Sir Cliff Richard raid, A-level 'joy', Downton Abbey and 'Pu-less' Palace

Sir Cliff Richard appears on the front page of most national papers following the police raid on his Berkshire home.

Most repeat his description of allegations of a historical sex offence involving a boy as "completely false", while the Metro is among those describing the pop star's "fury" at the fact reporters were present at the police raid.

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Among them was Fiona Hamilton, of the Times, who writes that "eight plainclothes officers spent more than five hours at the property" which the paper describes as a penthouse flat in a gated community. Alison Boshoff writes in the Daily Mail that the Sunningdale home is just one of Sir Cliff's properties, alongside a £6m villa in Barbados and a £3m Algarve farm, where he was staying when police arrived.

The i reports that the singer is to fly back from Portugal, while the Sun prints his entire statement in which he said: "It goes without saying that I will co-operate fully should the police wish to speak to me."

The allegation is understood to relate to an alleged sexual assault at an event in 1985 when US preacher Billy Graham appeared at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane stadium. The Guardian prints an image of a Graham tour programme with Sir Cliff's photograph inside. Many papers run profiles of Sir Cliff, with the Daily Star charting his 56 years in showbiz. He's sold 250m records and is the only singer to top the singles charts in five consecutive decades, it says.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror recalls his transition from being branded a "crude exhibitionist" by music magazine NME and dubbed "too sexy for TV" to becoming a "£60m Mr Clean" having turned to Christianity. And the Daily Telegraph notes the reaction on social media, where thousands of fans expressed support for the star.


Reforms 'make the grade'

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Coverage of this year's A-level results features the usual posed shots of 18-year-olds "jumping for joy", and as the Sun points out alongside its selection: "Wags on social media rushed to mock pictures which yet again concentrated on leggy blondes leaping in the air clutching their results."

However, some papers take an alternative approach. The Times features four young men invited to open the envelopes containing their grades on a theme park rollercoaster, while the Guardian opts to set up a group of teachers in the same pose to celebrate their pupils' success. Headlines note a dip in grades balanced by universities lowering their entry requirements, with the Times suggesting a record number of disadvantaged youngsters would go on to higher education thanks to an expansion in the number of places available.

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Many papers focus on remarkable individual achievements, such as the Daily Express singling out Brighton College student Tabitha Jackson who dropped just 14 marks out of a possible 1,600 to gain A* marks in English, Spanish, Latin and French. Her headmaster Richard Cairns writes in the Daily Telegraph praising the work of ex-Education Secretary Michael Gove for making the exams tougher - in response to universities' demands for more rigour - but says more change is needed to make schooling more relevant to the needs of industry.

That view is backed up in the Financial Times, which reports "mixed blessings" for employers in the results, with many firms welcoming the popularity of "tougher" subjects like maths and science but others saying the country is not producing enough students with good language skills. Most papers, however, recognise the effect of the former education secretary's work. "Gove's reforms make the grade," declares the Mail, while Independent education editor Richard Garner agrees: "Gove would have been proud of these results."

Times cartoonist Morten Morland views the real beneficiary as Mr Gove's replacement, Nicky Morgan, sketching her in "jump for joy" pose, results in hand. However, education academic Prof Alan Smithers writes in the Guardian: "Although the present results contain some intriguing hints, the full force of the reforms will not be felt for a few years yet."

Not all is rosy, according to some papers, with the Independent suggesting the "value of a degree continues to deflate" and saying that too many employers find graduates "unprepared for the world of work". Guardian cartoonist Ben Jennings, meanwhile, views youngsters' prospects as limited, imagining a student proudly receiving her A-level results, then her degree certificate, before being handed a zero-hours contract.

Whatever the future holds, the Sun reckons the dip in grades has given school-leavers something to cheer: "They'll no longer have to listen to parents going on and on about how much tougher it was in their day."


Downton drama

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The Great British Bake Off... Doctor Who... What's next?

"Oh joy of snobbish, asparagus-fork-waving joys. Downton Abbey is back," says the Daily Mail's Jan Moir. "At first look, the fifth series appears to be just as glorious and gloriously silly as ever."

The Times's Alex Spence says viewers can expect the latest series to be "less gloomy" than the last, which featured a death, rape and the aftermath of World War One, adding: "The series premiere, screened for journalists in London yesterday, depicted a lighter, happier mood around the estate than during the last series."

"There are enough parties and drama to do the Roaring Twenties justice," reckons Express reviewer Elisa Roche. "The brilliant series opener will leave viewers dreaming of owning a luxurious wardrobe and a well-stocked pantry."

Meanwhile, the Telegraph remembers Labour leader Ed Miliband's quip that the Tory party reminded him of Downton Abbey's "out-of-touch" aristocrats and says "it would appear the dislike is mutual". Anita Singh writes: "It opens in 1924, the year Ramsay MacDonald became prime minister [in Labour's first government], and the Earl of Grantham makes plain his feelings on the matter... 'This government,' he warns, 'is committed to the destruction of people like us and everything we stand for.'"

"It is the rise of socialism that threatens to destroy the world's favourite English country house for good," agrees the Independent's Adam Sherwin. But he adds that despite the foray into politics, life goes on as normal: "No opportunity for plot signalling is avoided - an early-hours house fire is inevitably used to expose who has tip-toed into the wrong bedroom."

However, many papers are most fascinated by a publicity shot (above) of the Earl and his daughter, Lady Edith - played by Hugh Bonneville and Laura Carmichael - in which a plastic water bottle had been left next to antique urns on the mantelpiece. "Eau dear," says the Mirror, describing it as a "real dampener".


Football madness

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There is astonishment in the sports pages at the Premier League's first managerial departure of the season, two days before it's even kicked off.

"It's Crystal Pu-less," says the Metro of the situation at Selhurst Park, where last year's Manager of the Year, Tony Pulis, walked out after reported disagreements with chairman Steve Parish over transfer policy. The Mail's Neil Ashton explains that while Palace "are awash with Premier League cash", they are "not used to spending big". And while Pulis - who rescued the club from relegation - "wanted to take charge of all the incoming transfers", the club's board weren't so keen to "blow the budget".

"Even by Crystal Palace's eccentric managerial history, losing a man less than 48 hours before the start of the new football season surely plumbs new depths," reckons the Express's Tony Banks, who says a "pair of kings" could not rule the club. Even so, the Independent's Martin Thorpe wonders why the Palace chairman would "self-harm" by even picking the fight.

The result is a "crash-landing" for the Eagles, according to the Guardian's Ed Aarons. He says Pulis's reputation "should not be affected" but that "whether the same can be said for Parish remains to be seen", despite him having the club's best interests at heart. "With Palace's loyal fans left in a state of bemusement by yesterday's events, it will take some explaining to justify the latest twist in south London's real-life soap opera."

But the repercussions go further than south London, according to the Times's Oliver Kay. "Hitherto anxious chairmen will be wondering whether Palace have re-emerged as part of the relegation equation. They might also consider that Pulis is a ready-made firefighter if their team start the season poorly. Accordingly, managers such as Paul Lambert and Sam Allardyce might feel as if the pressure on them has grown at Aston Villa and West Ham United respectively."


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