Newspaper headlines: Public sector pay, Sean Penn and 'El Chapo'

  • 11 January 2016

The relationship between public service and pay is examined in various ways on Monday's front pages.

The Daily Telegraph reports that 12 trades unions representing "the highest-paid public sector workers" have met Treasury Minister David Gauke to demand loopholes to allow members to escape cuts to tax relief on pension contributions. The paper quotes the TaxPayers' Alliance, which lobbies for lower taxes, accusing the unions of "breathtaking gall".

Meanwhile, Tuesday's planned strike by junior doctors continues to make headlines. In an editorial, the Independent accuses the government of "deceitful spin" in trumpeting claims it's offering an 11% pay rise. The paper argues that the net result of ministers' pay reforms - aimed at creating a "24/7 service" - is "less money for more antisocial hours".

Still, the Guardian's Matthew d'Ancona reckons the government can win the argument by framing it "not as a battle between capricious Tory austerity and noble doctors, but a fight between a patient-centred NHS and a creaking, old-fashioned system designed to match the inherited habits of the profession".

Meanwhile, the Times reports that doctors' leaders and patients representatives are angry at figures showing that, over a three-year period, a total of £92m in redundancy payments was handed to NHS managers who were subsequently rehired. The payouts were prompted by health service reforms drafted by former health secretary Lord Lansley, the paper says.

Mr Lansley is one of 25 former ministers named by the Daily Mirror as having jumped aboard a "gravy train" since leaving office, by beginning work for companies in the industries they used to regulate. He acts as an adviser on healthcare to three firms, the paper says.

The 25 are "raking in well over £1m between them in relevant industries" by earning up to £600 an hour, according to the paper's investigations. There is no suggestion they have broken any rules, it adds.


Eye-catching headlines

  • "St Peter, Lemmy in!" - the Daily Star chooses to pun in its report on the funeral of Motorhead's lead singer
  • "Loose Women AND Men" - singer Peter Andre and Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood are to join the panel of ITV daytime show Loose Women, reports the Daily Mirror
  • "Celeb bog bother" - former Big Brother host Davina McCall has put up a notice warning passers-by not to use a path near her mansion as a toilet, according to the Sun
  • "Is it toast for the simple white loaf?" - Marks & Spencer is claiming to be the first major grocery retailer to banish basic bread from its shelves in favour of high-fibre alternatives, says the Daily Mail

'Tacos and tequilas'

The arrest of fugitive Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, months after he was interviewed by Hollywood actor Sean Penn in a jungle hideout, grasps the papers' imagination.

"Nicked thanks to Sean Penn," is the Daily Star's verdict on how the interview - for Rolling Stone magazine - helped lead authorities to the man wanted since breaking out of jail in July. The paper puns on the title of one of the star's films by speculating whether he might be a Dead Man Walking, because of reprisals from the Sinaloa drugs cartel.

As the Mail points out, the A-lister "unwittingly" helped police pinpoint the criminal's location. The Times goes further, saying "Mexico used Sean Penn to get Shorty" - a translation of Guzman's nickname - and that the pair's meeting "ultimately led to his arrest in a bloody pre-dawn raid".

Image copyright HANDOUT

For the Guardian, the actor played a "surreal role" in the Guzman case, saying it prompted "questions about journalistic ethics" given Rolling Stone showed the article to the drug lord before publication.

Penn's scoop has infuriated officials, according to the Independent. "Mexican officials indicated that they may open formal investigations into the contacts Penn.... had with Guzman while he was the most hunted man in Mexico and arguably the world. The White House declared itself 'maddened'." The latter, it points out, would not say whether it would deliver the star to Mexico for questioning.

Dominic Midgley, of the Express, is uncomfortable at the thought of the men sharing "tacos and tequilas" and says Penn's suggestion that Guzman was not quick to "resort to violence" showed "breathtaking" naivety. "It was Guzman who was the first to break the nonaggression pact agreed by the major cartels, setting in motion the fighting for drug routes that has claimed more than 50,000 lives since December 2006," he writes.

However, as the Sun points out: "He is seen as a hero in Mexico for funding food, roads and medical relief." The Daily Mirror sends its US editor Chris Bucktin to Los Mochis where the writer poses on a sewer pipe used by Guzman to evade police before he was finally arrested.


'Not heard'

The Financial Times reports the results of a survey suggesting that 87% of the UK's "captains of industry" would like to remain in the European Union. However, it says "many would like to unravel the ever-closer political ties that have been introduced and return to membership of a pure trading bloc."

It's another line reported by the FT - David Cameron's assertion that the "best answer" for Britain was to remain part of a reformed EU - that exercises other papers. For the Daily Express, it's a sign that because the PM "has decided - long before you vote [in a planned in-out referendum] - that leaving the burning building is the wrong option, he refuses to consider what will happen when sensible voters run for the fire exits".

The Sun, meanwhile, is outraged that the prime minister has "gagged" ministers like Iain Duncan Smith, Theresa May and Boris Johnson from speaking out against continued EU membership until his attempts to renegotiate the UK's relationship with Brussels are complete. "That means we won't get to hear from cabinet heavyweights who disagree with the PM on Europe," it complains.

Telegraph cartoonist Bob takes inspiration from Mr Cameron's suggestion that parents should be given classes in disciplining children by picturing the PM as a teacher standing next to a blackboard reading: "Seen but not heard." His class is made up of his cabinet, whose mouths he's taped shut.

Even when Eurosceptics do get to speak out, during the referendum campaign, Telegraph writer Charles Moore sees a "trap". "If the prime minister comes home with an agreement [from his reform negotiations], he will demand cabinet support for it... Any minister staying in the cabinet will therefore have to agree that the package has achieved its intention - of getting the 'reformed Europe' which justifies keeping Britain in the EU."


What the commentators say

Media captionMartin Bentham, of London's Evening Standard, and Cassell Bryan-Low, UK editor of the Wall Street Journal, join the BBC News Channel to review the papers.

Praising the Roofe

"At last... an FA Cup shock," declares the Daily Mail of League Two Oxford United's 3-2 "giantkilling" of Premier League Swansea City. Not only did the result provide sportswriters with their annual narrative about the magic of the competition's third round but also an unmissable punning opportunity courtesy of two-goal hero Kemar Roofe.

"Oxford raise the 'Roofe' to stun Swansea," says the Daily Telegraph, opting for the most-used variation, while the Daily Mirror goes one further by saying: "Praise the Roofe."

Image copyright Reuters

The Daily Star tries to be a little more imaginative, offering: "Roofe top as Swans crash." Meanwhile the Guardian and Independent focus on the misfortune of the Welsh side, with "Sorry Swansea fall through Roofe" and "Roofe crashes in on Swans" respectively.

Times chief football writer Henry Winter felt "it was a privilege to be at the Kassam Stadium" and reckons that the "raucous" events there "were a well-timed celebration of the FA Cup in an era when its significance is being questioned". As for the double-goalscorer, former Arsenal and England striker Alan Smith writes in the Telegraph that Roofe is "capable of returning to the top", having revived his career with Oxford after rejection by top-flight West Brom.

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