Nigel Evans sex claims, Cheryl Cole's X Factor return and Malaysia jet theories

Nigel Evans, centre, is photographed walking into court Image copyright AP

The sex abuse trial of ex-Commons Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans makes front pages, with the Independent and Guardian leading on the prosecution's assertion that senior Conservatives did not report concerns about his behaviour.

The jury was told they instead warned him of his behaviour, told him to seek help for his drinking, come out as gay and apologise, reports the Daily Telegraph. Mr Evans, who was elected deputy speaker after the 2010 election, denies rape and a string of sexual assault charges.

Meanwhile, the Sun claims an "X Clusive" by reporting that Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Cole is to return to her former role as a judge on the X Factor. The paper, which charts the singer's career ups and downs, declares her best of "frenemies" with boss Simon Cowell, with the pair having "rebuilt their relationship" after he fired her from the US version of the show in 2011.

Head of showbiz Dan Wootton said Cowell knew he "needed the nation's sweetheart beside him to have any hope of making X Factor TV's No 1 show again".

Mystery jet

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With no sign yet of the Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared at the weekend, the papers examine what might have become of flight MH370.

According to the Daily Mirror, police are searching for an Iranian man known only as "Mr Ali" who's said to have bought the tickets for two men who boarded using stolen passports.

Jason Middleton, writing in the Independent, says these two passengers "might be complicit, or might be irrelevant". He adds: "A terrorist might have packed sufficient plastic explosives, then set these off in the area just rear of the cockpit, with the result being both loss of systems and possibly pilots".

Philip Baum, who edits industry magazine Aviation Security International, writes in the Daily Mail that he's "convinced" the flight's disappearance is the work of terrorists and suggests the East Turkestan Islamic Movement could be responsible.

However, the Times quotes a "senior diplomatic source" as suggesting the men were "migrants, not terrorists" and that the incident might have thrown light on a "weak spot" in efforts to stop illegal immigration into Europe, now that Beijing no longer requires passengers in transit to hold a Chinese visa.

The Guardian focuses on a Malaysian official's suggestion that the pair resembled former Manchester City footballer Mario Balotelli when suggesting they were "not Asian looking", while the Daily Express says officials from 10 countries are participating in the search.

The Sun reels off a list of conspiracy theories, including one that Vietnamese fighters escorted the plane to a secret location as part of a counter-terrorism investigation, that a fighter jet crashed into the airliner, or that the Vietnamese army "blasted it out of the sky". Others, it says, believe hijackers could be holding passengers and crew hostage at an abandoned airfield, while some reckon the plane was "abducted by aliens".

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph suggests the episode has prompted concerns about a lack of security at UK airports, citing Home Office figures that suggest the passport details of more than 20 million people entering and leaving the UK each year are not being properly checked.

No laughing matter?

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There's no love lost between the Liberal Democrats and their Conservative coalition colleagues, it seems. On its front page, the Daily Telegraph hears from the wife of Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable that she invited Tory Chancellor George Osborne and his wife to visit, during the coalition's "honeymoon days", but received no reply.

A page later, the paper reports that Lib Dem Local Government Minister Stephen Williams has branded Tory colleague Nick Boles "hyperactive and hated" and said that being compared to his Conservative boss Eric Pickles was "the most grievous possible insult". The Telegraph hears from a Conservative source who suggested Mr Williams thought he was commenting in an environment "not quite as public as it was" and that there "will be a chat" as a result.

Meanwhile, Daily Mail columnists poke fun at Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg's conference speech, with Richard Littlejohn turning it into a 2014 remix of "My Favourite Things" and Craig Brown joking that he praised everything British from the Curly Wurly to "comfy trousers".

Chris Roycroft-Davies, in the Daily Express, reckons Mr Clegg unwittingly got to the point of why the Lib Dems are so threatened by UKIP when he attacked its leader Nigel Farage as the "acceptable face" of the "politics of blame" and added that: "It wears a big smile and looks like someone you could have a pint with down the pub."

But the commentator asks: "Who would you be more likely to vote for: someone you would be comfortable having a pint with or a two-faced political huckster like Clegg who would look down his nose at you as he sipped a chilled glass of sancerre?"

UKIP does not escape press attention. The Guardian examines the party's "elusive" MEPs' voting records and financial claims, noting that in 2012 they recouped £370,000 for office costs and £420,000 in subsistence allowance and - in the same period - donated £400,000 of their own money to the party.

As the Independent sees it: "Ever the political opportunists, UKIP feed off an institution they despise." Meanwhile, the Daily Star hears from ex-party workers who describe the party's west London HQ as "utterly chaotic", with employees - as the paper puts it - "stripping off and bringing their own pets to work".

But - despite hearing how the party is run by the "cult of one personality" - that of Mr Farage - Rachel Sylvester, in the Times, warns rivals: "Don't laugh at UKIP - it's a serious force."

Bank 'raid'

The Financial Times sets out what it says are Labour's plans for a "£6bn tax raid on bankers and prime property owners" to fund election pledges including a job creation scheme.

It says "a political reckoning is coming" if Labour wins the next election and adds that the party is "looking towards the City with hungry eyes".

But the Daily Mail reports critics branding Labour's plan to "guarantee" jobs for every young person as "pie in the sky". The paper's editorial column describes the scheme as the "same failed answer to unemployment, rehashed in 100 guises over the decades".

The Daily Telegraph notes that Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls plans to restrict tax relief on pension contributions to 20p, for those who pay the 45p top rate of income tax. "To target pensions yet again - as Gordon Brown did in his first budget in 1997 - sends a clear message across the income spectrum: don't bother to accumulate any savings because the government will eventually come after them."

The paper's cartoonist, Adams, sketches Mr Balls as a masked raider sneaking into a bank and snatching the pension savings of an elderly woman.

Striking gold

Images of Paralympic athlete Kelly Gallagher, who became the first Briton to win skiing gold at a Winter Games with her first place - guided by Charlotte Evans - in the Super-G in Sochi, appear on the front pages of the Times and the Guardian.

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The Daily Mirror calls the pair "winter wonders". Its editorial column says: "[Kelly] and Britain's other medallists are an inspiration, proving how with help and encouragement those among us with disabilities can reach extraordinary heights."

Alex Lowe, in the Times, prints the lines of a song Gallagher sang to Evans at the top of the slope - a method of relaxing herself - which begin "if you gave me a chance I would take it" and describes how prescient the lyrics turned out to be.

Forty-eight hours before climbing on the top step of the podium, he notes, they had finished last in the downhill race - "a result that left Evans a 'blubbering wreck' and shattered Gallagher's confidence".

The Independent pictures the pair with Jade Etherington and guide Caroline Powell, who claimed bronze in the same race, and who had won silver in the downhill previously.

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