NHS drug fears, Nick Clegg 'woos Labour', North Korea horror and Salmond's speech

  • 18 February 2014

Both the Daily Mail and Daily Express have more on the concerns raised by the head of the NHS drugs commissioning body that new proposals could see elderly patients denied access to life-saving medicine.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is being asked to consider the "wider societal benefit" of drugs before recommending them for distribution to patients. The Mail says the body fears it could see younger people "deemed a higher priority... because they have more years ahead of them".

Mail columnist Melissa Kite says the consultation takes us into "a deeply uncomfortable dystopian world".

"Some of us may well sympathise with the notion that a seven-year-old with their whole life ahead of them should receive life-saving treatment before a 99-year-old," she says, adding: "By making it official policy, and thereby casting it in stone, we would be entering very dangerous waters."

In its editorial, the Daily Express argues: "Although the NHS is constricted by its access to funds, turning our backs on the elderly because they are less likely to head out to work is not the sort of thing any decent person could ever countenance. This is especially the case when drugs would be denied to elderly patients who have paid into the system all their lives."

Getting 'into bed'?

According to the Times, the Liberal Democrats are looking ahead to a further spell as a coalition government partner by "abandoning manifesto policies that would be opposed by both Labour and the Tories". They want to avoid a repeat of the "debacle" over tuition fees, the paper says.

The Financial Times sees the party preparing an economic agenda with Labour, and examines how Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Ed Balls have softened their language towards each other during the course of the current parliament.

"The Madame Fifi of British politics is at it again," says the Mail. "During the frantic Coalition talks of 2010, this paper lampooned Nick Clegg for fluttering his eyelashes first at David Cameron, then at Gordon Brown, in his eagerness to sell his principles... for a ministerial job. Now he's hitching his skirt coquettishly at [Labour leader] Ed Miliband."

That's the image sketched by Daily Telegraph cartoonist Adams. He pictures Mr Clegg in a flowing yellow dress in Downing Street, showing Mr Miliband the key to No 10 tucked into his stockings. Ross Clark, writing in the Daily Express, says Mr Clegg will regret "jumping into bed with Labour". He says: "He will find a party whose supporters are becoming nervous about its anti-business stance and its determination to soak the rich."

The Times's editorial suggests Mr Clegg could end up "losing support in rural strongholds in southern England". It adds: "This would compound the risks he already faces in urban, northern and Scottish seats because of his alliance with the Conservatives".

However, the Daily Mirror reports that Mr Miliband has already snubbed the offer, while the Sun has worse news for the Lib Dem leader: Labour is planning a "full-on assault" to win his seat at the next election, it says.

The real North Korea?

The Guardian leads on the contents of a United Nations report that it says compares North Korea to the regime in Nazi Germany in describing "systematic and appalling human rights abuses against its own citizens".

And the paper highlights some of the most disturbing findings, including evidence from one young woman who told the UN commission she saw a mother drown her baby shortly after birth on the orders of a prison guard.

Another former prisoner - Kim Song-ju, who's now resident in Britain - is quoted in the Daily Telegraph. He describes how a man was ordered to put his hand through a hole in his cell wall, only for guards to beat it until it was so misshapen he was unable to draw it back through. The Daily Mail has the story of a woman who saw three generations of her family thrown into a labour camp after she was reported for "gossiping" about former leader Kim Jong-il.

His son, the current leader Kim Jong-un, will find a way to use the report to attack the west, writes political scientist Natasha Ezrow in the Daily Mirror: "He has used attacks on him in the past to bolster his support among regime hard-liners and to convince the rest of the population that the world is against the entire country."

The chances of seeing him brought to justice are remote, says the Independent, given that his "sole ally" China would be likely to veto the creation of a tribunal to oversee the matters. "So long as the Kim regime has China's backing, little will change. It is not the judges in The Hague that must act on this harrowing report, then. It is the politicians in Beijing."

However, says the Times's analysis, China is too fearful of "war and chaos" on the Korean peninsula. "Almost everything, from China's view, is better than regime collapse in Pyongyang, which means that while Beijing's influence there may be greater than anyone else's, it is consistently neutralised by caution."

Powers of persuasion

After Alex Salmond responded to Chancellor George Osborne's suggestion that an independent Scotland could not keep the pound, the Financial Times views sees Edinburgh's First Minister "reassuring Scots" that it could. It contrasts what he and Mr Osborne have each said about the currency, the economy and jobs, as well as what Mr Salmond said in response to European Commission president Jose Manual Barroso's suggestion that an independent Scotland would find it "difficult, if not impossible" to join the EU.

Both the Confederation of British Industry and Institute of Directors have warned that a Sterling currency union - as suggested by Mr Salmond - would be "unstable", the Guardian reports.

In its editorial, the Daily Telegraph says: "Mr Salmond cannot spend the next seven months assuring Scottish voters that they merely have to have faith in his post-referendum powers of persuasion, rather than concerning themselves with the possibility (indeed probability) that his opponents are perfectly serious."

However, as former BBC correspondent Angus Roxburgh - writing in the Guardian - sees it, the "scaremongering has begun". He says: "Nothing infuriates me more than the rising torrent of unsubstantiated 'facts' being presented by opponents of independence, serving no purpose other than to intimidate."

Despite the heated words, Gideon Rachman writes in the FT that the referendum process is "remarkable" in its consensual and peaceful nature. It could be a "model for how to handle separatism", he says.

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