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Paper Monitor

12:47 UK time, Wednesday, 30 January 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's a very happy day in media land. A good parliamentry scandal is what the papers do best and this time it's Conservative MP Derek Conway who has woken up to find his face splashed across front pages. It follows his suspension for paying his sons an estimated £80,000 as "researchers" despite there being no evidence of any work ever being carried out.

It's interesting to note the contrast in coverage between the two traditional Tory papers. The Daily Mail offers us a masterclass in scandal reporting. It devotes its entire front page to the story, with a headline screaming "NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT". Below is a picture of the Conway family with a strapline that reads: "How the good family Conway cost you... £1,535,716." The figure is in red, naturally. It all sets the reader up for a two-page spread inside, listing the "earnings" in minute detail.

It's definitely attention grabbing - £1.5m? Can it be true? There's no mistake, the Conway family has cost the taxpayer that much. But the paper has thrown in everything over a six-year period to get the highest figure it can, only explaining later that £1.16m of that total is made up of Mr Conway's legitimate salary as an MP.

The Daily Telegraph, however, is slightly more reserved. It too has a red strapline detailing just how much of "your cash" the Conway family has been paid, but it puts the figure at a more humble £260,000. It's chosen to leave out his MP's salary from its calculations, although it does include his wife's wages for being his secretary.

Even more remarkably, the Sun comes in with the lowest figure - £50,000. And it can only be bothered to give the story a few pars on page two. The figure relates to payments to one son. Instead its front page reports that Conservative leader David Cameron has vowed to toughen up stop and searches to regain "control of the streets". Fancy that, a positive, headline-grabbing exclusive on what seemed like such a bad news day for the Tories. Cycnical, moi?

Finally, there is a pleasing development in Paper Monitor's debate on what the Indie is for. The People column in the Times is currently getting stuck into Ruth Kelly, highlighting her "morbidly dull" time as entertainment officer at Queen’s College, Oxford.

It's got hold of minutes from meetings during her time in the role and what does it use as evidence of her crimes against fun? Yesterday the column railed against her attempts to get the Student Union's copy of The Times replaced with The Independent. "See? No fun at all," People notes. Today it allows that she set aside £25 for strawberries in the Nun's Garden and "was once slightly late for a meeting. Tomorrow, back to her fears about 'sweaty' discos." OK, the debate has moved on from the Indie, but it's all building up a picture. Case closed in Paper Monitor's eyes. Dull as ditchwater.

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