'Shameless' Knox and PM's EU 'blow' - the papers
- 1 February 2014
Amanda Knox features on a number of front pages for the second day in a row after her acquittal for the murder of Meredith Kercher was reversed.
Education stories are the leads of choice for two of Saturday's broadsheets. The Daily Telegraph says English is no longer the main language for the majority of children in more than one in nine schools, while the Times claims children aged just four are to face classroom tests.
David Cameron and the latest round of combat in his EU battle is the top story for the Financial Times - it feels the PM has been dealt "a double blow" by events on Friday.
Discussing the papers for the BBC News Channel, journalist and campaigner David Akinsanya said he was unhappy with the idea of testing children at the age of four.
"It does fill me with horror. I really think that childhood is being overtaken by education," he said, adding: "It's going to make children and parents feel inadequate if they're not up to scratch."
But Kate Devlin, political correspondent at the Herald, said: "The latest educational tests show that we are starting to slip behind in terms of global standards, so it is difficult if you're the education secretary.
"You do want to do something and all the experts say that if you intervene earlier you do get the better results."
EU 'double blow'
On Friday, the House of Lords killed off the bill designed to enshrine an EU referendum in law. Earlier, French President Francois Hollande made it clear he wasn't about to throw his support behind David Cameron's planned renegotiation of the EU's rules.
The Daily Mirror says the bill was always "a ruse" because it would never have been binding on MPs elected at the next election. And it adds: "Unelected peers pulling the plug on a PR scam was a messy end to a tawdry attempt at managing divisions within a split Tory party."
The Daily Express, no friend of Brussels, thinks the Lords "have played host to the cynical slaughtering of a measure designed to restore democratic sovereignty to the British people".
Very similar sentiment in the Sun, which says Labour and Lib Dem peers "do not trust us not to want out. So they won't give us a say". The paper feels "this disdain for democracy is a common theme from Ed Miliband's would-be government".
Mr Hollande's comment that "revising the treaty is not a priority... was French for 'You've got to be joking'," says the Independent's leader. It believes Mr Cameron "has many good ideas about reforming the EU... but as was proved yesterday, he does not have enough powerful allies in Europe to ensure that his ambitions have a good chance of being realised."
Away from the serious political ramifications, the papers have fun with the meeting between David Cameron and Francois Hollande - including their somewhat awkward Oxfordshire pub lunch.
David Cameron "wanted a warm beer" with his lunch, says George Parker, in the Financial Times, but "instead President Hollande opted for a glass of French wine... and a bucket of cold water over the prime minister's plans".
The Guardian says the tete-a-tete "almost hit the wrong note before even starting" when the British PM suggested talks take place at Blenheim Palace - only to realise "this was named after the Battle of Blenheim, the Duke of Marlborough's victory over France in 1704".
"For a pub lunch, it was a cut above the average, but then so were the diners," writes the Daily Telegraph. It is also proud of its own senior political correspondent - "fearless seeker of truth" - Christopher Hope, who dared ask Mr Hollande about his alleged affair. "Damn those insolent English hacks with their questions and their nosiness! Why couldn't they show proper deference to their betters?" it writes.
Quentin Letts, of the Daily Mail, calls Hope's question - about, as he puts it, "le legeauver" - "one of the great diplomatic custard pies of our age". It was, he says, "As moments go, a bit of a bottom-clencher. But one to cherish." And how did the PM react? Throughout, Letts says, he "doodled, jolly, jolly hard".
As Amanda Knox appears in the papers once again following her reinstated guilty verdict, it is her appearance which several commentators focus on.
Alison Phillips, in the Daily Mirror, says Knox "is clearly desperate to shed the image of 'Foxy Knoxy'... and her expensive legal and PR team will have advised her that brown bobbed hair, brown shirt and specs is a far better look in trying to persuade the public you are innocent than the scarlet lipstick and plunging neckline look of her [earlier] Daybreak appearance".
"Troubled But Bookish Student, I think, was the look she was aiming for this time," writes Jan Moir, in the Daily Mail. "She tucked her hair behind her ear with the air of a wounded antelope astounded to find itself on the lion's lunch menu."
Peter Popham, though, in the Independent, takes a very different view of the story. "Sensational reporting of facts that are intrinsically unsensational is at the root of the mess that Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito find themselves in," he writes. Listing factors such as the now infamous kissing after the murder and the splits Knox reportedly did in the police station, he says: "The baseless smears with which the first prosecution filled the Italian media, eagerly recycled in the British tabloids, became what everyone 'knows'."
The departure of Andy Flower as England cricket coach prompts much discussion.
"Flower leaves with a huge amount of credit in the bank" following three successive Ashes wins, says Mike Selvey, in the Guardian, "but in the great scheme of things no one is better than their most recent efforts."
"Someone had to take responsibility for the winter of a gruesome Ashes whitewash... and so it is Flower, an impressive leader of immense dignity and with a record of high success until the endless failure of this tour," writes Jim Holden, in the Daily Express.
Several writers, including John Etheridge in the Sun, focus on controversial batsman Kevin Pietersen. Etheridge says he "is still facing the England axe" despite the resignation of his "nemesis".
Former England captain Mike Atherton agrees. Writing in the Times, he says "a new coach... would be within his rights to decide that the circus surrounding Pietersen has been damaging enough and decide to take the England team in a different direction".
Atherton's successor, Michael Vaughan, tells the Daily Telegraph his ideal successors for Flower. Former England all-rounder Paul Collingwood is one of them - "He has too good a cricket brain to be put to service by someone else." The other, Vaughan thinks, should be Gary Kirsten, former coach of both India and South Africa.
The Office for National Statistics says real wages in the UK have been dropping consistently since 2010 - the longest period of falls since at least 1964.
"Declining wages are a price we pay for Mr Cameron's austerity," thinks the Daily Mirror. And "any union putting in a demand for a big increase will immediately be labelled greedy", it adds.
The Sun, by contrast, lays blame with Mr Cameron's predecessor. It says Gordon Brown's "big spending government left us defenceless" when the financial crisis hit: "Sensible people accept such times were never going to make them richer."
"Recovery or not, poverty is now set to deepen," argues the Guardian's leader column. It says lower income groups "will fare much worse over the post recession period", belying the suggestion that we're all in this together.
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