Newspaper headlines: Drone strike, refugee figure and BBC future

The drone strikes that killed two British men fighting with Islamic State (IS, Isis or Isil) extremists in Syria provoke much reaction.

In the Daily Mail, sketchwriter Quentin Letts describes how David Cameron informed MPs of the killings: "A hush fell on the Chamber as we were taken from this dusty Commons to somewhere muddily blood-stained in the Syrian wilderness... the prime minister's language in his prepared Statement was assiduously non-triumphalist - more dainty, I suspect, than the nation at large may have been happy to hear."

The Sun, which says it had an undercover reporter "groomed online" by another British jihadist killed in a US attack, is among those satisfied with the news. "Until now IS have believed themselves safe enough in their Raqqa stronghold. We couldn't be happier that British drones backed by on-the-ground intelligence have put them straight on that."

In the Daily Telegraph's opinion, Mr Cameron was justified in ordering the strikes because of what he described as a "clear and present" danger to the security of British people. "Alternatives, such as arresting the men, were not available in the lawless ungoverned space occupied by Isil."

Image caption Reyaad Khan, from Cardiff (L) and Ruhul Amin, from Aberdeen, travelled to Syria to fight with the Islamic State group

The Independent points out that the PM was using an article in the United Nations charter - preserving the "inherent right of individual... self-defence if an armed attack occurs against" a member state - as the basis to justify the strike.

However, the Guardian quotes a law professor questioning whether the criteria were met; specifically whether an attack was "imminent". "It appears the UK is adopting a broader and more expansive vision of what the right of self-defence means... a departure from established British practice in the use of force in self-defence," Prof Philippe Sands QC tells the paper.

In the analysis of Times defence editor Deborah Haynes: "The killing sets a precedent that Britain is willing to destroy enemies anywhere in the world deemed to be ungoverned space, something this government and Labour before it had insisted the country did not do."

The Daily Mirror - pointing out the PM is "bombing in Syria despite losing a Parliamentary vote against military action - says Mr Cameron must give more details of the terrorist attacks and publish the legal advice he received. "Then everyone can decide," it says.

According to the Daily Express, that detail includes a plot to kill the Queen in a "massive bomb blast at a ceremony in London on August 15 on the 70th anniversary of VJ Day" that was foiled by intelligence services. It was among six terror plots to be thwarted in 12 months, the paper says.


What the commentators say

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Media captionHuffington Post entertainment editor Caroline Frost and political journalist Rob Merrick join the BBC News Channel to review Tuesday's papers

PM 'can't win'?

The Guardian criticises Mr Cameron for combining his statement on the drone strikes with information about his plan for the UK to admit 20,000 Syrian refugees. "He chose... not merely to take the two issues together but to suggest that he had thoughts on the military front that might somehow enable more Syrians to stay home."

Likewise, the Independent is unimpressed, accusing the PM of "responding to the refugee crisis with spin". It argues: "The two matters, though related, are not directly linked given that it is [Syrian President] Assad's war against his own citizens, not the onward march of Isis, that has led to the overwhelming majority of civilian deaths in that country."

The paper believes 4,000 refugees a year for five years amounts to "too little". It's a figure described as "derisory" by former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown, who writes in the Guardian that the response is "calibrated more by political expediency than compassion".

Image copyright Getty Images

Max Hastings, in the Daily Mail, says Mr Cameron's announcement won't make a "jot of difference". He writes: "Little steps to intervene in the war in Syria, and letting a football crowd's worth of refugees into Britain, is not a policy. We should not allow David Cameron to delude us - or worse, himself, that it is."

And Ross Clark, in the Daily Express, agrees that it will "make next to no impact on the human tragedies in the Middle East and North Africa". He argues: "He has little idea of where these people will be rehomed. We already have an acute housing crisis, with many migrants already here living in garden sheds and overcrowded, illegally sublet council homes."

The Sun suggests Mr Cameron "can't win" when it comes to the refugee question. "Half the country don't want to take any. The other wants some arbitrary number... We cannot realistically make a dent in the millions displaced by Assad and IS anyway." However, it adds: "To each of those 20,000 people, a safe haven in Britain is life-changing."

The Times argues that Britain's response "has the virtue of common sense". It points out that the figure of 20,000 is "bigger than expected" and says it "will be a significant easing of suffering, not merely an easing of western consciences".


Eye-catching headlines

  • "Frogs a-courtin' trouble on tidy lawns" - researchers believe chemicals produced by clover in lawns, coupled with vegetable fertilisers, cause hormonal changes that lead to female frogs outnumbering males, reports the Telegraph
  • "The 93 secs factor" - the Daily Mirror wonders why X Factor co-host Caroline Flack didn't get more screen time on Saturday's show
  • "Huge lump of whale vomit to fetch £7,000 at auction" - a chunk of ambergris found washed up on Anglesey this year is likely to be snapped up by the perfume industry as a fixative, the Times reports
  • "Rugger off" - wives and girlfriends of England's Rugby World Cup squad are being warned to stay out of the limelight, lest they cause a "distraction", according to the Sun

Changing channels?

After BBC director general Tony Hall set out his vision for the corporation's future, the papers try to read between the lines to identify the effect on services.

Plans for an on-demand iPlay service for children, the Daily Mirror suspects, will mean "CBeebies bye-byes". The paper takes its inspiration for the headline from the hit show Teletubbies, previously screened by the channel for children aged up to six. CBBC - for older children - also faces the axe, the paper suggests, along with BBC4 Four and the BBC News Channel.

The Sun has Channel 5 founder David Elstein offer his view on what it sees as the likely changes. He fears moving children's programmes online would mean parents having to monitor viewing habits, while he says a plan to have the World Service broadcast to North Korea won't "make any difference to anyone" other than landing people in jail for listening to it.

Elstein does, however, back plans to prioritise drama and backs the idea that the News Channel could be replaced by an online streaming news service.

The plan to recruit 100 "public service reporters" to scrutinise councils and report from court seems "inadequate to the task" to the Financial Times. "Nor is it evident the extent to which it will help or hinder local news media," the paper adds, arguing: "It is anyway questionable why licence fee payers should want to subsidise such content."

Meanwhile, the Telegraph argues that the recruitment of local reporters proves that: "Far from existing to provide the high-quality British public service broadcasting that it still does so well and which the country still expects of it, the BBC now exists primarily to sustain itself and its influence."

There is support from the Guardian for the "wonderful idea in principle" of the Ideas Service, a proposal featuring material from galleries, museums and universities. But it says the BBC must prove that it is "willing to work as a truly equal collaborator, instead of dominating its so-called partners".


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