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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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I'll vote against bombing Isis - but my conscience is far from clear

Chi Onwurah lays out why she'll be voting against British airstrikes in Syria.

I have spent much of the weekend considering how I will vote on the question of whether the UK should extend airstrikes against Daesh/Isis from Iraq to Syria, seeking out and weighing the evidence and the risks.

My constituents have written, emailed, tweeted, facebooked or stopped me in the street to share their thoughts. Most recognised what a difficult and complex decision it is. When I was selected to be the Labour candidate for Newcastle Central I was asked what I thought would be the hardest part of being an MP.

I said it would be this.

I am not a pacifist, I believe our country is worth defending and our values worth fighting for. But the decision to send British Armed Forces into action is, rightly, a heavy responsibility.

For me it comes down to two key questions. The security of British citizens, and the avoidance of civilian casualties. These are separate operational and moral questions but they are linked in that it is civilian casualties which help fuel the Daesh ideology that we cannot respect and value the lives of those who do not believe as we do. There is also the important question of solidarity with the French in the wake of their grievous and devastating loss; I shall come to that later.

I listened very carefully to the Prime Minister as he set out the case for airstrikes on Thursday and I share his view that Daesh represents a real threat to UK citizens. However he did not convince me that UK airstrikes at this time would materially reduce that threat. The Prime Minister was clear that Daesh cannot be defeated from the air. The situation in Syria is complex and factionalised, with many state and non-state actors who may be enemies of our enemy and yet not our friend. The Prime Minister claimed there were 70,000 ground troops in the moderate Free Syrian Army but many experts dispute that number and the evidence does not convince me that they are in a position to lead an effective ground campaign. Bombs alone will not prevent Daesh obtaining money, arms and more recruits or launching attacks on the UK. The Prime Minister did not set out how we would do that, his was not a plan for security and peace in Syria with airstrikes a necessary support to it, but a plan to bomb Syria, with peace and security cited in support of it. That is not good enough for me.

Daesh are using civilian population as human shields. Syrians in exile speak of the impossibility of targeting the terrorists without hitting innocent bystanders. I fear that bombing Raqqa to eliminate Daesh may be like bombing Gaza to eliminate Hamas – hugely costly in terms of the civilian population and ultimately ineffectual.

Yet the evil that Daesh perpetrate demands a response. President Hollande has called on us to join with French forces. I lived in Paris for three years, I spent time in just about every location that was attacked two weeks ago, I have many friends living in Paris now, I believe the French are our friends and allies and we should stand and act in solidarity with them, and all those who have suffered in Mali, Kenya, Nigeria, Lebanon, Tunisia and around the world.

But there are other ways to act as well as airstrikes. Britain is the only G7 country to meet its international development commitments, we are already one of the biggest humanitarian contributors to stemming the Syrian crisis, we can do more not only in terms of supporting refugees but helping those still in Syria, whether living in fear of Daesh or Assad. We can show the world that our response is to build rather than bomb. The Prime Minister argues that without taking part in the bombing we will not have a place at the table for the reconstruction. I would think our allies would be reluctant to overlook our financial commitment.

We can also do more to cut off Daesh funding, targeting their oil wells, their revenues, their customers and their suppliers. This may not be as immediately satisfying as bombing the terrorists but it is a more effective means of strangling them.

The vast majority of the constituents who contacted me were against airstrikes. I agree with them for the reasons I set out above. I should say that I have had no experience of bullying or attempts at intimidation in reaching this decision, Newcastle Central is too friendly, frank, comradely and Geordie a constituency for that. But some have suggested that I should vote against airstrikes to ensure a “clear conscience” ’. This is not the case. There will be more killings and innocent deaths whether there are UK airstrikes or not, and we will all bear a portion of responsibility for them.

A version of this article was originally sent to Chi Onwurah's constituents, and can be read here