Coalition's Church 'split', Barclays AGM 'anger' and crime data debate in the papers

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg Image copyright PA

A call by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg for there to be a separation between the Church of England and the state is picked up by Friday's newspapers.

In the Guardian, Patrick Wintour points out that Mr Clegg's comments were a "view he has expressed before". But he said they were "likely to gain fresh currency", coming a week after David Cameron sparked a debate by insisting that the UK remained a "Christian country".

Speaking on his weekly radio phone-in programme, Mr Clegg said he agreed with the prime minister's assertion but it would be "better" in the "long run" if the Queen was not the head of the Church.

According to the Daily Telegraph, he "became the most senior politician of modern times to propose the disestablishment of the Church" and his comments "divided the Coalition".

The Times too portrays Mr Clegg's statement as evidence of there being a "Coalition split" over the issue, reporting that Downing Street was quick to reject the remarks.

It adds that Mr Clegg, an atheist, "stepped into the growing debate" just as the Archbishop of Canterbury joined the prime minister in a "staunch defence of Christian Britain".

The issue also attracts the attention of the leader writers, with the Times saying the relationship between church and state was "irrational and anachronistic" but a "fudge that works rather well".

The Daily Telegraph sees Mr Clegg's intervention as "so odd", saying Britain is a "Christian country in the best sense: pluralistic, tolerant yet united by common moral values".

'Hard-won victory'

The latest crime figures attract different interpretations.

The Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph pay less attention to people's experiences as detailed by the Crime Survey for England and Wales - which found overall offences last year were at their lowest level since it started in 1981.

Instead they focus on figures put out by two police forces which have adopted what are said to be more "open" crime recording policies following criticism of the way offences were collated in the past.

This suggests, the papers say, that violent crime could be on the rise after years of decline.

A "worrying jump" in offences linked to poverty, grabs the attention of the Daily Mirror. It says shoplifting has risen in areas including the North of England, where the recession has hit hardest.

Meanwhile, the Independent highlights the difficulties in surveying families in areas where crime has traditionally been high, asking "Are Britain's streets really the safest they've been for 30 years?"

But in an editorial, the Times says despite "wide gaps" between the survey and police crime figures, which indicated offences had fallen by 2%, "crime really is down... a hard-won victory achieved on many fronts with positive knock-on effects".

The Guardian too cautions against drawing conclusions about crime by focusing on a "minor sub-set of offences".

"New forms of crime - whether it is online fraud or official recognition of different kinds of domestic abuse - will continue to emerge that the official stats do not necessarily capture but that does not negate the fundamental underlying trend," it says.

The Daily Express opts to give precedence to separate Ministry of Justice figures highlighting the number of people who reoffended after being given non-custodial sentences. It says judges should be handing down a "serious deterrent" to send out the message that crime doesn't pay.

AGM 'anger'

The scenes at Barclays' annual general meeting in London, where 34% of shareholders failed to approve the bank's remuneration package, attract headlines.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Protesters staged a demonstration outside Barclays' AGM

The Independent says the bank was accused of attempting to silence criticism of its bonus culture after one of its directors slapped down a major shareholder for speaking out against its pay practices.

The "stormy" AGM was evidence of a growing concern about "boardroom excess", says the paper.

The Financial Times agrees it was a heated AGM and reflected widespread anger among shareholders who argued the bank should not have increased bonuses during a year when profits fell more than a third.

Writing in the Guardian, John Crace says "the chimera of democracy has to be seen to be done and even if the small shareholders don't have any actual influence they do get a couple of hours to let the directors know exactly what they think of them and the directors are obliged to suck it up. Some do it with a forced smile, others with a scowl".

"Shareholders spring back into action over top pay," says the Times headline. It points out that Barclays was not alone in facing a "hostile audience" on Thursday, with both drug giant AstraZeneca and publisher Reed Elsevier seeing opposition to their remuneration reports.

'Coffee study caution'

Ruth Powys is described by several papers as the "secret love" of Mark Shand, the Duchess of Cornwall's brother, who died after a fall in New York on Wednesday.

The 36-year-old was the chief executive of Mr Shand's elephant conservation charity and was said by the Daily Mail to have been in an "on-off relationship" with him since his divorce in 2009.

She tells the Mail she and other friends were by his side as he passed away in hospital after the accident.

The Sun carries her comments on its front page, saying she was left "shattered" by his death.

A US study which suggests that drinking three cups of coffee a day could cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by a third, is widely reported.

It concluded that people who increased their consumption by an average of one-and-a-half cups a day over four years lowered the chance of developing the condition by 11%, says the Daily Express, which covers the research on its front page.

The study, reports the Independent, is the latest to suggest a possible link between coffee and reduced diabetes risk and the theory that it may decrease glucose levels in the blood,

But the Daily Mirror is among the papers to point out that UK experts have urged caution over the study, saying other factors could also be involved.

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