inequality, not the size of your gas bill (Daily Telegraph)

Economist Thomas Piketty points the way for the Labour Party to win back votes from its traditional supporters, says Mary Riddell.  

2. Labour would put schools in local hands (Guardian)

The party's education policy would ensure local oversight of free schools and academies to drive up standards, says David Blunkett.

3. Only shock-and-awe sanctions will hurt Putin (Times)

War in Ukraine is growing closer, writes Roger Boyes. The west may have to accept the pain of lost business.

4. A vote for UKIP would be a vote for the very worst of Thatcherism (Daily Mirror)

There is only one party which truly understands the cost-of-living crisis, says Ed Miliband. 

5. David Cameron: intimations of political mortality (Guardian)

The prime minister's remarks on governing in a new hung parliament are a small sign of his wider political weakness, says a Guardian editorial. 

6. A ripple of hope in a stagnant world (Financial Times)

Excess supply and low interest rates go hand in hand and could put the recovery at risk, warns Martin Wolf. 

7. The rent racket: tenants are trapped in a game of Monopoly that won't end (Guardian

Private landlords enjoy an absurd level of power over tenants, writes Zoe Williams. Yet they reject even minimal regulation.

8. A huge UK-based company is the subject of a takeover by an even bigger US-based company. Should we be worried? (Independent)

If the Pfizer deal goes through, this isn't just yet another story of a British company selling out to a foreign one, writes Hamish McRae. It's about tax, too.

9. Cyril Smith and the ghost of politics future (Times)

The corrupt control of local institutions by a powerful celebrity politician could make a comeback in our times, says Daniel Finkelstein.

10. So why isn’t it racist when other parties talk about controlling immigration? (Independent)

The reason Labour is losing support to Ukip is because the working class have been hardest hit by Labour’s disastrous policies, says Nigel Farage. 

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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.