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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Giving the public a chance to voice their opinion could be the only way to improve the NHS (Independent)

No politician is allowed to pledge a penny of extra spending on any cause, notes Steve Richards.

2. Salmond is wrong. England is not the enemy (Times)

The nationalists paint the rest of the UK as right-wing and Ukippy, writes Hugo Rifkind. It’s actually a tolerant and multicultural nation.

3. Cost-of-living masks Labour ideas crisis (Financial Times)

The wisest thing the UK opposition could do is outline the spending cuts it would make in power, says Janan Ganesh.

4. Can no one in Britain be trusted to run an election campaign? (Daily Telegraph)

We are led by politicians who have become so beholden to the mechanics of politics that they must look abroad for their vision and their credibility, writes Benedict Brogan.

5. Obama’s Asia policy is ambiguous (Financial Times)

The rise of China is the big strategic challenge facing the US and should focus its attention, writes Gideon Rachman.

6. Sorry students, I lied to you. University is about desperation, not aspiration (Guardian)

The graduate premium is going down as tuition fees and debt go up: but for today's students that's just the tip of the iceberg, says Laurie Penny.

7. Stamp duty is worse than a mansion tax (Times)

George Osborne taxes people who move house more than smokers, writes Ross Clark. It’s bad for the economy.

8. Where would you rather live – Great Britain or little England? (Guardian)

If you agree that Britain is better off in the EU, make yourself heard now, says Nick Clegg. The Lib Dems can't win this argument alone.

9. Scots are not morally superior. That's why I believe in solidarity with the folk living south of Carlisle (Guardian)

Whatever the Scottish separatists claim, our shared beliefs in equality and social justice don't stop at the border, says Tom Morton. 

10. Restoring trust in the European parliament (Financial Times)

Europe’s assembly must act to tackle its internal abuses, says an FT editorial. 

Photo: Getty
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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.