Paper review: Minister's woe and Madeleys trolled

The fall-out from two controversies - regarding disabled workers and attitudes to rape - dominate Thursday's papers.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Lord Freud made the comments at a Conservative fringe meeting

Welfare minister Lord Freud and TV personality Judy Finnigan have both apologised for their respective comments, and both feature prominently on the front and inside pages.

David Freud said he was "profoundly sorry" after being recorded suggesting some disabled workers were "not worth" the full minimum wage.

A number of papers report that a "furious" David Cameron ordered his officials to demand the apology after Lord Freud said those that wanted to work for less could be paid as little as £2 an hour.

While the Daily Telegraph says the gaffe "threatened to end his political career", more than one newspaper says he is "clinging" to his job.

"Downing Street was loath to lose Freud," the Guardian reckons, adding that he is seen to have a "full grasp" of the government's welfare reforms.

The paper points out Mr Cameron "poached" the former investment banker from Labour in 2009.

And no column inches are spared in listing some of the unpaid minister's previous ill-advised comments.

He was once "jeered in the House of Lords", the Telegraph notes, for suggesting food bank use was rising "because people wanted free food".

But in its editorial, the paper accuses Labour of using the episode to distract from falling unemployment and "mounting criticism of Ed Miliband's leadership".

"Such tactics won't wash," the paper insists. "The central political question to be considered over the next few months is not what Lord Freud said at a conference fringe meeting, but whether Ed Miliband is suitable to be prime minister."

Both the Independent and Daily Mirror carry reaction from people with disabilities.

"Setting up disabled people as a source of exceptionally cheap labour will make employers undervalue and ignore us further," writes Alice Maynard of the charity Scope.

The Sun, meanwhile, claims Labour "considered a lower minimum wage in 2003 for the disabled doing 'therapeutic work'."

Trolls and rape threats

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Image caption Richard Madeley's defence of daughter Chloe dominates the tabloids

Someone else who might have been trying to avoid the headlines this week is Judy Finnigan.

The TV personality was roundly criticised for her comments about rape during her debut on ITV chat show Loose Women.

Finnigan had made comments about convicted rapist Ched Evans in which she suggested the rape was "not violent".

She later apologised and said she wasn't suggesting that rape was anything other than a horrendous crime.

But, as many of the papers report, that criticism has now taken a more sinister turn.

Finnigan and her daughter have apparently been on the receiving end of Twitter trolls issuing rape threats.

Writing in the Daily Mail, 27-year-old Chloe Madeley says: "That such threats can be made so openly, so easily, so publicly, to a young woman is extremely chilling. And extremely cowardly."

Recounting the "disgusting remarks" she regularly receives from trolls on social media, she criticises the "the cloak of anonymity that Twitter lovingly wraps around them".

Father Richard has threatened to call in the police, warning the perpetrators: "Trolls who sent sick rape threats, prosecution awaits you," the Sun reports.

Image copyright Twitter

Tech control?

Elsewhere, an announcement by the tech giants Apple and Facebook on Wednesday has riled a number of columnists.

Image copyright Thinkstock

In the Mail, Libby Purves says the companies' offer to harvest the eggs of female employees so they can delay starting a family is "creepy, corporate and dry-hearted".

The suggestion doesn't receive a much better hearing in the Times.

"Instead of trying to control - for which read 'limit' - our fertility, businesses should be empowering their female employees to have a baby whenever they want," writes Hilary Rose in the Thunderer column.

It's a theme picked up by Zoe Williams in the Guardian who reckons the move is akin to "breaking employees down to discrete biological functions, trying to control each one that we might work better, harder, more consistently".

Meanwhile, as many as 30 British nationals may have been killed fighting with Islamic State and other extremists in Syria, the Telegraph reports.

Image caption Bristol teenager Yusra Hussien is thought to have left her family to travel to Syria

It cites research from the International Centre for Radicalisation at King's College, London, which monitors UK jihadists on social media.

"But the reports of their deaths could serve as an inspiration [for others]," the paper says, quoting a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.

"If you are going out there to fight and are motivated by the idea of jihad then you are not going to be put off by the deaths, some might even be inspired by them," Raffaello Pantucci tells the paper.

And according to research in the Times, young women are no less susceptible to being radicalised than young men.

Of 600 British Muslims interviewed for the Queen Mary University study, only around one in 70 expressed any support for extreme acts.

"Among the more surprising findings was that gender makes no difference," the paper notes.

PM's red lines

David Cameron is widely reported to be ready to set out his "red lines" in negotiations with the European Union.

The Sun says the prime minister's stance towards EU immigration will be "toughened" marking a "stunning victory" for the paper's "Red Lines campaign".

The tabloid's political editor says: "Cameron is determined not to look weak and boxed into the move by UKIP or his own backbenchers."

Unnamed government sources are cited in the Times, which expects a "game changing" announcement.

The sources "insisted that no final decisions had been made either on the timing or the content of the announcement", the paper reports.

The Daily Mail adds: "Conservative ministers want fundamental reform of the EU's founding principle of free movement, which allows people to move between countries, government sources say."

Image copyright Joern Pollex

Disturbing news for animal lovers, particularly lovers of rabbits - and, perhaps, those who love eating them.

The Daily Mail reports on an investigation by the Compassion in World Farming Group which it says uncovered "shocking abuses".

"Factory farmed rabbits were found confined to bare wire cages so small they couldn't stand up," the paper says.

"Rather than foraging for natural greens and roots, they were fed industrially produced grain an pumped full of antibiotics to counteract the infections which result from such poor diet and conditions."

The report says the UK imports around 100,000 rabbits a year - a sign of their popular presence on some British menus.

But, for those who admire the furry creatures primarily for their culinary potential, a warning: "Rabbits like these comprise the majority of the rabbit meat on sale in Britain."

The Mail says that, unless it's labelled otherwise, "You can be almost certain that the rabbit served in your local restaurant has been factory-farmed.

Gonzalo worries

Image copyright AP
Image caption Calm before the storm?

As the nights draw in and memories of summer fade, the papers are full of stories about forthcoming storms - which, according to the Express, are set to "batter Britain".

"Forecasters fear violent gales and torrential downpours as a churning vortex powered by Hurricane Gonzalo hits the UK," the paper warns.

A slightly different take in the Telegraph, which talks of "unseasonably warm weather" brought by the tail end of the Category 2 hurricane which has formed in the Atlantic.

"We have no idea if it will affect us at the moment," the Met Office tells the paper. "It could just pass by."