Newspaper headlines: David Cameron woos UKIP and writers mark 'Divorce Day'

If readers were in any doubt that a long election campaign had got under way, the Daily Telegraph's front page should set them straight.

It features quotes from the three main Westminster party leaders and UKIP's Nigel Farage about their hopes for the future, within a lead story focusing on David Cameron's comment that he would be "delighted" to hold a referendum on European Union membership earlier than his planned 2017 timescale.

The Telegraph sees this as a bid to "woo" eurosceptic UKIP voters but the Times goes further, suggesting that it might help to secure a deal with Mr Farage's party in the event of UKIP winning enough seats to prop up a minority Conservative government.

However, the Daily Mail is angered by the PM's remark that he would expect ministers to back his campaign to remain in the EU ahead of any poll. "Isn't this debate far too weighty to be led by politicians toeing the party line, in fear of losing their jobs," it argues.


Honesty... hardly ever heard?

No sooner will Labour leader Ed Miliband address a rally in Manchester on Monday, than Conservative "big-hitters" will be using Treasury figures to attack his party's spending plans, says the Guardian.

But the Sun is sceptical of both, delivering a "simple message" urging: "Stop lying to us... Tell the unvarnished truth about your successes and, yes, your failures too. Be honest about how you would try to turn the country around and how long it would take. Treat us with respect and, who knows, you might be thanked for it on May 7."

Times cartoonist Morten Morland isn't hopeful, picturing the party leaders with their "pants on fire".

Image copyright various

The Financial Times, too, urges more from the PM and his opposite number. "If mainstream parties talk down Britain as a broken country, they cannot be surprised when voters turn to vehicles of protest such as UKIP and the Greens." It urges them to "fight back" by "saying the unsayable to angry voters: That Britain is not a dismal country that needs a complete overhaul, but a broadly successful one that has much to lose from a lurch to fringe politics".

Telegraph cartoonist Adams can't see it happening. He takes inspiration from reports that landowners are to be paid to cull grey squirrels by picturing Messrs Cameron, Miliband and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg as the cowering mammals. Each sits on a park railing as a rifle's crosshairs are trained on them, and Mr Farage flees grinning in the background.


Trouble is coming... temptation

Five days into January, and with millions of people facing the prospect of a return to work, many might be finding their willpower lacking when it comes to maintaining new year resolutions.

So the Daily Mail's Tom Leonard tests a new device - the Pavlok rubber bracelet - designed to instil some discipline by administering a 340-volt electric shock. "The bracelet could be linked wirelessly... to the GPS tracking system of your mobile phone, so it would shock you when it noticed you had failed to appear in the vicinity of your gym at the time set for your workout." Alternatively, people could allow friends or family to police their habits by delivering a shock via an app on their phones. "So, if your significant other saw you snacking from the fridge... he or she could shock you back on to the path of self-righteousness."

Image copyright Thinkstock

What of the sensation? Leonard writes: "The discomfort isn't as bad as touching an electric fence and certainly not enough to cause harm - but it's not something I want to repeat."

In a bid to aid post-Christmas weight loss, many papers are touting diet plans, healthy recipes and fitness regimes. But, as public health advisers launch a new campaign to wean the country off sugar, the Independent fears it won't be easy. "We cut out conventional sweets, unaware that sugar lurks in soups, sauces, bread, meat and other savoury items... One way to get us to eat less sugar is to force manufacturers to put a lot less of the stuff into what we eat. Without that, we will remain hooked."

One among many giving up alcohol this month is Nigel Farage, leading the Telegraph to wonder: "What of the UKIP faithful? How seriously will they be able to take the self-styled man of the people as he perches on a bar stool sipping an elderflower cordial or fruity mocktail?" Telegraph columnist Bryony Gordon's "troubled relationship" with alcohol leads her to declare: "I want, not just a Dry January, but a Dry Life." She overcomes initial scepticism to try hypnotherapy and finds it a "strangely pleasurable, cathartic" experience.

And while the Guardian reports that "a lot of people have been thinking about doing some gentle jogging" since the turn of the year, it says "a select few are getting ready to run further. Much, much further". Increasing numbers are taking up ultra-running - completing distances beyond the 26.2 miles of the marathon - the paper says. It quotes one organiser of 50 and 100-mile races who says all 1,200 places in his 2015 events sold out within 10 minutes of going on sale.


D-I-V-O-R-C-E

At the start of the first full working week after Christmas, the Times reports: "The Christmas decorations are packed away and the turkey scraps binned, to be followed shortly by the remnants of many marriages as couples infuriated by each other over the festive period file for divorce." Divorce Day, as its known, sees a 30% rise in calls for some family lawyers, the paper says.

Image copyright Thinkstock

And Zoe Williams, of the Guardian, marks the occasion by "busting some marriage myths". She complains that the marriage lobby's belief in the institution is based on commitment being the moral choice, providing stability for children. However, she writes: "There's nothing moral about making a promise, the moral part is keeping it, which 42% of married people don't." This also contradicts the theory that marriage is an "insurance policy", she says: "The abnegation of the self in the search for true togetherness, or a bid for your spouse's income: how can it be both?"

Meanwhile, one writer who's mid-divorce, Shelley Whitehead, describes in the Daily Mail the day her husband left her: "I realised, as I sobbed into my pillow at night, that I hadn't just lost my husband Ewen, 54, but my best friend. That's because we were friends long before we were lovers." She reckons that: "At some point, every woman looks at her male friends and wonders 'what if...?' But my stark warning should serve as a wake-up call to any woman with such fleeting thoughts."

Happy new year.


Times: Israel punishes Palestinians with £80m tax freeze

FT: Euro hits nine-year low as dollar marches higher

Metro: Family fined £400 after taking too long to eat lunch

Guardian: Is depression a kind of allergic reaction?