'Foxy Knoxy', a weather prayer and Commons chaos make headlines

  • 31 January 2014

Photographs of Amanda Knox are once again on newspaper front pages, with the Guardian's Simon Hattenstone securing an exclusive interview with her shortly before an Italian court gave its verdict in her murder case.

Pondering a guilty verdict, she reportedly said: "It would feel like a train wreck." Shortly afterwards, she was for a second time found guilty of murdering British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, northern Italy, in 2007. During the interview, she described the difficulties she'd had coping with life since her first sentence was quashed on appeal: "I don't even know what my place is any more... Who am I, after everybody has branded me?"

On the Daily Mail's front page she remains "Foxy Knoxy", the nickname she's said to have earned playing football. To the Daily Telegraph, which recounts the "seven-year saga" from Miss Kercher's death to Thursday evening's verdict, she's a "fugitive for life", having remained in the US while the appeal court heard her case.

Nick Richardson, a London Review of Books editor, writes in the Guardian that "we became innocentisti or colpevisti - the Italian media's terms for those who think [Knox and co-accused Raffaele Sollecito] are innocent, and those who don't - before we had a right to be either", adding that people allowed prejudices to shape their judgement.

Reviewing the papers for the BBC News Channel, author Rachel Shabi said: "The opinions that are formed aren't really anything to do with facts or evidence. It's just 'do we like [Knox] or don't we'. There's a lot of slurs about her that have nothing to do with the case."

The Sun's chief political correspondent Kevin Schofield added: "The focus often, as far as newspapers are concerned, is on Amanda Knox and it's very easy to forget the family of Meredith Kercher. For seven years they've had to put up with this nightmare."

Commons chaos

Parliamentary sketchwriters enjoy the "chaos" that unfolded in the Commons on Thursday, as a Conservative backbench rebellion "prompted retreat" from the prime minister, as the Financial Times puts it.

The rebels wanted an amendment to the government's Immigration Bill to make it harder for foreign criminals to avoid deportation. Ann Treneman, in the Times, said Home Secretary Theresa May "spoke forever, appearing to be filibustering her own bill", insisting the amendment could actually hamper deportations by leaving them subject to legal challenge.

Meanwhile, Treneman writes, the Tory whips were frantic: "We saw more whip action in the House of Commons than ever was felt in the Room of Pain in 50 Shades of Grey." In spite of this, David Cameron was absent and Mrs May refused to say whether she would vote for or against the amendment.

"It fell to Tory hardliner Peter Bone to bring members up to speed," says the Guardian's Hugh Muir, quoting the MP as saying: "The BBC is reporting that the prime minister supports [the rebels'] aim and has ordered his ministers not to oppose it." So Mrs May and Tory MPs loyal to the government abstained, while the amendment was defeated because most of the opposition supported the home secretary's argument.

As Michael Deacon, in the Daily Telegraph, puts it: "More significant than the result, was the impression of chaos at the top of the Tory party... David Cameron abstained but still lost."

The Sun agrees that the PM "had a shocker", while the Daily Mirror's Tom McTague reckons he's "running scared of his own MPs". For the Daily Express, it was "an immigration farce that insults the British people".

There was one winner on the day, according to the Daily Mail: the man who lost the vote "but won our attention" by putting forward the amendment, Dominic Raab. "A future cabinet minister," is the verdict of the paper's Quentin Letts. Donald MacIntyre, in the Independent, agrees he's the "man of the moment".

But not everyone is so impressed. One Tory MP quoted in the Financial Times grumbles: "There is a real issue here about grown-upness, and whether his behaviour is appropriate."

'Floody warfare'

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It's not often a national newspaper encourages readers to join it in prayer but that's exactly what the Sun does in a bid to force a change in the weather. It enlists the help of a "Vicar of Dribbly" - alias Rev Susan Evans of St Medard's Church, Lincs - to say: "Dear Lord, we've had enough."

According to the Sun, St Medard is the "Patron Saint of good weather". Reporter Rhodri Phillips explains that Medard earned the title thanks to a legend that he was walking in fields in sixth Century France when God "sent an eagle to protect him from the rain".

The Mail, it seems, doesn't share the faith, suggesting Somerset could be in for "20 years of misery", after Environment Secretary Owen Paterson admitted a "proper plan" was needed for the area. And the Guardian is even less upbeat, quoting flood analysts as saying humans must "retreat" from areas which can no longer be defended from water as climate change takes effect.

"Floody warfare," is how the Daily Star describes the situation, as Army and Royal Navy staff were sent by the prime minister to aid recovery efforts. However, the Times notes, the military was soon "dismissed" because the local council believes the fire brigade can cope.

Daily Express cartoonist Paul Thomas at least finds some grim humour in the situation, depicting a border collie herding sheep into a watery fold from a kayak.

School days

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For a second day there's much talk of school hours. The Sun follows up Thursday's exclusive - suggesting that the Conservatives are contemplating introducing a nine-hour school day - by commissioning a poll which finds 45% of people back the idea, against 37% who oppose it.

The Daily Mirror gives Campaign for Real Education chairman Chris McGovern space to offer his support, saying: "It's going to benefit those kids who really need it - those from deprived backgrounds who don't get parental support." However, former children's laureate Michael Rosen argues: "What the government almost certainly have in mind is cramming. Their idea of a good education seems to be stuffing empty heads full of things they think are important."

The plan would reportedly reduce the number of weeks' holiday in the school year to seven. And the debate about whether it's right to take children out of school during term-time, sparked by one man's Facebook rebellion, continues in the Mail.

On Thursday, it reported that some holidays will more than double in price during next month's half-term. A day later, the Mail finds parents furious that a Cheshire school governor posted snaps online of him enjoying a holiday with his children, who he took out of class to save £5,000 on a break. "What he's done has made a mockery of the school," one complains.

The Sun's Katie Hopkins reckons she has a simple solution, courtesy of the Germans: "Stagger holidays to keep prices reasonable," she says.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail records the "end of an era". It reports that a Coventry company, Cash's - which has for 140 years made woven nametapes to be sewn into school uniforms, has gone into administration.

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