'Licence to teach' plan and new cities - newspaper review

  • 11 January 2014

News that teachers will need a licence to work under a future Labour government is the lead in Saturday's Times.

Among a mixed bag of front pages, the Daily Telegraph reveals what it calls "a secret Whitehall report" recommending the creation of two new cities in southern England.

Elsewhere, it's the NHS for both the i and the Daily Mail - the former has an interview with shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, while the latter claims watchdog NICE is spending taxpayers' money on champagne.

Finally, father-of-22 Raymond Hull appears on the fronts of both the Sun and the Daily Mirror.

Discussing the papers for the BBC News Channel, Neil Midgley, the Daily Telegraph's media writer, said the Guardian uses the words "crisis" and "timebomb" in quotes on its front page to headline a story about buy-to-let landlords refusing to accept tenants on housing benefit when universal credit comes into operation.

But he says he can find neither word in any of the quotes in the story itself, adding: "It does seem to me to be one of those 'things to be scared of' stories that aren't necessarily going to come true."

Entrepreneur Scott Fletcher said: "It could be one of those stories that sets alarm bells ringing, or maybe there's something in it - that we do need to be careful about the way it's rolled out."

He said he was "torn" about the idea, suggested by landlords in the story, that housing benefit should be paid directly to them, adding: "I think on the one hand people should take responsibility for their own money... but if this leads to private landlords pulling out of this sector.... this will just exacerbate the [housing] problem."

"Run in the oven", "Jess's long bump"... the pun-writers have fun with news of Jessica Ennis-Hill's pregnancy

'President Normal'

The papers fall over themselves to find the sexiest, most thinly-clad image they can find of Francois Hollande's alleged mistress, Julie Gayet.

Beneath one of those aforementioned images, the Daily Telegraph describes Ms Gayet as a "left-wing actress with a rock'n'roll personality".

"Monsieur Normal finds himself in ever more abnormal predicaments," says the Financial Times' leader, but it thinks he shouldn't worry because "a penchant for paradox is part of the French philosophical tradition - and of the personal lives of Fifth Republic presidents."

Julie Gayet once appeared in one of Francois Hollande's election campaign adverts

Moreover, says the Guardian, the revelations actually brought Mr Hollande "a rare moment of support and sympathy from across the political spectrum," with even Front National leader Marine Le Pen expressing shock at the invasion of his privacy.

But the Times thinks the supposed affair "raises serious questions about his judgement" - given the "logistics" involved. It adds: "For the man who controls France's nuclear deterrent to be scootered across Paris essentially incognito, and ushered into an apartment building by a single security officer, is a scandal in itself."

The Sun agrees, saying that "with their economy in ruins" French people "might reasonably now ask how much time Francois Hollande is spending on the job".

But taking the opposite position entirely - and giving a somewhat Gallic shrug about the whole thing - the Independent says that if true, "Francois Hollande has finally become the 'normal' president he said he'd be in his election campaign"- following, as he does, in the footsteps of predecessors Francois Mitterand and Jacques Chirac in conducting affairs.

An Illustrious scene: Joyful reunions feature widely as the Royal Navy ship returns to the UK

Referendum rumblings

There's considerable anger in some papers after the government's EU referendum bill cleared its first hurdle in the House of Lords.

That ire is largely directed at Labour peers who opposed the bill, and in the Sun's case, at Lord Mandelson in particular, whom it accuses of treating the British public with "breathtaking contempt". It says he would rather not give voters a say "in case the public disagrees with his personal position", adding: "Do not mistake this for principle. If Britain was fond of Europe, Mandelson would want a vote this afternoon."

"Contempt" is also the word of choice in the Daily Express for what it calls "the anti-democratic effort to stop the British people having an in/out referendum on the EU".

"The drawling, patronising Europhiles intend to fight and fight dirty," writes Quentin Letts, in the Daily Mail. "They hate the idea of giving hoi polloi their say. They may well block this bill."

The Daily Telegraph reserves some of its anger for the BBC, and Today programme presenter Evan Davis specifically, accusing him of giving Lord Mandelson "an easy ride" over the issue on Friday's show.

Out and about: Some papers show the British-born wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visiting schoolchildren in Damascus

Plebgate admission

Following the admission by a police officer that he lied about witnessing the plebgate incident, several papers suggest it is now Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe who is under pressure.

The Daily Mail says he was forced to make "an embarrassing climbdown" after initially saying he was "100% behind" the officers who gave an account, but now having to make a full apology.

The Guardian says the officer concerned, PC Keith Wallis, now faces jail but his barrister has said "that to understand the plea it is important to take into account the psychiatric state Wallis 'is in now and has been in for many months'".

Graeme Archer, in the Daily Telegraph, takes a very broad view of this and other incidents and asks: "Is it any wonder that middle-class trust in the police has dwindled?" He goes on: "You've lost our instinctive support because of what you did to Jean-Charles de Menezes. And to Ian Tomlinson. And, yes, because of plebgate. Because, that is, of the repeated lies."

Extreme examples?

"And so here we have him - gift-wrapped specially for Cameron and his cronies - scumbag Raymond Hull. In the week that Osborne announce another £12 billion of benefit cuts, [father-of-22] Hull is the perfect poster boy for their ideological attack on welfare," writes Alison Philips, in the Daily Mirror. But she adds: "Don't be fooled into thinking Hull represents a huge swathe of society. The reason his face was blasted across national papers yesterday was that he is unusual. Thank God."

The Daily Express, however, does exactly what Ms Phillips doesn't want. Political commentator Stephen Pollard says "the dependency culture created by a welfare state that treats benefits as its entitlement has found its most hideous expression in Raymond Hull". Hull may be "an extreme example", he adds, but his situation "is a form of uniquely modern squalor".

The Sun, too, has not followed the Mirror's advice. "Roll on welfare reform," its leader says, arguing that "in the last 20 years, the system has allowed a minority, driven solely by pleasure and greed, to abdicate all responsibility for their behaviour".

Elsewhere, in related matters, the row over Channel 4's Benefits Street continues. The Daily Star says it has become "a no-go zone after locals threatened to attack outsiders for branding them dossers".

The Guardian reports that by Friday, "almost 1,000 people had complained to the broadcasting regulator Ofcom, most claiming that the programme gave a misleading impression of people on benefit and incited hatred."

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