Missing jet 'farce', Nigel Farage 'affair' and Miliband's 'cowardly' EU stance

  • 13 March 2014
Satellite image showing what Chinese officials believe may be the wreckage of an aircraft

With no firm evidence of the whereabouts of flight MH370, the papers continue to speculate as to what might have become of the Malaysia Airlines jet.

The Daily Mirror reproduces a photograph taken by a Chinese satellite which, it says, "appears to show the silvery outline of plane wreckage floating in the South China Sea" and asks if it could be the lost plane. It also prints an image featuring another "hazy outline of a plane", spotted by one of 500,000 volunteers who are scanning satellite shots posted on a website.

The Times says a US aviation watchdog had warned that Boeing 777s, like the missing Malaysia jet, could be susceptible to a loss of cabin pressure or cracks developing in the fuselages. It quotes a transportation inspector saying it "would make perfect sense" that such a development might have caused MH370 to lose communications ability.

However, the BBC News Channel's paper reviewers were sceptical about the theories. Daily Telegraph media writer Neil Midgley pointed out that Boeing had said the cracking only occurred in planes with a particular satellite antenna not used on the Malaysian plane. And, looking at the satellite image on the front of the Mirror, the Times columnist Jenni Russell wondered: "How can anyone tell from this?"

For the Independent, which records the anger of families still waiting for reliable facts after five days, the search has turned "farcical". Meanwhile, the Daily Star notes that a British man convicted for his part in a shoe bomb plot in 2002 told a US court that he'd passed one of his shoes to a Malaysian group a year earlier, and wonders if there is a link to the current situation.

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Farage scrutiny

Nigel Farage

"Did UKIP with your aide Nige?" is what the Sun's asking on its front page.

It's following up questions directed at UKIP leader Nigel Farage by a former colleague in the European parliament, who suggested that he was using taxpayers' money to employ his wife and former mistress.

The paper quotes both Mr Farage and Annabelle Fuller, a party press officer, strenuously denying any affair. Mr Farage accused his inquisitor, Nikki Sinclaire, of using parliamentary privilege - which protects speakers from being sued for slander - to peddle "malicious gossip", and suggested she was bitter about her previous failure to be elected UKIP leader.

As the Daily Mirror sees it, Mr Farage was "done up like a UKIPPER". Meanwhile, the Daily Mail hears from Kirsten Farage, Nigel's wife, who reportedly said: "Nigel's just on his way back from Strasbourg and we will be discussing it tonight." The paper translates that into a headline reading: "Just wait till you get home, Mr Farage."

Judith Woods, in the Telegraph, wonders "why any hot crumpet would be partial to Nigel", before answering her own question by revealing: "He is charismatic and irreverent, passionate (however misguided one may believe his passions are), energetic and funny, attributes that women notoriously find more attractive than a chiselled jaw."

She also reports the results of a survey by an "extra-marital dating site" suggesting that "25.6% of philandering British women would conduct an affair with Mr Farage", as opposed to 13.5% who would "countenance a tryst with David Cameron".

In its opinion column, the Sun says this is "the sort of scrutiny Mr Farage can increasingly expect now his party looks a credible Euro election force".

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Ed's case

Ed Miliband near an EU flag

The papers do their best to interpret Labour leader Ed Miliband's latest speech, in which he said a Labour government would hold a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union - but only if there were proposals for a treaty change that would transfer more powers from Westminster to Europe. He rated the chances of this "highly unlikely".

As the Times, which says it's a "great shame" he didn't support a referendum, interprets things: "Mr Miliband does not want a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union. But he does not want people to think he is opposed to a referendum." Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph argues that "the result is a practical and intellectual nonsense that will delight the Conservative Party, please UKIP and profoundly damage Labour".

The Daily Mail accuses Mr Miliband of trying to "have it both ways" and criticises his "feeble attempt" to placate the Eurosceptic wing of his party. It says: "The leader of the 'people's party' shows his contempt for the people - who, in poll after poll, have demanded a say." Daily Express columnist Leo McKinstry agrees that Mr Miliband's decision "shows he doesn't trust the British public". The respondents of a YouGov commissioned by the Sun would also seem to agree, with just 32% agreeing with his policy and 42% viewing it as "cowardly".

However, the Financial Times believes Mr Miliband has played a "shrewd hand" and has "articulated a position that is more pragmatic and in the interests of business than that of his Conservative opponents". David Aaronovitch, in the Times, agrees, saying: "Why, unless there is a specific and new reason for a referendum, should a government put the stability of the economy and business investment temporarily at hazard... [and] spend a year campaigning one way or the other?"

The Independent also believes the Labour leader was right to rule out a 2017 referendum but "for all the wrong reasons". It says: "He seems to have calculated that business support is more important than 'letting people have their say', and was rewarded with the blessing of [business group] the CBI".

Whatever people think of Labour's stance, the Daily Telegraph argues: "Mr Miliband's approach is fatuous... How would people vote if they objected to the changes yet were otherwise happy for Britain to remain in the EU? Effectively, Mr Miliband is offering either more Europe or no Europe."

Telegraph cartoonist Matt sums things up by picturing a man telling a doctor: "I get these blinding headaches every time Ed Miliband clarifies something."

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War stories

Imprisoned RAF airmen at Stalag Luft III

After the release of nearly 4,000 World War One soldiers' diaries from the National Archives, the Guardian finds an "almost swashbuckling" tone, particularly in an account of a 1917 attack on German lines by the Indian army's Mhow Cavalry Brigade using swords and lances.

The Daily Mail is impressed by the "timber Tommies" - wooden cut-outs made to resemble live soldiers on the move - which were positioned above trenches to trick the enemy into opening fire in one area and leave them vulnerable to attack from another direction.

However, the Daily Telegraph reckons the contents of one intelligence briefing could have been "a plot from the BBC comedy series Blackadder Goes Forth", saying that officers had suspected two cats and a dog of spying for the Germans because they had "been in the habit of crossing our trenches at night".

Meanwhile, the Telegraph hears from two World War Two veterans who were imprisoned by Germans at Stalag Luft III - pictured above - from where a mass breakout was later immortalised in the film The Great Escape.

While the mission has since been criticised as a "waste of life", given 50 of the 76 escapees were executed and only three made it home, Jack Lyon - who helped the men sneak out - tells the paper: "It did do a lot for morale, particularly for those prisoners who had been there for a long time. They felt they were able to contribute something, even if they weren't able to get out."

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Making people click

Daily Mail: Gay theatre student who claimed he was beaten by homophobic thugs admits he got his injuries when he fell over (and WON'T face action for wasting police time)

Times: The only way is up: how London's skyline is about to change for ever

Daily Telegraph: Statins 'have no side-effects'

Financial Times: Herbalife hit by US 'pyramid scheme' probe