Newspaper headlines: UK's anti-terror 'war chest' and Osborne's Autumn Statement

Security and spending collide on the front pages as the newspapers dissect the government's plans to protect the UK in the coming years - as well as how it plans to pay for them.

Amid the backdrop of the Paris terror attacks and the ongoing lockdown in Brussels, Monday sees the publication of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).

The Times welcomes "sensible" aspects of the plan - more money for the UK's special forces, more spies, more drones. It feels those elements demonstrate "a heartening willingness to engage with the complexity of modern warfare".

However, the paper's leader goes on, there are "very real risks" facing the country from what is increasingly becoming "a hollowed-out military". It says the government has been able to laud an increase in defence spending only as a result of mathematical "contortions", and in fact, the armed forces, especially the Navy, are "alarmingly threadbare in places".

Image copyright AP
Image caption A major counter-terrorism exercise was held in London this summer after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris

Oliver Wright, in the Independent, agrees that while the headline figure in the SDSR might be a £12bn increase in the defence equipment and support budget over the next decade, that is "likely to be offset by other cuts".

The Daily Mirror, too, is sceptical. It says David Cameron's promises to spend big on our defences are "designed to cast him as a man of action as he battles to convince the public and MPs to grant his wish to bomb Syria". But, it goes on, the PM has given "the marching orders" to many soldiers, leaving our nation "with its smallest Army since the 19th Century".

The Daily Express, for one though, is prepared to take the government at its word. Labelling demands for greater transparency about how the defence budget will be spent "ridiculous", it argues: "We will not necessarily know what the extra billions will be spent on, but this is one instance where voters do not need to see the accounts."

'Rabbit and hat'

The SDSR comes in the same week as George Osborne's Autumn Statement and Spending Review, and the papers seem broadly united in the opinion that it certainly hasn't been an easy one for him to draw up.

The chancellor may have insisted there's been no cabinet war, "but no amount of political balm can disguise the fact that [the review] is the result of weeks of political attrition", says the Financial Times.

Police budgets, housing benefit and taxpayer support for business and skills will all be hit, the paper predicts, and even though Mr Osborne always comes to Commons "equipped with both a rabbit and a hat... conjuring positive headlines this time may prove difficult".

Image caption George Osborne will be in the spotlight on Wednesday as he delivers his Autumn Statement

The Guardian agrees that housing benefit is in the crosshairs, and is likely to be taken away from some of the same people whose tax credits are in the firing line - the working poor. One possible candidate then for that aforementioned rabbit? Raising the starting point for paying National Insurance - that would really help those on low incomes, the paper's economics editor Larry Elliott argues.

Taking a broader perspective, the Daily Telegraph argues that what's needed is "not just a spending review but a complete rethink about the way government operates and delivers services". Cutting budgets alone is not enough to deliver a small state, it adds.

Au contraire, says the Daily Mail, cutting budgets is fine. The public sector may be "shrieking", its leader column notes, "about the impossibility of absorbing more cuts", but the chancellor must not "waver". It adds: "The police are screeching loudest of all, even though crime is falling and their own budgets have risen by £1.5 billon in real terms over 15 years."


What the commentators say

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Media captionFormer government adviser Zamilla Bunglawala and author Matthew Syed join the BBC News Channel to review Monday's papers.

Elsewhere on Monday, several papers are exercised about the news that UK cinemas have refused to show an advert featuring the Lord's Prayer.

"A real outrage" - that's the view of the Daily Mail. It says big cinema companies "need urgent lessons in Britain's proud history of free speech and religious tolerance".

The Daily Express, too, is appalled. "The fact is, most of us pray when times get tough, whatever faith we subscribe to," it argues. "It is most unlikely that anyone will be offended by something so mild and well-meaning. And if they are so bothered then they can go and buy a tub of popcorn while it's on."

One unlikely supporter of the Church of England in the row is prominent atheist Richard Dawkins. According to the Guardian, he says: "If anyone is 'offended' by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended."


Eye-catching headlines

  • Dangerous bleach autism 'cure' feared to have spread to Britain - Police have been urged to investigate the first suspected UK case of a parent giving their autistic child doses of "Miracle Mineral Solution", the Independent reports.
  • Coffee could be the fix to help the homeless - Vans selling cups of £2.50 speciality brews will go out on the streets this week staffed by the recently homeless, paid the London living wage, the Guardian says.
  • A hook, line or finger? - A fifth of young adults think fish fingers are actually made from the fingers of fish, the Daily Star reports.
  • Cumberbacklash! - Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch is, according to the Daily Mail and others, under fire for his portrayal of a transgender supermodel.

Strike action by junior doctors is looming, and on Sunday, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that patients' lives could be put at risk.

"How could they not be?" asks the Sun, coming down hard on doctors' union, the BMA. "If patients' well-being was the union's primary concern it wouldn't consider exposing them to such drastic action." The paper accuses the BMA of being "entirely focused on members' pay and conditions, as well as undermining the Tories it detests".

On another front in the increasingly acrimonious battle, more than 3,000 junior doctors have rounded on Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director for NHS England, after he questioned whether they would be available to work "within an hour" of a major terrorist incident like that in Paris.

The Independent has seen a letter in which representatives accuse Sir Bruce of being "deeply disrespectful to those who lost their lives" in the attacks in France.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Last year's Black Friday saw some shoppers go to extreme lengths to take home a bargain

Finally, you've heard of Black Friday - well, probably - but now the Mirror has coined "Black Fiveday", a whole working week of special offers which begins on Monday. The aim, the paper says, is to avoid the sort of scenes witnessed in 2014 when fights broke out over bargain-basement goods.

It quotes one expert, Dr Tim Denison, from Ipsos Retail Performance, who says: "I don't expect to see a repeat of last year's antics, when magpies squabbling over road kill acted with more dignity than shoppers did."


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