Newspaper review: Papers mull 'worst crisis' for Clegg

Papers

Many of Monday's papers focus on Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg's statement over the Lord Rennard allegations.

Party officials, says the Guardian, had spent three days insisting Mr Clegg had not known about complaints of inappropriate behaviour by the peer.

Then on Sunday night, says the Sun, came "a shock U-turn".

Now, says the Guardian, the deputy prime minister has become embroiled in the row about his party's response to those claims.

'Worst crisis'

The Daily Mail talks of "a stunning about-face", and accuses him of speaking "weasel words".

The Daily Express believes that Mr Clegg has been "plunged into the worst crisis of his political career".

Its cartoon imagines an Oscar - for the "most chaotic party" - being awarded to the Liberal Democrats.

The Times says his concession - that he did know of concerns about the behaviour of Lord Rennard - has led to questions being asked about his own leadership.

Kevin Maguire, writing in the Daily Mirror, argues that the party had tried to insulate him from the controversy - despite the lesson of Watergate, that "any hint of a cover-up can be more dangerous than the original crime".

'Strong' denial

The Daily Telegraph has been investigating the background to the allegations, along with ITV.

It suggests there is evidence that "as many as a dozen women could have been victims of sexual misconduct".

The Financial Times, along with all of the papers point out Lord Rennard strongly disputes all the allegations.

The Guardian says institutions, such as the Liberal Democrats, or the BBC, tend to hesitate in the face of such claims especially when they "strongly and perhaps honestly denied".

But the paper thinks the correct response is to do "the right thing" - in its view, to respond promptly and fairly.

Critics of the Lib Dems seize on this turn of events.

'Nasty Party'

Stephen Glover, in the Mail, argues that, "despite their pretence of being nice and enlightened," they, rather than the Tories "deserve to be known as the Nasty Party".

The Lib Dems may dispute the fairness of some of the conclusions drawn by the Mail and the Express - especially three days before a by-election.

According to the Independent, "it is difficult to overstate the significance" of the vote in Eastleigh.

The paper sees it as a contest "with far-reaching implications for Britain's political landscape".

The Sun agrees - its commentator Trevor Kavanagh says the battle "will seal the fate of either David Cameron or Nick Clegg and even perhaps the coalition they lead".

"Defeat for one or the other will expose bitter tensions between the two parties", the paper says.

'Bankrupt chancellor'

Most of Monday's papers chew over the implications of Britain losing its AAA credit rating.

The Daily Star reports that some Conservative MPs are now demanding that Chancellor George Osborne must cut taxes in the budget - or face the sack.

The Mirror thinks he is a "bankrupt chancellor" who is "banging his head against a brick wall". It urges him "to change course".

The Times believes the coalition strategy is right - but the government has not had the vigour or the political courage to lift the burdens on business and push through radical reform of the public sector.

The Telegraph agrees, saying it's time to clear "the weeds from Britain's economic garden".

'Radical plan'

The Independent thinks the Treasury is looking at the idea of letting the Welsh Assembly charge lower rates of income tax for people who live and work in Wales.

The paper calls it a radical plan, and says Wales is a country of "exceptional beauty and heritage" which "offers a hugely attractive way of life" - but one which lacks jobs.

Fans of the comic actor Ronnie Barker will be glad to know - from the Times - that an hour of previously un-broadcast material has been discovered.

The paper says copies of sketches recorded 40 years ago were made - in breach of BBC rules - by his producer.

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