Carney's sterling speech, Sainsbury's King abdicates and how Cameron 'chillaxes'

  • 30 January 2014

In picking over the words used by Bank of England governor Mark Carney in his "technical" analysis of how an independent Scotland might retain the use of sterling, most newspapers agree that he trod carefully.

"Tiptoeing through a minefield," is how the Financial Times puts it, while the Independent's Donald MacIntyre scoffs at headlines suggesting Mr Carney was "wading" into the debate, saying: "This was more like a gingerly paddle [sic] in shallows teeming with killer jellyfish."

The governor "plonked one leg on either side of Hadrian's Wall," says the Guardian's Larry Elliott. But he adds that Mr Carney's comments that "currency union requires some ceding of national sovereignty" carried a hidden message that "negotiations with the Treasury will be tough. Not least because, despite the governor's studious declaration of neutrality, the Bank will ensure that a hard bargain is struck".

The Daily Mail is in no doubt what Mr Carney was suggesting: "Scotland could never be fully independent if it keeps the pound," it says, interpreting his comments as a warning that Edinburgh would have to surrender control of interest rates and agree to strict rules controlling tax and spending.

In its editorial the Times argues: "Scotland's independence campaigners should acknowledge to Scottish voters before the referendum on September 18 that fiscal policy would have, to some extent, to be shared."

The Daily Telegraph concludes: "Independence would not only leave the Scots in a materially precarious situation but, ironically, less free than before." Independent cartoonist Dave Brown captures that thought by sketching First Minister Alex Salmond collapsed on the floor in a kilt, his bagpipes punctured by Canadian Mountie Mr Carney's lance.

Supermarket King abdicates

The Daily Telegraph greets the announcement that the boss of Sainsbury's is to step down by noting that "Justin King is a Manchester United supporter and has battled with Tesco for the past decade, so he knows all about the challenges of succession."

However, it quotes him as saying he's "observed businesses where the leaders have stayed too long" and insisting he has not repeated the mistake. Describing a "pugnacious grocer who saved Sainsbury's bacon", Times business editor Ian King agrees he's leaving when "annual sales are up £10bn and underlying profits have trebled".

Daily Mail city editor Alex Brummer describes Mr King as "the supermarket boss with the market stallholder's gift of the gab, and an orange perma-tan and head of lustrous chestnut locks that look more suited to a daytime television presenter". But he reckons his successor will have a tough task, adding: "Christmas sales figures showed some of the momentum he had built up... was fading."

One shareholder, quoted in the Guardian, reckons it's "a great time to get out" and boss-in-waiting Mike Coupe says that after 30 years in the industry: "[Today's] trading conditions are among the most challenging we have seen."

The Financial Times offers Mr Coupe a "to-do" list, including defending Sainsbury's against hard discounters like Aldi and Lidl. Describing him as "the ultimate protege", the FT charts his career highs and lows, including a failed experiment to make Iceland's own-brand range organic and a spat with Tesco after the rival firm compared its "bog-standard bananas with Sainsbury's ethical fair trade ones".

No time to 'chillax'?

David Cameron's latest radio interview gives the papers food for thought but - rather than a verbal duel on the Today programme - it's a chat about pastimes with BBC Radio 2's Steve Wright that makes the headlines.

The PM is "far too tired to chillax", according to the Daily Telegraph, which recalls him saying that after a quick dinner and a chat with wife Samantha about the children's day, he manages half an hour in front of the telly before falling asleep.

It's Mr Cameron's choice of viewing that interests the Times, which says he's a fan of Elementary - a US reinvention of the Sherlock Holmes character.

Despite the PM saying it was difficult to escape his responsibilities, except while out jogging, Times sketchwriter Ann Treneman fears he's "spending too much time chillaxing", rather than too little.

She describes the "toasting over tax" he received at the hands of Ed Miliband at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

Asked if he would rule out cutting the income tax top rate to 40p, Mr Cameron "had what can only be called a lapse of concentration" and went silent, she says, adding: "Maybe... he'd had a little flashback about his favourite TV show."

Smoking and driving

Mail cartoonist Pugh has an idea how parents might evade a fine, if Labour's efforts to ban people from smoking in cars in the presence of children are successful.

He sketches a smoker puffing away while hurtling along a road with a youngster strapped to the roof.

The paper's columnist Stephen Glover admits he instinctively agreed with the ban until pondering how difficult it would be to enforce.

Then, he adds: "There are deeper philosophical reasons for resisting such legislation… important liberties are being ceded. Let's draw the line here, and trust parents and the good sense of ordinary people."

The Times's editorial accepts there are libertarian arguments but counters: "The liberty of adults cannot be respected at the expense of the health of children."

In its leader column, the Daily Express accepts there's a temptation to argue that the state has no business interfering further with smokers' rights.

But it says children need protection, adding: "What are the odds that in 20 years' time people will look back on the days when it was legal to smoke in a car in which a child is travelling and shake their heads in disbelief?"

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