Migrant 'flood', leaving Camp Bastion and a 'Workers' Party to rival Labour'

  • 2 April 2014

A report from campaign group MigrationWatch UK predicting 500,000 newcomers will arrive within five years makes the front pages of both the Daily Express and Daily Mail.

The Mail combines the story with a startling sequence of images showing people risking their lives to clamber aboard trucks near the French port of Calais.

However, the paper quotes MigrationWatch figures claiming that even migrants who come to the UK legally from the EU can boost their income by nearly £300 per week, thanks to tax credits and housing benefit.

The vital question, it says, is "how our welfare state, NHS, schools and housing can be expected to cope with EU migrants adding a new city the size of Manchester to the population every four years".

For the Express: "The fact is that until we leave the EU we will never get a grip on immigration."

That's exactly what UKIP Leader Nigel Farage will be supporting during his televised debate with LibDem counterpart Nick Clegg on Wednesday evening. And the former has "suffered a setback" ahead of the event, according to the Independent. It reports poll results suggesting that 40% of people view him as "a danger to Britain".

The Guardian says Mr Clegg is "determined to show a more emotional side" in this week's debate, having admitted he became bogged down in statistics during the first.

How that might affect the verdict delivered by the Independent's poll - that suggested 42% of people thought Mr Clegg was "out of his depth" - remains to be seen.

Afghan exit

A photograph of a British servicewoman removing the sign from the 7 Armoured Brigade Headquarters in Afghanistan's Helmand Province is used large across the Daily Telegraph's front page.

Marking how British forces ceded control of Camp Bastion after eight years, the paper describes the "last battle" as the "vast operation to bring back thousands of tons of equipment". It gives space to Task Force Helmand's last commander to describe his pride at the growing professionalism of the Afghan troops trained by his personnel.

Deborah Haynes, in the Times, describes how a combat mission which had cost 448 British lives ended with the sounds of pipes and a "simple handshake", as a new US chief of forces took charge.

In the Sun, former Foreign Secretary David Miliband warns the international community against turning its back on the Afghan people, saying it must "redouble humanitarian efforts".

The paper agrees that more aid cash is needed, arguing in its editorial: "It's not just a leg-up for the Afghan people. It's to ensure that so much 'blood and treasure' spent by the Allies there since 2001 does not go to waste... Even after Our Boys come home, we must continue to bear our share of that cost until Afghanistan is fully back on its feet."

Roger Boyes, in the Times, argues that the plan to keep 10,000 US and 200 British troops in the country after the official exit date at the end of the year is wrong: "If wars are to stand up to historical scrutiny, they have to be ended properly... When soldiers linger on after the end of a war, fulfilling a half-baked mission, they end up poisoning the political environment."

The Telegraph's editorial says that to make the troops' sacrifices worthwhile, Washington must agree a bilateral security agreement with Kabul so that Afghanistan does not "slip back to its old ways and become a safe haven" for al-Qaeda.

Friends like these

Demands from the leader of Britain's biggest union that Labour's Ed Miliband present a "coherent vision" of an alternative to coalition austerity before next year's election make several newspapers.

And the Independent interprets Len McCluskey's comments that he could envisage the Unite union disaffiliating from Labour as a threat to launch a rival "Workers' Party lavishly backed by union money". The paper says that would result in the "most significant split since a group of Labour MPs broke away to form the Social Democratic Party in 1981, dividing the anti-Tory vote in half".

Times sketchwriter Ann Treneman describes Mr McCluskey explaining that he didn't want to say "too many controversial things". She writes: "It was a 'tightrope' that he had to walk. Then he proceeded to dive off the tightrope in quite spectacular fashion."

"With friends like Len McCluskey, Ed needs no enemies," reckons the Telegraph's Michael Deacon.

Sun, smog and sand

The Times envisages extreme winters being more reliably predicted, thanks to Met Office forecasters "cracking the formula" to predict long-range weather. "The breakthrough may have a substantial impact on the economy, allowing power companies and wind farms to anticipate energy demands while airports and councils can estimate how much grit and anti-freeze is likely to be required," it reports.

However, the paper does recall the "acute embarrassment" at the national weather service in 2009 after its prediction of a "barbecue summer" was followed by a washout.

For the time being, the Daily Star is content to enjoy the "Costa del Britain", noting that temperatures in parts of the UK will hit 23C (73F) on Wednesday. Still, its cartoonist envisages hazards ahead, picturing a man sunbathing in his garden as a swarm of mosquitoes makes a beeline for his bare skin. The paper says the winter's floods have created "ideal breeding grounds" for dengue fever-carrying Asian Tiger mosquitoes, brought to Europe in ships' cargo.

Another danger is highlighted by the Express. It says Britain is on health alert as "a cloud of toxic smog threatens to descend over the country". Dust being blown from the Sahara desert will mix with pollution from the continent and toxins present in the air to create "one of the worst smogs this year". A light wind will be unable to shift it and people with health conditions like asthma are being warned to stay indoors, it says.

Meanwhile, the Independent is among the papers reporting criticism of the BBC for creating "false balance" by allowing too much airtime to "unqualified climate change sceptics". Its editorial column argues: "Climate change is not a matter of politics... science is not an opinion, and should not be treated as such."

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