Storms, sales and sermons in the papers

  • 24 December 2013

Almost all the front pages are united by one topic this Christmas Eve - the weather.

Many use striking photographs of storm-battered Britain, although the Daily Express goes one further and predicts even more bad weather after Christmas.

The arrivals board at Kings Cross railway station showing several cancelled services

It seems the adverse conditions provided a punning opportunity that the Daily Mirror's sub-editors couldn't resist. After using "Blast Xmas" on the front (it took this paper reviewer a while to tease out the Wham reference), they opted for the more straightforward "A winter's gale" and "'Tis the season for a brolly" on the inside pages.

Other page designers let the pictures do the talking, and the spread in the Daily Star features trees blocking roads, waves lashing Brighton's pier, cars driving through deep water and - somewhat incongruously - a squirrel eating a mince pie.

Rivals focus on transport, the Daily Express showing snow ploughs on the roads and the Isle of Wight ferry bobbing on the Solent, while the Daily Mail describes the "chaos at Euston" railway station in London.

And the Times gives its weatherman Paul Simons room to explain the scale this "monster" storm.

He says: "It's no exaggeration to say that this tempest is a 'bomb' that exploded in the Atlantic, its pressure plunging 50 millibars in 24 hours." Meteorologists apparently use the term "bomb" to refer to a drop of more than 24 millibars in that timescale.

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Not-so-mega Monday?

Shoppers in London's Oxford Street struggle to control an umbrella in the wind

The inclement weather "put a dampener on the late dash for gifts", with 1.1% fewer people in the shops than this time last year, according to the Guardian.

It says the wind and rain was a further blow to retailers - particularly on the High Street - who've already been forced into early discounts to battle the online competition.

And the Times agrees that the tills "failed to jingle", pointing out that the number of shoppers on the High Street last week was 5.7% down on last year. It did, however, publicise a few deals that might entice shoppers to venture out on Christmas Eve, ranging from 80p children's plimsolls to a six-bottle case of champagne for £96.

The Daily Express says millions still "braved the heavy rain and howling winds", with retailers expecting to have taken £3.6m by the end of Monday. That's £2.6m per minute, it says.

Meanwhile, one mother who tried to take the labour out of shopping was left "stunned" when her festive fare arrived from the supermarket complete with ONE sprout, the Sun says. Apparently, it was the customer's first attempt at online grocery shopping and she'd intended to order a kilo. But at least it only cost her 4p.

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Royal pardon

A decision to grant a posthumous pardon to Alan Turing, the World War II codebreaker who took his own life after being convicted for homosexual activity, makes the front page of the Guardian. The paper quotes Justice Secretary Chris Grayling as saying the move recognised his "fantastic contribution to the war effort", explaining the belief that his role in cracking Germany's enigma code shortened the war by up to two years.

The Daily Mail points out that only three others have been granted royal pardons since the war.

Reviewing the papers for the BBC News Channel, former Professional Footballers' Association chairman Clarke Carlisle said "If you're going to start to look over all the incidents that have happened… and posthumously change decisions that were made throughout history then the Queen's going to be incredibly busy doling out pardons."

However, Independent columnist Owen Jones said the lives of many more people were "mercilessly ruined" as a result of prosecutions that remained a "disgraceful blot on the history of the country". He added: "A pardon is not enough. What we need now is the overturning of all these convictions of [gay men] whose lives were trashed."

The Sun points out that - thanks to a change in the law last year - thousands of gay men who were similarly convicted can have their offence deleted from the record. As Turing can't, the posthumous pardon is right, it says.

Meanwhile, the Mirror is thankful we're living in "more enlightened times" and says the pardon "recognises that Turing and thousands of other gay Britons were unfairly persecuted".

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Ecumenical matters

It's a day for reflection on spiritual matters, with Prime Minister David Cameron using his Christmas message to, as the Daily Express puts it, "link his 'Big Society' drive... with the Christian faith". Meanwhile, the Archbishop of York writes in the Sun that the Church is "for life... not just for Christmas".

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey's comment in the Daily Telegraph echoes the concerns of Prince Charles that ancient Christian communities in the Middle East are on the verge of disappearing from the homelands. But it's his suggestion that, in the West, churchgoers are too timid to talk to work colleagues about faith that make the front page.

However, he draws hope from the "very significant new leaders" of both Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. And it's a sentiment shared by the Times, which writes in its editorial that their "inspiring leadership... exemplifies the dual message of care for humanity and the mystery of the incarnation".

Meanwhile, the Guardian visits Ely, in Cambridgeshire, to find "a tale of two Christmases". One is the magnificent 12th Century cathedral, just along the road from the Lighthouse Church - housed in a converted garage - with its less wealthy, younger congregation. "It is a stark juxtaposition," says writer Andrew Brown, adding: "But with their respective congregations not too dissimilar in size, the two together represent the state of the church in modern Britain."

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Festive wishes

Christmas stockings
Has the internet killed off the ritual of opening presents?

Several papers take time to wish readers a merry Christmas - and to remind them to pick up the next copy on Boxing Day.

The Sun notes that the day means different things to different people. "If you're a believer, it's about the birth of Jesus. If you're a Belieber, it's about getting tickets for the pop pillock's Boxing Day movie," it notes under a matey: "Merry Crimbo."

Given the weather, the Daily Mirror is concerned for its readers welfare. "We wish you a safe journey if you're on the move today and a Merry Christmas tomorrow," it says.

Never mind, the Daily Express says: "There is great comfort to be had from being indoors with family and friends while the wind buffets and the rain lashes down."

But the Financial Times expresses its good wishes over 12 verses which sum up the holiday in the internet age. It begins: "'Twas the night before Chistmas and all through the house, no hard drive was whirring, no click of a mouse...

"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, but dangled in vain, filled only with air. While mama on the high street and I in a flap, searched frantically for presents not killed off by apps." It goes on in similar vein, before wishing: "Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night," with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.

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Making people click

Telegraph: Kim Jong-un 'very drunk' when ordered executions

Daily Mirror: 'Happy Holidays' Google Doodle created to mark Christmas Eve

The Times: Three young men who died in crash were street racers

Daily Mail: Courtney Stodden is not pining for Doug this holiday... as she goes tree shopping with hunky man

Financial Times: China cash crunch eases as PBoC reassures