'Stormageddon' and Sochi spectacle - the papers

"The waters are still rising. So is the rage." That's the widespread feeling in Saturday's papers - summed up by the Independent - as the flooding crisis continues in south west England.

The Daily Mirror calls the situation "Stormageddon", warning of the threat of more severe weather heading for the UK over the weekend.

The Daily Telegraph focuses on Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith and the battering he took during a visit to the south-west on Friday.

Elsewhere, images from the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi appear on a number of front pages, including one in the Guardian of the only apparent technical hitch to hit the spectacular event.

Discussing the papers for the BBC News Channel, Kevin Schofield, chief political correspondent of the Sun, said David Cameron had received "a bit of a kicking" in the Daily Mail for making a speech opposing Scottish independence from London.

Nevertheless, he added: "Finally, I think Westminster is starting to wake up to the fact that Scotland could vote to become independent in September. Until now I think there's been a fair bit of complacency."

Peter Conradi, foreign editor of the Sunday Times, said he wasn't sure the impending referendum was making many waves overseas.

But he said: "The one place where there is interest in it is in Spain where you've got parts of the country that want to break away. They're unwilling to be very accommodating to the Scots because they don't want that to encourage the Catalans to think they can break away."

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Image caption The pain of Philip Seymour Hoffman's partner and children is shown in the majority of papers as they attended his funeral

Let's stay together

As much space is given to debating the location of David Cameron's pro-union speech - in London as opposed to Scotland - as the actual content.

The Daily Mail is very critical, calling the choice of venue "a cack-handed stunt", which provides a gift to Alex Salmond who can accuse the PM of "hiding south of the border".

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Image caption David Shrigley's sculpture, called Really Good, has been unveiled as one of the next occupants of Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth

The Independent, in contrast, says the speech itself was "craftily conceived" and Mr Cameron knows only too well "his old Etonian heritage is electoral poison north of the border".

In an almost direct challenge to this view, however, the Daily Telegraph describes as "fatuous" the idea that Mr Cameron should "stay out of this debate" because "his somewhat patrician Old Etonian demeanour disqualifies him from having a say". It says by choosing the Olympic Park he "was able to give tangible form to the concept of Britishness that we sometimes find hard to define but would miss when it was gone".

The Times agrees that the choice of venue was "an attempt to summon the poetry of togetherness and evoke once again the glow of the glorious Olympic summer of 2012". The podium - "where Scottish and British Sir Chris Hoy won Olympic gold" - served as "a visual representation of the case he made".

Overall, the Financial Times thinks the PM was "right to have made such a strong and emotional intervention", but it calls on Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg "to join forces and make the case collectively".


The home of Sam Notaro - who is variously described as "defiant" and a modern-day King Canute - appears in every paper, surrounded as it is by his own hastily-constructed flood barrier.

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Image caption David Cameron swept into Somerset as Lord Smith swept out and was generally more welcome

Another man under fire as much as under water in the papers is Lord Smith, Environment Agency chairman, who visited Somerset on Friday.

The Daily Mirror's leader says it admires local Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger - who has laid into the peer - "for standing up for his constituents" even though his attack "would in all likelihood be ruled unparliamentary back in Westminster".

The Sun calls Lord Smith "an ineffectual Labour stooge who appears to put birds before people". It does also, though, criticise Environment Secretary Owen Paterson who "seems to have let scepticism about man-made climate change cloud his judgement on how best to protect the country from freak weather".

The Guardian offers a rather more thoughtful analysis of the man in the crosshairs. It says there are two kinds of "beasts in the political jungle", herbivores an carnivores. "The former often cerebral and thoughtful, the latter driven by testosterone and instinct" - and Chris Smith is definitely the former. Despite being the first MP to come out as gay, it adds, "he has never been an attention-seeker" and "that may have been a drawback in recent weeks".

Elsewhere, several commentators look more broadly at the flooding. Matthew Parris, in the Times, argues that the country is in "a philosophical muddle" about how far "the whole nation has responsibilities to any part of the nation". He goes on: "There should always be generosity towards victims, but we do need to open our eyes to the forces of nature and remember that where and how we live carries costs and consequences."

Another Matthew - Wilson, of the Financial Times - agrees that in recent weeks parts of Britain have "reverted to an almost medieval landscape" and "In the future we may have to accept the uncomfortable truth that, for the greater good, some of it will have to remain that way."

Meanwhile, the two so-called mid-market papers both call for the diversion of funds from the overseas aid budget to help flood victims.

The Daily Express says much of it "is spent on other programmes, many of them extremely dubious and certainly far less deserving than the human misery in the West Country". Political commentator Ross Clark adds: "The fact that the shattered communities are on home soil does not make them less deserving of aid cash."

The Daily Mail agrees that "the nation's charity should be redirected to those suffering real and seemingly unending misery at home". It also calls for the Environment Agency - "patently not fit for purpose" - to be scrapped altogether.

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Image caption Face to face: Oliver Dickens, nine, gets up close and personal with a statue of his great, great, great grandfather Charles Dickens in Portsmouth

Sochi 'gloating'

There's a bit of schadenfreude in some of the papers after the opening ceremony in Sochi was marred somewhat by a glitch in the giant illuminated Olympic rings.

"Gloating isn't cool but it's hard not to snigger after Danny Boyle showed the world how to do it with style at London 2012," says the Daily Mirror.

In a similar vein, the Sun says it can see "why Konstantin Ernst, the Russian who ran their Olympics ceremony, didn't like Britain's. Ours had humour in it." And it goes on: "Konstantin's had the last laugh, though. The brilliant bit with four Olympic rings instead of five."

The Daily Star actually thinks the ceremony was "a rip-off of London 2012", but was a "dud" because of the glitch.

Tom Peck, in the Independent, is slightly more charitable. "Alright, so an LED-lit Lenin didn't summarily execute the last Tsar and his family. There were no Solzhenitsyn on stilts, no farms being collectivised," he writes. "But Russia is no more guilty than anyone else of airbrushing out the less savoury moments in its history when in the world's spotlight."

'Tantalising glimpse'

"They were, perhaps, a family of five, gathering food or just strolling along the estuary sands," writes the Daily Telegraph. "What they left behind... are the earliest human footprints found in Europe."

The Times quotes fossil expert Isabelle de Groote who says they appear to be "pottering around". She goes on: "If you think of going for a walk on the beach, yes, you walk in a line, but the kids run around."

The Independent says the discovery "is one of the most exciting in the field of prehistoric studies for a very long time" and lends credence to the existence of "a long-extinct hominid species, Homo antecessor" which roamed our lands. It adds: "It is a tantalising glimpse into a past previously unknown."

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