Newspaper headlines: Rochester poll, Thornberry saga and Mike Nichols tributes

First editions may have been printed before the declaration of the Rochester by-election result but the press seemed confident of the result.

And so was UKIP leader Nigel Farage, if some front pages were anything to go by. He's pictured supping a pint on the front of the Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Telegraph, in the case of the latter alongside his party's candidate - and eventual winner - Mark Reckless.

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The Telegraph quotes Mr Farage declaring "we're on the March" and predicting his party will become the nation's third largest at the next general election. On the campaign trail, the paper's sketchwriter Michael Deacon finds the UKIP leader dancing a jig in a bar where beer mats proclaimed that "only UKIP... could save British pubs". The writer adds: "Given Mr Farage's drinking habits, this sounds like a pledge it is well on course to honour."

According to the Guardian, "there are serious worries at No 10" about the possibility of other Tory backbenchers following Mr Reckless's lead in defecting to the Eurosceptic party, with the Rochester candidate having claimed to be in talks with two former colleagues considering the switch.

"Who will be the next Tory rat to abandon the sinking Conservative ship?" wonders the Daily Mirror, partisan as ever. And the Independent runs through the seven backbenchers it feels are most likely to take the leap.

Still, not all the headlines are positive for UKIP. The Times says the party has been purging "dangerous" candidates to avoid the sort of negative headlines such as those generated by Douglas Denny, in Portsmouth South, who described homosexuality as "abnormal". A source is quoted as saying: "Some of those who have been with the party a long time have stuff that could embarrass us."

Sneer campaign

The headlines make grim reading for Labour, which suffered the loss of one of its front-bench team amid accusations of "snobbery" on the campaign trail.

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Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry had posted a photograph of a house festooned with England flags and with a white van parked outside, captioned: "Image from #Rochester". In the Sun's interpretation she was "only here for the sneers".

The Daily Mail sees it as the case of "a Labour MP and her Twitter sneer at white van man's England flags", and quotes one of the Islington MP's party colleagues who's angry that it could give the impression that Labour has been "hijacked by the north London liberal elite".

The Mail compares the £200,000 terrace in Ms Thornberry's photograph "that is actually in Strood" to the £2m "imposing Victorian townhouse" she shares with her High Court judge husband.

In the opinion of the Sun, currently firmly behind the Conservatives: "She represents a Labour Party elite who purport to speak for ordinary people but never sully themselves by getting to know any."

'Kitemark of cinema'

Film critics pay tribute to film director Mike Nichols, best known for his 1967 classic The Graduate, who died aged 83 on Wednesday.

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Borrowing a line from Simon and Garfunkel, who wrote the soundtrack to the film, the Independent's appreciation reads: "Here's to you, Mr Nichols."

Half a decade on from Nichols' debut feature Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? the Independent's writer Geoffrey Macnab remembers a "cast-iron masterpiece". He writes: "It demonstrated instantly what made Nichols such a special film-maker - the very same qualities that he brought to his stage directing. He paid scrupulous attention to the text.

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"He also had the steeliness and tact needed to keep his belligerent, hard-drinking stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in check. He coaxed magnificent performances from both of them."

However, the Times describes the Graduate as "his masterclass" and says the film's star Dustin Hoffman owes his reputation to the director, who overlooked the established star Robert Redford in his favour. "The film made a star of Hoffman, a virtually unknown, diminutive Jewish stage actor who was asked to play the all-American boy," says the paper's obituary. "In 2000, he told the New Yorker: 'There is no piece of casting in the 20th Century that I know of that is more courageous than putting me in that part.'"

Despite "prodigious early success", the Telegraph says "a couple of flops... wiped out his commercial credit" until his career revived in the 1980s. Nichols' forte was light entertainment, the paper says: "In theatre, too, he was best known for his brilliant satire of Neil Simon comedies or for Monty Python's Spamalot."

His success was remarkable given that - as the Guardian notes - when he arrived in New York from Berlin in 1939, aged seven and having fled the Nazis, he could say just two things in English: "I don't speak English," and "Please don't kiss me." As the paper's critic Peter Bradshaw puts it, he went on to become: "A kitemark of intelligent mainstream Hollywood cinema - his directorial style was the sympathetic platform for smart writing and great acting performances."

Toy story

"Goodbye Barbie!" declares the Guardian, as it introduces a rival for the Christmas stocking.

Image copyright Nickolay Lamm

Lammilly has been created by artist Nickolay Lamm with the slogan "average is beautiful", thanks to a crowdfunding campaign that garnered 13,621 backers, reports the Guardian. Her figure is based on the proportions of the average 19-year-old as measured by America's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And, as the Times points out, Lammily is "so real [she] comes with spots and cellulite", in the form of stickers. The paper says the doll began as an art project but quotes its creator saying: "Parents and their kids were emailing and asking where they could buy the 'normal Barbie'."

Still, it seems neither is top of most youngsters' Christmas lists. "This year's must-have toy is doll My Friend Cayla which talks and answers questions," reports the Daily Star. The paper quotes a study suggesting that British parents will spend a total of £2bn on presents for their children, an average of £275 per child.

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