The papers: Reshuffle rumours and the croc on the plane

When there's a ministerial reshuffle in the air journalists start to get very busy speculating about outcomes, and so it proves in Saturday's newspapers.

The Independent says David Cameron will aim to solve his party's "women problem" - the perception that the Conservatives are male-dominated.

The paper notes that the prime minister had promised that a third of his government would be made up of female ministers by the end of his first term, but so far he is only achieving 18%.

Nick Clegg is expected to shake-up the Lib Dem side of the government as well, the paper adds.

The Guardian reports that among those expected to be promoted are former television presenter Esther McVey and policy adviser Liz Truss - and out could go Kenneth Clarke, Sir George Young and Andrew Lansley.

An anonymous "ally" of Mr Cameron is quoted in the paper as saying "the prime minister can do pretty much as he likes.

"He has got carte blanche because he will be able to tell departing ministers that they have had a good run.

"There is a lot of support for the prime minister to be really bold by genuinely bringing forward large numbers of women - not merely tweaking the odd post."

A "senior Tory" tells the paper "you want people to think this a reinvigorated Conservative part of the coalition that are going to forcefully present Conservative policies to the electorate".

The Daily Mirror says the reshuffle - expected on Monday - will represent a lurch to the right for the party.

It says "one nation Conservatives" like Mr Clarke and Sir George would be replaced with "right-wingers" like Ms Truss and Greg Hands.

It adds that Iain Duncan Smith and Eric Pickles could be among front bench casualties.

However a "source" tells the Daily Mail that Mr Duncan Smith - the work and pensions secretary - is not being moved downwards or sideways.

"He and Cameron have agreed, he's not going anywhere," the source claims.

The paper adds that Mr Cameron is considering returning Dr Liam Fox and former immigration minister Mark Harper to government, and cabinet minister Theresa Villiers and former Sunday Telegraph editor Patience Wheatcroft are both being considered as Britain's next EU Commissioner.

In its editorial, the Mail says Mr Cameron cannot make his party more attractive to women by the "cosmetic" promotion of more female faces.

"With sorry memories of the hapless Maria Miller and Caroline Spelman, we believe ministers should be chosen for their talent, not gender," it adds.


'Time-honoured arguments'

The other major story occupying Saturday's news pages is the rethink by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey on the question of assisted suicide.

The former primate said it would not be "anti-Christian" to change the law over the issue and to deny the right to die risks "promoting anguish and pain".

The Daily Mail notes that the Church of England's official position is at odds with Lord Carey's views as are the positions of the Roman Catholic Church and other major faiths including Judaism.

Writing in the paper, the former archbishop reveals he will back a Bill put forward by Lord Falconer that will seek to allow doctors to prescribe terminally ill patients a lethal dose of drugs.

The Bill is due to be debated in the House of Lords next week.

Lord Carey, who was in office from 1991 to 2002, writes "even the most devout believers will find their faith tested by the sight of a dying person in torment - especially when modern medicine could swiftly bring the torment to a merciful end.

"Until recently, I would have fiercely opposed Lord Falconer's Bill.

"I would have used the time-honoured arguments that we should be devoting ourselves to care, not killing.

"I would have paraded all the usual concerns about the risk of a 'slippery slope' and 'state-sponsored euthanasia'.

"But those arguments... seem to lack power and authority now when confronted with the experiences of those suffering a painful death."

He quotes a dying parishioner who told him "it is the quality of life that counts, not the number of days".

The Daily Telegraph says that opponents of Lord Carey's view are "flabbergasted" by his change of mind on the subject.

Dr Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship says "there is no biblical precedent or justification for compassionate killing".

Another opponent is the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who tells the Times that supporters of assisted suicide were "mistaken and dangerous".

"What sort of society would we be creating if we were to allow this sword of Damocles to hang over the head of every vulnerable, terminally ill person in the country?" he writes in the paper.

"It would be very naive to think that many of the elderly people who are neglected and abused each year, as well as many severely disabled people would not be put under pressure to end their lives if assisted suicide were permitted by law," he argues.

The paper adds that if Lord Falconer's Bill passes the Lords it is expected to be put to a free vote in the Commons.


Tunnels

As Israeli air strikes continue to pound the Gaza Strip, the Independent puts one family's story on its front.

It tells of the despair and anguish of the al-Masri family whose nine-year-old daughter Mariam, an only child, lies with serious head wounds in a Gaza hospital after being caught in a bomb blast.

The paper says Mariam is among an "extraordinary number" of children who have become victims since the Israelis launched their operation against militants who have been firing rockets from the Hamas-controlled territory into Israel itself.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Palestinian officials say 113 people have died in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip

Kim Sengupta for the paper says 22 children have died so far and 70% of the 700 injured are children or women.

The paper reports that support for a ground-offensive into the Strip is gaining support amid Israeli legislators, after the fourth day of rocket attacks from Gaza.

"Over the last few years Hamas built up a formidable military terrorist machine and we are now taking steps to dismantle that," says Mark Regev, the Israeli prime ministerial spokesman.

The paper's opinion column says "the longer the Israeli strikes continue, reason senior Hamas figures, the more sympathy - both Palestinian and international - arrives at their door.

"If [Israeli PM] Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to act in the long-term self-defence of his nation, he would halt the bombardment."

The Daily Mail reports that Hamas has warned major airlines that it intends to step-up rocket attacks on Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, as the site also hosts a military base.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the group has said it would use any ground incursion by the Israelis as an opportunity to kidnap soldiers.

The Times reports how Palestinian forces are receiving "high-powered" weaponry from Iran, via shipments to Sudan which are then smuggled through Egypt and taken into the Gaza Strip via a network of tunnels.

The paper reports that Hamas leaders are said to be sheltering in a bunker directly beneath the territory's largest hospital.

Ian Black in the Guardian writes that Gazan newspapers contain cartoons furious at the Arab world's failure to help in the wake of the aerial attacks, and for it being "too preoccupied with the World Cup".


Dam busters

Even the non-sporting among the population may have noticed that the World Cup final is on Sunday.

For the newspapers, the Germany v Argentina contest offers a chance to reflect on which "old enemy" to support.

The Daily Star gives us "five need-to-know facts" about the final, including that tickets for the game are currently fetching £11,500.

The Guardian looks at how fans around the world - and out of it, the six astronauts on the International Space Station will be tuning in - will watch the game.

It applauds the "elegant solution" to the comfort issue of watching football on a big screen pioneered by German club Union Berlin which is allowing its fans to watch the match on a big screen at its ground to which they can bring their own sofas.

In Yemen, it reports the big screens in public places allowing a football-mad population to see the tournament have been miraculously free from the power outages which plague the rest of the country.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The German side sets off for the final in Rio looking not especially buoyed up by the support the Times's Valentine Lowe

The paper even reports that the first words of one of the African migrants on being rescued from a stricken boat by the Italian navy was "what happened in the football?"

Jamie Merrill in the Independent addresses the thorny issue of which team should Britons support in the final, with a montage of familiar German and Argentinian figures

"Perhaps the most sensible basis for a decision is the sport itself," he reckons.

"Who plays the most beautiful football?

"On recent evidence, that suggests plumping for Germany - "Los Deutschland", as the Germany fans say- except that, then again, there's always Messi."

Valentine Lowe in the Times reckons that England has undergone an "extraordinary" cultural shift to come around to support the Germans.

He says the reasons are twofold: "first, Argentina is in South America and we do not tend to like teams from South America, what with their falling over and their biting and everything.

"Secondly, there was that other problem, the one a few years ago, which there is really no need to go into here."

Lowe says that on Sunday thoughts of the war, and 1966 and the Dam busters Theme will be forgotten by Englishmen and women shouting "come on Deutschland!"

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