Newspaper review: Flood concern and neknomination fear

  • 11 February 2014

While the heart-rending tales of human suffering brought about by the flooding which has affected swathes of southern England for more than six weeks continue to be told, many of Tuesday's papers latch onto the reported cabinet split over the government's handling of the problem.

Image caption The prime minister has come between Eric Pickles (l) and Owen Paterson (r) in the row

The Guardian leads on Prime Minister David Cameron's reported "exasperation" with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who has taken over leading the response while Environment Secretary Owen Paterson recovers from emergency eye surgery.

After publicly criticising the Environment Agency on Sunday over its efforts to deal with flooding, "a contrite" Mr Pickles appeared before the Commons to "lavish" praise, reports the paper..

Comments by the agency's chairman Lord Smith, that people who buy homes on flood plains should know the risk, lead the Daily Telegraph. It says Mr Cameron "refused to rule out sacking the peer once the flooding crisis is over".

But Beth Rigby, deputy political editor of the Financial Times, said the Environment Agency chairman's comments were "relatively innocuous". Reviewing the front pages on the BBC News Channel, she said his remarks were "sensible".

The writer and broadcaster John Kampfner, speaking on the same programme, said he was surprised at how little mention had been made about climate change during the flooding.

It was "pretty myopic" to say it was not "responsible at all", he said.


Image caption A swollen River Thames at Windsor has seen the Queen become a "victim", says the Sun

The Times dedicates its first seven pages to the continuing flooding - which now threatens to bring "significant" problems to the Thames Valley.

Reporter David Sanderson describes a "siege mentality" at Wraysbury, a village west of Heathrow Airport. While children off school enjoy playing in the water ("Peppa Pig would love it"), he finds locals who believe the creation of the Jubilee River has prevented the "gin and Jag" set of Windsor and Eton being flooded, but it's the communities downstream left "to sink or swim".

The Guardian finds itself with similar stories from just west of the UK capital, with residents saying that most of the help they received came from volunteers, not the authorities.

It also finds another news line among the flooded homes and business, as one elderly couple said they had warned Heathrow's owners that the surrounding land was not suitable for a third runway, given it was likely to flood.

Under the headline "Stormageddon", the Sun reports how two of the Queen's favourite servants have had to leave their grace-and-favour homes as the flooding Thames threatened Windsor. Queen's page Paul Whybrew and head housekeeper Rachel Gordon have been given somewhere to stay in Windsor Castle, it says.

The Daily Mail though is in campaigning mode, launching a petition calling for some cash from the UK's multi-billion pound overseas aid budget to be re-directed towards relief efforts here at home.

"Britain has given hundreds of millions in aid towards flood relief overseas," says its front-page leader column. "Now, our own people are enduring the misery."

Continuing on page two with a factbox detailing billions "squandered" on "vanity projects", the Mail's campaign receives support from UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

Lighting up struck down

Image caption One Conservative MP said the ban was "new Labour" coming into Parliament "to ban everything"

Many of the papers report the Commons giving ministers the power to ban smoking in cars where children are passengers, following a free vote by MPs.

"The law should stop parents directly harming their kids", is the Sun's conclusion in its leader column.

Noting that the measure caused divisions within the government, the Daily Mail says Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg voted against the ban, as did Home Secretary Theresa May and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. Chancellor George Osborne supported it, as did Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The Daily Telegraph reports that while David Cameron missed the Commons vote because he was touring flooded parts of south-west England, he changed his mind and supported the ban.

The Guardian says the "confused government" position is reminiscent of plans to bring in plain packaging for cigarettes, which the Conservatives backed, then dropped, then said would be adopted if there was proof it would work.

Among the more vocal opponents of the ban was Conservative Philip Davies. While much of his ire was aimed at Labour's health spokeswoman Luciana Berger, Mr Davies had much to say about supporters of a ban among his fellow MPs, arguing the party used to believe in the rights of the individual to do as they please.

And the Daily Express says another Tory MP, Charles Walker, told the Commons a ban risked "criminalising" good parents.

Oui, ja, si, to migrants curb

Image caption Some say the Swiss shouldn't be steamrollered into accepting more EU migrants

Several papers report on Switzerland's decision to curb immigration from the EU, both in the news pages and the leader columns.

The Daily Telegraph's report says Berne is on a collision course with Brussels, with the EU, Germany and France angry at the 50.3% vote by Swiss citizens in favour of an immigration quota.

While Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it enjoys preferential access to the bloc, and is often cited by British Eurosceptics when arguing for the UK to leave the European Union but to continue to trade with it.

Page 12 of the Daily Express is given over to a column by political commentator Ross Clark, who suggests the vote means the open borders argument "has no democratic legitimacy", while the Swiss people have called for controlled immigration "to distinguish... who are likely to benefit the economy and those who won't".

The Times says around 80,000 EU citizens settle in Switzerland each year and with the UK and Netherlands talking about curbing the free movement of labour, Brussels is "likely to propose severe consequences to deter an unravelling of a principle it holds sacred".

The Daily Mail reports the views of think tank Open Europe, whose spokesman Pawel Swidlicki tells the papers that the Swiss move "would galvanise proponents of a British [EU] exit" but opponents would question if Britain could continue to enjoy full access to the single market.

Neknomination condemnation

Image caption Neknomination videos are often posted on Facebook

Almost every British national newspaper on Tuesday covers neknomination.

This is a craze which involves participants filming themselves drinking alcohol - "necking" - nominating someone to follow them and then posting a video of them carrying out the dare on Facebook - according to the Guardian.

The Sun leads on one such neknomination: a soldier who carried the coffin of the former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at her funeral filmed himself dressed in a leotard drinking a beer containing two live goldfish.

Other papers report the first deaths supposedly from neknominations in the UK.

Stephen Brookes, 29, and Isaac Richardson, 20, died within hours of each other on Sunday after posting online videos of themselves drinking pints of spirits, reports the Times.

Mr Brookes mother Paula told the Sun: "We don't want to see any more victims of this craze."

Some of Mr Brookes's friends have started a Facebook group called "Ban NekNominate", which has more than 600 members, says the Daily Mail.

Making people click

Daily Mail - Swamped by the Thames: Shocking aerial images show wide-scale flooding

The Times - Minsters squabble as Thames floods up to 1,000 homes

Daily Telegraph - 'Abortion will make women child sex abusers' independent clinics warn

The Guardian - 'Dumb Starbucks': Comedian Nathan Fielder reveals he set up parody store

Daily Mirror - Neknominate victim's heartbroken father pleads with youngsters not to take part in deadly internet craze

Independent - The most amazing skeleton helmets at Sochi Olympics 2014