Energy prices, Tony Benn's funeral, cats with TB and WW1 commemorations

Electricity pylons Image copyright Reuters

Energy firms come under fire in Friday's papers, after regulator Ofgem identified "possible tacit co-operation" between the "big six" companies.

And a warning from Sam Laidlaw, the boss of British Gas-owner Centrica, that the probe could trigger power shortages leads the Daily Mirror to brand him the "Blackout Blackmailer". Pointing to domestic supply profits that have increased five-fold in three years, the paper's business editor Graham Hiscott accepts energy firms need healthy margins to secure new supplies but says "trust in the sector has plunged so low that customers don't believe what they say".

One Mirror reader writes an open letter to Mr Laidlaw, asking: "Have you ever considered what it is like being faced with the choices between heating your home or eating a meal?"

Ofgem's announcement of the review is a "victory for consumer power", according to Guardian energy editor Terry Macalister. "At last. Greedy energy giants will face up to the soaring cost of our household bills," says the Daily Star.

In the Daily Express, Ross Clark argues the big six must be called to account, but adds: "In the longer term the only thing that can save us from rocketing prices is an energy policy focused on providing the power the country needs and not green energy at any cost."

In its editorial, the Times says Mr Laidlaw's "threats and special pleading" must not hamper a vital investigation but accepts "an energy crunch is looming", saying: "Enough new plant to generate 20% more than Britain's average power consumption is needed to keep the lights on at times of peak demand - but not enough is being built."

Meanwhile, the Financial Times contrasts the "hot and cold" responses from key players, including supplier Npower's chief executive Paul Massara, who says: "It's time that the realities of the energy market were made public. Britain has the third-cheapest gas prices in Europe and the seventh-cheapest electricity prices."

Cats and rats

"Gnaw blimey!" declares the Daily Star. "Mutant rats will munch your house." The discovery of a 40cm (16in) "monster" in Sweden has "sparked worries the disease-carrying creatures could sneak into the UK, hidden in a plane hold or on a cargo lorry".

One academic is quoted suggesting they could evolve to be as large as South America's capybara, the world's largest rodent which can grow up to 4ft 6in (135cm) long.

Meanwhile, the Daily Express speculates that one infestation could already have struck at the heart of the UK. "Eeek!" it says, "can Buckingham Palace be overrun by rodents?" It seems the story was prompted by the Duke of Edinburgh asking an insurance underwriter whether the Royal Collection was "insured against damage by mice" during a visit to Lloyd's of London.

"For you, everything is covered," he was told. But palace officials were reportedly "baffled", saying they do not have any problems with mice.

If the duke was tempted by a feline solution to the problem, he might be put off by the Daily Mail's front-page report that four cat owners have become infected with tuberculosis by their pets. It says it's the first time the lung disease has been passed on in this way.

Inside, the paper sets out the "chain of infection", from cattle to humans. It says the infection is passed from cows to badgers through the air, urine and fur, before cats contract it by fighting badgers or eating mice or voles that get into badger setts. Cats then pass it on to humans, who inhale bacteria shed by their pet or allow cats to lick their wounds.

Public health officials are quoted by the Daily Telegraph, saying the risk of transmission to humans is "very low".

'Demonstration of love'

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Tony Benn's funeral gives cause for picture spreads in some papers, with the Daily Mail picturing politicians, broadcasters such as Robert Peston and Natasha Kaplinsky, and equality campaigner Peter Tatchell. Its writer Robert Hardman says: "Who else could have assembled [former miners' leader] Arthur Scargill, the erstwhile high command of the IRA, every faction of the Labour party and assorted Tory toffs for a service conducted by a senior chaplain to the Queen?"

Ros Wynne-Jones in the Daily Mirror describes the scene outside St Margaret's Church in Westminster: "The pavement outside... looked like a protest rally. It was lined with the banners of his causes: Stop the War, Support the Miners, trade unions, CND. But this wasn't a demo over a man's death - it was a demonstration of love."

An elderly man holding aloft a photograph of Mr Benn and wearing a sign reading "his truth goes marching on" was spotted by the Telegraph's Michael Deacon, who writes: "A somewhat hyperbolic way to put it, perhaps - but typical of the kind of zealotry its subject used, in certain quarters, to attract."

To his greatest critics, says the writer, Mr Benn was a "dangerous ideologue" but his children remembered a "gentle, warm man". The Times diary notes his eldest son Stephen recalling a blazing row they had after he passed his driving test and took the family car out around London until 2am. "Benn got revenge in an odd way by telling his son to give [ex-transport secretary] Barbara Castle a lift home from a cabinet dinner," it says, pointing out she didn't know how to get to her Islington home because she couldn't drive.

"At the end, the church erupted into spontaneous applause as the coffin was lifted through, and a defiant rendition of [Labour anthem] The Red Flag was sung," says Owen Jones in the Guardian.

For the Star, however, the service was marred by Labour MP Diane Abbott tweeting "a star-spotters guide to the congregation" from the church. "Talk about a lack of respect," says its editorial.

War stories

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Britain's World War One commemoration plans are detailed by many papers, with the Independent focusing on the repainting of HMS President - a survivor of the 1914-18 conflict - in "dazzle" camouflage, as displayed by the aircraft carrier Argus above. The colours and geometric shapes aimed to make it difficult for the enemy to detect a ship's direction, speed and size.

The Guardian dedicates a page to the activities, printing a letter written by comic actor Stephen Fry as part of a project which aims to encourage people to imagine what's written on a note being read by a statue of an unknown solider at London's Paddington Station. Fry's letter - as though from the soldier's conscientious objector brother - reduced the theatre director Neil Bartlett to tears as he read it aloud at the programme's launch, the paper says.

Meanwhile, the Times reports that "lights will go out all over Britain" at 11pm on 4 August, 100 years on from the moment Britain declared war on Germany. It recalls that Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey said on the eve of war: "The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."

The Times also reports the story of Pte James Bell, who was sent home from the war thanks to a letter to defence officials from his sister, who had seen her four other brothers killed in action. The story brings to mind the plot of World War Two film Saving Private Ryan, says the paper, which adds that Pte Bell died an old man.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail is among the papers to report the emergence of a scrapbook detailing the plans of a "real-life Dad's Army" to foil Nazi invaders during World War Two. The 44 Home Guard stalwarts - elderly doctors, famers and drivers - in Beaulieu, Hampshire, made a detailed hand-drawn map, placed gun turrets in pubs and had the order "no surrender", says the Mail.

The Mirror describes the scrapbook's owner Lt Col Sir Morgan Crofton as "the real Capt Mainwaring".

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