The Max Clifford case and drug company battles - the newspapers

Max Clifford Image copyright Reuters

The jailing for eight years of Max Clifford - the PR man whose life has been so intimately connected with newspapers - is the subject that exercises the press most this Saturday.

The Sun says "spin king" Clifford - convicted of sexually assaulting four teenagers in the 1970s and 80s - was "smirking to the end".

The paper adds that his £3.5m PR empire is likely to be liquidated as clients jettison any association with his company.

The Guardian highlights the trial judge's comments to Clifford that his laughter and head-shaking in court had "trivialised" his victims' suffering, and antics such as larking around behind a TV reporter were "extraordinary behaviour".

The paper notes that the sentence of eight years - when a two to three-year tariff was expected - was largely due to what the judge saw as "contempt" for the prosecution witnesses.

The Daily Mail focuses on what it says is the "silence of the celebrities who were so quick to defend him".

It interviews one of the women who testified against Clifford who says her trauma has been "worsened" by famous people defending her attacker.

One celebrity candid enough to admit to having been a friend of Clifford's is Richard Madeley.

In his Daily Express column, Madeley says he feels "shocked at the profound disconnect between the kindly, generous, funny Max I thought I knew and the other Max, the cynical abuser and every girl's worst nightmare".

In the Daily Telegraph, former minister David Mellor is in an unforgiving mood as he reflects on the way Clifford had created a "pack of lies" that led to his resignation, following an affair with Antonia de Sancha.

Clifford "humiliated his victims" - both girls he assaulted and celebrities he sold kiss-and-tell stories about - and he "has blood on his hands". Mr Mellor says.

Undermined

The continued questioning of Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams about a 1972 murder is examined in some depth by the papers.

The Daily Telegraph puts the statement by Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness that the peace process could be undermined on its front.

Inside the paper interviews the daughter of Jean McConville - the woman whose disappearance and murder Mr Adams is being questioned over.

Helen McKendry says she knows the names of those responsible for her mother's abduction, but police won't accept her evidence.

The Sun also speaks to Mrs McKendry - and it lists the 16 other victims of the Northern Ireland Troubles who were "disappeared", some of whom have not been found to this day.

The paper says the developments in the McConville case show that the IRA has "not gone away".

David McKittrick in the Independent says the issue of how to deal with Northern Ireland's recent past has been addressed "ad hoc" and without "a comprehensive path".

The Belfast-born journalist says the many approaches suggested last year by the Haas talks, may offer a way forward.

The Daily Mirror highlights the 365 Royal pardons granted in Northern Ireland between 1979 and 2002.

It says the "shock figures" are likely to be an underestimate as files for the years 1987 to 1997 are missing.

The Mirror quotes Labour MP Kate Hoey who says: "There was clearly a cover-up.

"I cannot believe so many were cleared in such a very short time."

'Power plays'

"On the brink of war" is how the Daily Mirror characterises the grave situation in Ukraine.

The Independent's Kim Sengupta, who is in the city of Sloviansk, a city which has seen fighting between Ukrainian security forces and pro-Russian militia, says the country "feels like" it is at war.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Odessa in southern Ukraine saw deadly clashes between the supporters of Russia and backers of the Kiev regime

He reports a confrontation in a nearby town where civilians taunted and jeered Ukrainian soldiers. "How can there not be a fight?" said one.

Tony Barber in the Financial Times points out the number of chilling parallels between the Ukrainian crisis and the Bosnian Serb conflict of the early 1990s.

"For yesterday's Republika Srpska substitute today's People's Republic of Donetsk," says Barber, noting that the Bosnian Serb separatist republic still exists.

The Times headlines its analysis: "Phoney war comes to an end as power plays turn bloody."

However it says "the real battle" is the 25 May presidential election in Ukraine.

This is an event that could "cement" Kiev's leaders' claims to political legitimacy it adds, so pro-Moscow "agitators" want to derail the process.

In a separate story, it reports that four British Typhoon jets have been placed on high alert in a Lithuanian airfield as part of Nato's efforts to reassure Russia's neighbours.

The Daily Telegraph carries the comments of US defence secretary Chuck Hagel that European countries must up military spending in response to the Ukraine crisis.

Britain's Defence Secretary Philip Hammond says Nato deployments on its eastern boundary send "a very clear signal" of the "red line" around member countries, the paper reports.

'Major mergers'

Few recent corporate takeover bids have been as bitter or have generated as many words in the papers as Pfizer's attempt to acquire AstraZeneca.

The Financial Times leads with the comments of British firm AstraZeneca's biggest investor.

Neil Woodford - who manages 10% of its stock for a fund - says the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer's move is: "A classic case of short-term interests versus long-term interests.

"There is short-term profit for shareholders through a deal, but there may be more value in this this company in the long-term as a single entity."

As Pfizer ups its offer for the British drugs firm, the FT notes that the takeover bid - portrayed by the government as a symbol of the UK's attractiveness to investors - is seen as "asset-stripping" by Labour.

The Independent's front has support for Mr Woodford's view from an unexpected source - a former high-ranking Pfizer executive.

Dr John LaMattina - former head of research at Pfizer - is reported as having told a scientific paper that: "In major mergers today, not only are R&D cuts made, but entire research sites are eliminated."

The Times takes up this theme, by spotlighting the Swedish town of Strangnas, where the Scandinavian nation's leading drugs company Pharmacia was based.

The paper notes that after Pfizer's 2002 takeover of that firm, 13,000 jobs were lost in its plants.

Entitlements

The Daily Telegraph leads on fears expressed by a teaching union that there could be a nationwide Islamist "plot" to "take over classrooms".

It says the National Association of Head Teachers has found "concerted efforts to infiltrate at least six schools in Birmingham".

The NAHT thinks other schools in the city, as well as some in Manchester, Bradford and east London may be part of the "Trojan horse" scheme.

The union says the attempted infiltration aimed to sideline parts of the curriculum and influence the appointment of Muslim staff.

The Independent quotes the NAHT's general secretary Russell Hobby.

He says it is not clear if the "plotters" have done anything wrong, but their influence may have: "Deprived some students of their entitlements in terms of knowledge and education".

The Times notes that Ofsted has investigated 21 schools in Birmingham over the alleged plot, which has been vehemently denied by governors at inspected schools.

Optimism

In a day of generally grim news, the story of Stephen Sutton, the teenaged cancer sufferer who has raised £3m for charity, is a welcome relief.

The Daily Telegraph says Stephen - who is being treated for multiple tumours - has been discharged from hospital after showing signs of progress in his fight against the disease.

The 19-year-old has said his improvement is "quite remarkable", the paper adds. It says Stephen may take part in a trial drug treatment.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Sutton's fundraising drive while he battles bowel cancer has attracted celebrity endorsements

"Even to be talking about a few weeks' time and having options is a great feeling," it reports him as saying.

The Daily Mirror pictures David Cameron's surprise visit to the teenager's hospital ward, which took place just hours before his discharge.

The PM was not at Downing Street when Stephen visited last year as part of his "bucket list" of things to do before he died, so Mr Cameron has made up for his absence.

"You're an inspiration", is the Mirror's headline.

The Daily Star reports some "cautious optimism" for another high-profile cancer sufferer.

Wilko Johnson, former guitarist with pub rock legends Dr Feelgood, underwent a nine-hour operation to remove a tumour.

In January 2013, the musician was told he had nine or 10 months to live.

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