Newspaper headlines: Syria troops claim, 'victory for justice' and cool parenting

David Cameron's case for air strikes in Syria is examined in several of Friday's papers, and the Sun sums up the key talking point with the headline: "You and whose army?"

It says senior defence officials have "disowned" Mr Cameron's claim that 70,000 moderate Syrian troops are ready to fight so-called Islamic State (IS).

The Times says government officials fear the claim will become Mr Cameron's "dodgy dossier" - a reference to documents relied upon by Tony Blair in the build-up to the 2003 Iraq war.

Officials were not worried about the validity of the figure, the paper says, but they were reluctant for Mr Cameron to use a specific number as it could become the "one thing that everyone latches on to", like Mr Blair's claim that Saddam Hussein could have launched weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.

These troops may turn out to be a "phantom force", the Mirror warns, as it calls on Mr Cameron to "keep this war short".

The Financial Times says UK air strikes in Syria will not solve the biggest problem facing the US-led coalition - its "lack of Arab allies".

It says support from Arab states has waned, and the RAF action does not answer the question of "who will do the fighting on the ground".

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Several papers pick up on a fight closer to home - the threats and abuse reportedly experienced by Labour MPs who supported bombing.

The Metro says MP Neil Coyle was threatened online with stabbing, while the Daily Star reports that shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn was told he "wouldn't be safe" walking in his constituency.

The struggle between Labour MPs and party members reached "new peaks of spite" over the Syria debate, the Independent says.

There is "no question that Mr Corbyn opposes the nastier forms of bullying", but he also "contributed to the vitriolic atmosphere" and must now take action against the worst culprits, it adds.

But a shadow cabinet minister tells the Daily Telegraph Mr Corbyn has made pro-bombing Labour MPs "a target for home-grown jihadists" with his comments over the vote.

The Daily Mail calls for an end to Labour's "civil war", saying Britain needs a "strong, united opposition - not a rabble who are injecting poison into the body of British politics".

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Earlier this week the prime minister reportedly urged Tory MPs not to vote with "Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers" - a remark ridiculed by the Independent's Mark Steel.

"Opinion polls suggest that half of the population opposes the bombing, so the situation is worse than we thought, with around 30 million terrorist sympathisers - which is quite a worry as it means that [IS] could win a general election," he writes.

The PM also faces criticism in the Sun, whose headline "Brussels nowt" goes with a story saying he has admitted defeat in his aim to renegotiate the terms of Britain's EU membership before Christmas.

Mr Cameron says more time is needed because of the "scale of what we're asking for", but the Sun asks: "Is he kidding?"

It says EU officials "must have fallen about laughing... when his miniscule 'demands' landed".

Eye-catching headlines

  • Mobile phones leaving pupils "too weak to write" - A head teacher says children can "no longer grip a pencil properly" due to excessive use of mobile phones and tablet computers, the Telegraph reports.
  • Drug may allow dogs to live for years longer - The Times says scientists are investigating whether a drug which had "startling results" on mice could extend dogs' lives by up to four years.
  • November was dullest month in 86 years - With only 33.6 hours of sunshine, the Met Office says November was the "dullest" month since UK records began, the Sun reports.
  • Feeling cold can make you slimmer - A study has found exercise or being exposed to the cold creates "good" body fat which burns more calories, the Express says.
Image copyright AP

'Justice done'

The Independent hails a "victory for justice", saying its months-long campaign against the criminal courts charge has been successful. It says Justice Secretary Michael Gove has abolished rules which made defendants pay towards the cost of their trials.

The paper says its campaign exposed how defendants were being encouraged to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit to avoid fees they could not afford.

Reporting on a different story, the Daily Mirror also says "justice has been done", reporting that former athlete Oscar Pistorius has been convicted of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

"Reeva can rest in peace," the paper says, adding that Pistorius faces up to 15 years in prison after a judge overturned the previous culpable homicide verdict in favour of the murder charge.

Writing in the Independent, Tom Peck says the Olympian - who shot Ms Steenkamp through a bathroom door - knew someone was in there. He concludes: "Pistorius shot to kill. He did kill. And that is murder."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Oscar Pistorius has been convicted of murdering Reeva Steenkamp

'Officially uncool'

The Daily Mirror publishes essential reading for any parent raising teenagers - a list of what makes a parent "cool", based on a survey of 13 to 19 year olds.

"They want to be left alone, driven around and never kissed in public," the paper summarises. Other cornerstones of cool include having a good hairstyle, being good at computer games and cooking "perfect" roast potatoes.

But in a comment piece, the paper says parents shouldn't be ashamed if they are "officially uncool".

"Instead," it says, "parents should wear their children's disapproval as a badge of honour."

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption If you can't resist kissing your children in public, at least have the decency to cook good roasties

Getting on the wrong side of the younger generation may have unpleasant consequences, the Telegraph reports, with an Oxford academic claiming lecturers are being bullied by students on social media.

A professor tells the paper that allowing discussions that offend small but vocal groups can lead to academics being accused of "things they have not done or said".

He says students may also "insist on the blanket acceptance of certain highly moralised - and in many cases, quite seriously under-thought - points of view".

Letters to Mars and Santa

A more inquisitive young mind features in the Times, which tells the story of a five-year-old boy who wrote to Royal Mail asking the price of sending a letter to Mars.

The answer, for which Nasa was consulted, was a very reasonable £11,602.25 - or 18,416 first-class stamps - the paper says.

The wish of another five-year-old features in the Daily Mail, which says a Christmas list has been found up a chimney 77 years after being written.

The note - which has been returned to sender Christine Churchill, now 82 - reads: "Dear Father Xmas, Please bring me some nice toys and a hymn book. Age five-and-a-half. Love Christine."

What the commentators say

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Media captionDeborah Haynes, defence editor at the Times, and Daily Record political editor Torcuil Crichton join the BBC News Channel to review Friday's papers.

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