Iraq crisis, Peter Capaldi's Doctor Who and Boris Johnson's prospects in the press

By Andy McFarlane
BBC News

  • Published

A photograph on the Times's front page highlights the latest crisis to hit the Middle East.

It shows members of Iraq's Yazidi minority fleeing to the country's northern mountains to escape extremists from the Islamic State (IS) organisation. Early editions were printed before US President Barack Obama authorised air strikes in the event militants advanced towards American personnel. But the Guardian describes this beforehand as "a fateful step that President Obama has been reluctant to take during the rise of [IS]".

The Independent focuses on the flight of up to a quarter of Iraq's Christians after the Islamist militants seized the minority group's biggest town, while the Times's Tom Coghlan quotes the leader of the country's Anglicans calling on Britain to open its borders to refugees fleeing beheadings and crucifixions.

In the Daily Mail, Michael Burleigh describes the situation across the Middle East as "apocalypse ignored". He recounts seeing an IS video showing "men crammed into the back of an open-topped truck, weeping in fear before being driven off to be executed".

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Displaced Yazidis have taken refuge wherever they can

He continues: "In another sequence, hundreds sit on the ground in the desert, their hands bound, waiting to be shot. Still more men are shown being hit with rifle butts as they march bent and blindfolded, one behind the other. When they reach their destination, the blood-soaked edge of a small jetty, each of them is shot dead and tossed into the water."

The Daily Telegraph's editorial says the West has hitherto been "strangely quiet" about the problems. "Part of the reason may be that the minorities involved lack a powerful, loud lobby. Or, to put it another way, their cause is simply not fashionable," it suggests. "Another possible explanation is that the West simply hasn't wanted to think about Iraq. After losing so many lives there, politicians would rather draw a line under the whole subject."

It argues that the West has a duty to intervene in a crisis "it helped create conditions for". The Guardian accepts that "after all that has passed in recent years, hesitation about any kind of intervention in the Middle East is entirely understandable" but that circumstances warrant "a fundamental reconsideration".

The Times argues more forcefully that: "Islamic State jihadists are tearing the very heart out of the Middle East. They are still a relatively small force who have made themselves appear intimidating through sheer brutality. If they are cut down now, the region, and the world, will be an immeasurably better place."

Liberal Democrats on drugs

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg tells the Sun that UK drug laws are "utterly senseless" because they imprison 1,000 people a year who have not committed a crime other than possession.

Image source, PA

Sentencing rules are "spectacularly self-defeating", Mr Clegg says, because "throwing users in jail only hooks them on harder drugs or turns them into professional criminals". And the tabloid gives him cautious backing, arguing that after years of failed initiatives to stem drug use his plan "starts to sound like common sense". The paper adds: "We do not want drug legalisation by the back door. But at the very least let's have the debate."

Meanwhile, the Independent reports that Mr Clegg's Lib Dem colleague Norman Baker is to announce plans to offer heroin users free foil. It says the scheme, which reportedly has the backing of Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May, would encourage addicts to smoke the drug, rather than run the risks of infection involved in using needles. And the paper's editorial is supportive, arguing: "Heroin use can never be safe, but it can be made safer, which is why today's announcement that aluminium foil will be made available to addicts is a sensible measure."

Guess Who's back

Image source, Getty Images

Note: Links may contain spoilers

Fans had come to Cardiff from "as far as Canada, Israel, Italy and the US" to see the premiere of the new series of Doctor Who, reports the Guardian. "The lucky few had tickets to the screening, but most were there to just witness the spectacle, which included Daleks roaming the red carpet."

"Who you calling old?" asks the Daily Mirror's front-page promotion, referring to the installation of Peter Capaldi, 56, as the Time Lord, despite him being 25 years more senior than predecessor Matt Smith. And the Telegraph's Ben Lawrence finds the 12th incarnation of the Doctor replying to his questioners with a few sharp age-based quips.

Capaldi, interviewed by the Mirror, describes being both "frightened and apprehensive" as he awaits the reaction of fans to his conversion from spin doctor Malcolm Tucker, from The Thick Of It. But the paper's TV editor Nicola Methven says his sidekick, Clara, seems to like him, adding: "The question now is... will you?"

The critics seem won over. Ellen E Jones, in the Independent, writes that the latest Time Lord "may just be the best yet", saying: "Everyone has their favourite Doctor and my hunch is that Capaldi will one day be viewed as the connoisseur's choice." Andrew Billen, in the Times, agrees: "I was not the only Whovian to depart wondering if the former Malcolm Tucker might not prove the best Doctor ever."

Either way, the show's producers are reportedly pleased. The Sun says they've signed up Capaldi for a second series and a Christmas special "before his first episode has been on telly".

Yes/No to Boris?

"A day is a long time in politics," notes the Guardian, as it reports that Boris Johnson has already been "fast-tracked" onto the Conservatives' official candidates list. The paper quotes the London Mayor telling the capital's Evening Standard that it must have been "by some clerical oversight".

The Sun says Mr Johnson has already earned the backing of 100 MPs to succeed David Cameron as party leader, and the Daily Express views his return to Parliament as a boost for its "crusade" against the European Union. "If anyone can chivy the government into pressing for reforms in Brussels it is Boris Johnson," it argues.

Image source, PA

However, while the Daily Star admires the way the mayor "tackled a tree with a hedge trimmer yesterday, hours after announcing he will stand as an MP", other papers point out he may not have things all his own way in Uxbridge, where he's tipped for selection.

The Daily Telegraph reckons his efforts to close Heathrow Airport and replace it with an alternative in the Thames Estuary are unlikely to have endeared him to the locals. "The west London constituency contains thousands of voters who work at Heathrow and would fiercely oppose Mr Johnson. The mayor believes Heathrow should be turned into a 'tech city'."

The Financial Times visits the area to find people largely supportive, although entrepreneur Scott Balcony is hedging his bets. He's reportedly sold 120 Boris T-­shirts, "half with the words 'Yes! To Boris' and half with 'No! To Boris'", as the FT's picture demonstrates.

Mark Steel, in the Independent, delivers a withering assessment of the "Boris fever" described by some papers on Thursday, writing: "He bumbles about, so it doesn't matter what he stands for. Some people wouldn't care if he was torturing them, as long as he said, 'Goodness, where do these electrode thingumyjigs go?'"

And for those who aren't clear on Mr Johnson's policy views, the Times sets out what he backs - gay marriage, selective education, an illegal immigrant amnesty and banning smoking in cars - and opposes, such as HS2, the hunting ban and the 45p tax rate (he prefers 40p).


Image source, PA

"It's the strewth," says the Daily Mirror, that you can be fined between £55 and £275 for swearing in public in Australia. The paper is reporting updated Foreign Office advice for British travellers.

Other unusual pitfalls are set out in the Independent, which explains that it's illegal to drive a dirty car in Russia, that it's not done to take photographs of people without their permission in the United Arab Emirates, and that - in Thailand - the head is sacred and you should never touch anyone else's.

The advice might alarm the characters of the latest comedy film The Inbetweeners 2 - which follows four teenagers on a trip to Australia - given that, as Wendy Ide puts it in the Times: "They are as lewd and crude as ever." For the Express's Allan Hunter, their bodies "may be in Australia but their minds are forever in the sewer", while the Telegraph's Robbie Collin insists: "It's gross - but hysterically funny."

The Daily Mail's Brian Viner is less than impressed, having been banished to a seat within safe cringing distance from his teenage son. He writes: "I greatly enjoyed the mickey-taking of gap-year cliches. In fact, I laughed out loud, twice. But when I laughed, nobody else did, and when everyone else laughed, I didn't. That's the lot of a proper grown-up at an Inbetweeners movie."

Such matters won't trouble the film-makers, however. The Guardian reports the film made £2.75m on its opening day, "breaking the record for a live-action comedy at the UK box office" previously held by the original Inbetweeners film.

Making people click

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