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Paper Monitor

12:22 UK time, Thursday, 23 April 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Poor St George.

It's hard enough for the old chap to get a look-in, with extrovert cousins Andrew, David and Patrick hogging the limelight. And then just when George is beginning to get noticed, along comes a white-haired great-uncle with black eyebrows to steal his thunder.

The array of red and white flags that usually adorn the front pages today are absent, because many are in no mood post-Budget to celebrate (click here for a review of their Budget coverage).

Some of the papers do feature one of England's national heroes, Robin Hood, but only as a metaphor for the new tax rate on high earners.

First port of call for a bit of nationalistic tub-thumping would usually be the Daily Express, which four days ago was urging readers to "whip up a fervour" on St George's Day.

But strangely there's no mention of England's patron saint. Perhaps the front page headline "THEY'VE RUINED BRITAIN" left them in no mood to lift a glass of warm beer to dragon-slayers.

Even the Daily Mail, which this month joined forces with Boris Johnson to turn 23 April into a national holiday, doesn't mention that today is that day.

The Guardian and the Independent are St George-free newspapers, although online the Guardian runs a survey on the most patriotic places in England.

Its northern editor Martin Wainwright celebrates the delights of Bradford - "where they burn the Satanic Verses, have street battles, and more benignly make fabulous curry" - which came third in the poll. Scarborough and Penwith, in Cornwall, came first and second respectively.

So it's left to the Sun to fly the flag, even if it is only on page 19. There's a full-page for St George, including a message from Gordon Brown that name checks a list of English people to be proud of, drawn mainly from the world of entertainment and the arts.

There's Lewis (Leona, not Lennox), Smith (Zadie, not Maggie), Shakespeare, Dench, Churchill, The Beatles, Beckham and Alan Bennett.

Brown (that's Gordon) signs off by offering "Mr Shakespeare" a happy birthday.

But the Daily Mirror goes one better. To mark the Bard's birthday, it imagines what Coronation Street would be like if he was writing the script. So Puck, Iago, Lady Macbeth and Falstaff are reincarnated as characters Sean Tully, Richard Hillman, Tracy Barlow and Fred Elliott.

Last word to the neglected St George. The Times makes the biggest effort to mark the day, by visiting the Israeli town of Lod where he was born and reportedly buried.

But it's a depressing scene - "crime, drugs and car parts scattered about the landscape like the detritus from a thousand pile-ups". And the only pilgrims at his tomb were from Italy.

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