The newspapers: Labour's rail and food plans, and what Jeremy Clarkson will do next

As European and local council elections loom, the political temperature has gone up in the press, with Labour's potential policies for the next election coming under particular scrutiny.

The Observer leads on a letter written by 30 of the party's prospective parliamentary candidates to Ed Miliband urging him to "gradually renationalise" Britain's railways if he wins power.

The paper says Mr Miliband is "open to considering a greater degree of state control" - although the shadow chancellor Ed Balls is said to dislike the idea.

The would-be MPs, many from commuter-belt seats, will be cheered by the results of a poll conducted for the paper which suggests 55% of the public support renationalisation of the rail network, with just 18% opposed.

The Mail on Sunday fulminates against a set of proposals said to be being considered by the Labour leader to try to make the nation healthier.

The paper calls the ideas it has seen on a leaked document "draconian" and a "nanny state plan".

They include a form of price control to discourage the sale of cheap alcohol; the banning of alcohol sponsorship for sporting events and teams ; building BMX tracks and skateboard parks with lottery funding and the banning of confectionery displays next to supermarket tills.

In its comment, the MoS says parents will sympathise with the aims of the proposals, but feel "robbed of responsibility and turned into children themselves by such measures".

Dominic Lawson, writing in the Sunday Times, takes Mr Miliband to task for another Labour policy idea - rent controls.

He reckons the idea is a "political triumph" (with polls showing 55% of Londoners supporting it) but an "economic disaster".

Mr Lawson, son of the former Conservative chancellor Nigel Lawson, quotes German sources suggesting "empty properties are a typical feature of rent-controlled markets".

One paper to cheer a Labour pledge is the Sunday Express.

It is fighting an ongoing campaign to increase the sentences for so-called "one-punch killers" - attackers who launch unprovoked fatal attacks.

The paper says shadow justice minister Sadiq Khan has echoed its call for an "urgent review" into sentencing guidelines in such cases.

'Fortress walls'

Another paper that continues to attract acres of newsprint is the UK Independence Party.

The Sunday Times says David Cameron is discussing an idea to include UKIP and the Green Party in televised leaders' debates ahead of the 2015 general elections.

Under the plans the paper says the prime minister is discussing, the first debate would be between him and Mr Miliband; a second debate would include Nick Clegg and a third one would contain the "big three" plus Ukip's Nigel Farage and the Green Party's Natalie Bennett.

Labour, the paper says, have suggested that Mr Cameron's delays in committing to TV debates are a sign that he is against the entire idea.

Image caption The three leaders' debates held before the 2010 general election attracted a huge television audience for a political programme

The Sun On Sunday publishes detailed opinion poll research which suggests that UKIP are still on course to top the poll in the European elections, with 29% set to vote for them - and with more than a quarter of regular Tory voters and one-tenth of Labour supporters preparing to vote for them.

The YouGov research found that voters it asked said Nigel Farage was the party leader "most in touch" with their concerns.

However the poll also suggested that 27% thought UKIP had "racist views" and a further 35% said the party attracted some candidates with "racist or extreme views".

Carole Malone, writing in the Sunday Mirror, says the explanation for UKIP's support "despite a slew of embarrassing stories" is that people feel "bullied by mainstream parties".

Britons are "sick of being told that being worried about immigration makes them disgusting people," Ms Malone adds.

It is certainly the UKIP challenge in the Euro constituencies that David Cameron has in mind with an exclusive interview in the Sunday Express.

The prime minister says Britain deserves "one last go" at creating a suitable place for itself in the European Union.

He says UKIP's proposal to withdraw from the EU amounts to "giving up and raising the fortress walls".

Mr Cameron told the paper: "We're a trading nation, we need access to Europe's markets... but we need more than just access, we need a say."

'Attempted coup'

The Sunday Telegraph and the Sunday Times both expand on the story of the alleged "Trojan horse" plot by Muslim hard-liners to take over the governing bodies of some schools and change the direction of their teaching.

In an Andrew Gilligan investigation, the Telegraph says Bradford teachers are fighting against a similar "plot" to that being investigated by Ofsted in some Birmingham schools.

Gilligan says two Bradford head teachers have been "forced out" by those with an agenda and a third receives "constant criticism" and pressure to quit. One head says there was an "attempted coup" at her school.

The report adds that "senior Department for Education sources" say "co-ordinated attempts to undermine secular heads" had occurred or were suspected of occurring in Bradford, Birmingham, Manchester and the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

The Sunday Times reports that David Cameron has joined the "battle against extremism in schools".

"I am hugely concerned about the allegations... We will not have extremism, entryism, Islamism in our schools," the PM said.

The Sunday Times says that the chief inspector schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, is to recommend changes to the rules for appointing and monitoring school governors.

Sir Michael has seen Ofsted's reports into the "Trojan horse" allegations and is formulating his letter to accompany them, the paper adds.

Still on education, the Independent on Sunday reports on fears raised by the head teachers' union that Michael Gove's flagship free schools policy is "poorly thought through" and was "rushed" in its implementation.

The head of the NAHT union, Russell Hobby, cites the example of the now-closed Discovery New School in Crawley as one where schoolchildren "had been taught nothing" .

"Some people were given schools to run who should not have been allowed near them," Mr Hobby says.

Academy schools' policy concerns the Observer. The paper reports that Oxfordshire County council has said academies shouldn't be allowed a free hand to determine their own admissions policies.

The council has written to the prime minister complaining that such freedom can force county councils to pay to transport children to other schools and is against the policy of fostering "good local schools".

The paper says Labour complains that the UK education system has become "Balkanised" into many fragmented, competing schools and it will propose regional commissioners, overseen by local authorities, to supervise free schools and academies.

'Crunch talks'

The man whose features grace virtually every national this Sunday is Jeremy Clarkson.

The furore over the TV presenter's use of a racial epithet in an unbroadcast segment of Top Gear has not died down and the Daily Star Sunday says a work trip to Barbados has left the broadcaster "worried".

The paper says the BBC is to hold "crunch talks" with Clarkson on Bank Holiday Monday, adding there are question marks over the Barbados event.

The Sunday Mirror quotes "disgusted race fans" who say they will boycott the Caribbean event, a Top Gear festival featuring F1 stars.

The Sunday People notes bookmaker Coral has shortened the odds on Clarkson being sacked before the end of the year from 10-1 to 3-1.

Image caption The Top Gear segment has left Clarkson in deep water with his critics

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Jenny McCartney says the affair has left "BBC executives desperately wondering if they can get away with just giving Clarkson a stern wigging".

Ellen E Jones in the Independent on Sunday says Clarkson's "half-arsed apology" suggests "he still hasn't grasped why his other [controversial] comments weren't funny either.

"Rudeness can be shocking, witty and - if directed at power - even heroic," she writes.

"Coming from a well-paid BBC presenter who regularly sups with the PM, it isn't irreverent, it's just rude," she concludes.

But as the Observer's page-long profile of the star notes, Mr Clarkson is "middle England's... favourite petrolhead" and a 2008 petition on the Downing Street website garnered 50,000 signatories who wanted him made prime minister.


The only person who can remotely give Clarkson a run for column inch mentions this Sunday is another Jeremy.

Jeremy Paxman - who seemingly cannot be mentioned in the press without the cliche "big beast" being deployed - is due to leave the BBC's Newsnight.

Louise Mensch - writing in the Sun on Sunday - declares herself a massive fan and decides that the only new job that would be worthy of Paxman's time would be as director general of the BBC.

In an in-depth profile, Archie Bland in the Independent on Sunday agrees that Paxman "makes for great television".

If Paxman "has become a slight pantomime of himself", Bland says, "he still seems an almost unmatched interrogator".

"You don't lie to Paxman if you can help it," he adds.

His BBC colleague John Humphrys writes an appreciation of Paxman in the Sunday Telegraph.

In an age of spin doctors, "a new broadcasting age" with Alistair Campbell as "its prophet", MPs and ministers are told "precisely what to say and how to say it", Humphrys explains.

"It works up to a point, but listeners and viewers are not fools. Sooner or later they spot what's going on.

"And Paxman helped them spot it. That's why he will be missed."

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