The papers: Passport delays and Iraq violence

Passport collections entrance Image copyright Getty Images

The papers round on the Passport Office after it was revealed that up to 30,000 applications have been hit by delays - and in the process possibly spoiling people's holiday plans.

The Guardian says the agency has ordered its staff to relax checks on applicants for British passports from abroad.

The paper claims that a briefing note allows staff to drop checks on countersignatories, as well as requirements for evidence of addresses and letters of confirmation from employers and accountants.

It says the "beleaguered" Passport Office has been given 100 more staff by the Home Office in an effort to clear its backlog of applications, which are causing people to delay or miss holidays unless they pay £55 to have their cases fast-tracked.

The Home Office later said ministers had ordered the Passport Office to withdraw the guidance.

"Cameron: What crisis?" says the Daily Mail.

It says the prime minister insisted there was no passport crisis despite admitting tens of thousands of travellers have been hit.

"The chaos shows no signs of easing with angry families telling of six-month delays and four-hour drives to obtain their travel papers," it says.

The Mail puts the backlog at 500,000 applications.

The Daily Telegraph claims that senior diplomats warned a month ago about critical problems which threatened to engulf the Passport Office.

According to a leaked document, the Telegraph says, the head of the passport agency was confronted with evidence of widespread delays in the wake of a decision to shut down overseas passport centres.

The Independent says it has emerged that staff numbers at the Passport Office have been cut by 15% in the last four years.

The Times says David Cameron's disclosure on the scale of the crisis came as Ed Miliband called on the prime minister to "get a grip" on the situation.

Fight for Iraq

The violent situation in Iraq is the lead story for the Independent, Telegraph and Times.

The Independent's Patrick Cockburn writes of Iraqi security forces discarding their uniforms and putting up meek resistance.

"The offensive led by the fundamentalist Islamist group Isis appears to be turning into a general uprising by Iraq's Sunni Arab community that lost power when Iraq was invaded by the US and its allies in 2003," he says.

The correspondent describes how 250 guards protecting a refinery in the town of Baiji withdrew after militant fighters asked local sheikhs by mobile phone to tell them to pull out or face a fight to the death.

In an analysis piece, he says the capture of Mosul by Isis means a radical change in the political geography of Iraq and Syria.

"Iraq slides into the hands of terrorists" is the headline in the Telegraph. The paper says fighters were within 60 miles of the Iraqi capital.

Telegraph columnist Peter Oborne says a powerful and merciless force has emerged on the world stage.

And the West should regard Iran as an ally as Middle East borders are redrawn, he adds.

The Times goes with "Islamic insurgents push Baghdad to the brink" for its headline.

The paper says the US was rushing to arm Iraq's security forces after the unprecedented advance towards Baghdad by Islamist militants.

Writing an opinion piece in the same newspaper, David Aaronovitch says what matters is preventing the advance of Isis.

"We must do everything short of putting boots on the ground to help the Kurds to defend themselves against Isis and similar groups," he says.

"Britain and France should give President Obama whatever encouragement he needs to take this action, and render whatever assistance the Americans might require."

World Cup

The papers eagerly anticipate the World Cup in Brazil, which the host nation kick off against Croatia on Thursday evening.

The Guardian has a large close-up picture on its front page of the golden trophy being held delicately by gloved hands.

The paper's Jonathan Watts in Rio de Janeiro says: "The countdown clocks have clicked down towards zero. The air force is on alert. Navy frigates patrol the coastline and an army of 147,000 police and soldiers has been mobilised.

"Roads usually choked with traffic are emptying of cars. Schools have been closed. Offices are finishing early. Hundreds of millions of TV sets are being tuned in to the same event."

Image copyright AFP

The Times' leader says that with the relentless rise of club football it is hard to imagine a World Cup that has had more at stake.

"International football meets at a crossroads in Brazil over the next month," it says.

The Daily Telegraph says this World Cup has been dogged by controversy even more than is usual for a major sporting event.

But the paper hopes when it kicks off to see more of the beautiful game and less of its ugly business.

An editorial in the Guardian says Brazil is about to launch football's world festival: four weeks of skill and passion, a showcase for the people's game.

But behind it lies Fifa, an opaque, supranational institution run by an unaccountable elite with powers that more properly belong to a national government, it continues.

Campaign donation

The Daily Express and the Daily Mail both picture Harry Potter author JK Rowling on their front pages.

She has been targeted by online abuse after she donated £1m to the campaign against Scottish independence.

The Express says Gloucestershire-born Rowling, who lives in Edinburgh, was branded a traitor on Twitter while others threatened to burn her books.

The paper says hundreds of foul-mouthed messages were posted on social websites after she confirmed her "substantial donation" to the pro-UK Better Together campaign.

The Mail says Rowling was subjected to a torrent of vile abuse by "Scottish nationalists" and many messages made crude references to her and fictional characters.

Image copyright PA

The Daily Mail comments: "This paper salutes JK Rowling for putting her money where her generous heart lies, with a £1m donation to the campaign to preserve the Union between her adopted home of Scotland and her native England.

"What a contrast between her munificence and the mean-spirited abuse to which separatists subjected her on Twitter."

"Scot trolls attack JK for £1m 'No' vote cash" is the headline the Sun goes with.

The Telegraph notes that Rowling has become the largest backer of the campaign against Scottish independence after her donation.

Her declaration of support for the 'No' campaign prompted a wave of abusive messages on social media, it adds.

A Telegraph leader says Rowling is not Alex Salmond's stereotype of an English Tory coming north of the border to lecture the proud Scots.

The Times says her donation is a major coup for the pro-Union campaign which feared being out-financed by the 'Yes' camp.