Newspaper headlines: Phone hacking, X Factor final and Tony Blair's call to Gaddafi

As papers digest the news that no more journalists will be prosecuted over phone hacking, some judge what the public - and victims - might think about it.

For the Independent, the decision leaves "too many questions unanswered", including concerning the role of police in investigating conduct. It argues: "There are good reasons to think there is indeed unfinished business here. We already know links between the police and some media outlets were less than healthy and have not been fully exposed."

Jane Martinson writes in the Guardian: "The scandal also showed the closeness of those at the top of newspapers and the political elite - with country suppers, horse loans and lol texting." It remains to be seen, she adds, whether the powerful will be better held to account in future.

The Times agrees that practices exposed by the investigation were "lazy, callous and corrupt" but argues: "When newspapers harness the best of their journalists' energies they are uniquely effective in exposing corruption elsewhere." It cites revelations about doping in sport and scandals over sporting administration as examples.

For the Daily Telegraph: "Any genuine problem was distorted out of all proportion by political activists. The Left saw an opportunity to settle old scores with newspapers they believed had long agitated against them... a hope that isolated examples of wrongdoing could be used to make a case for control of an entire industry."

The result, according to the Sun, was a "£50m witchhunt". It argues that the investigations were the result of a bid by an "establishment reeling from its repeated exposure" seizing a chance to "muzzle" the press. "The Press should, within the law, be feral and ferocious. Readers don't want a newspaper cowed by politicians we are here to hold to account."

Eye-catching headlines

  • "Herr Flick Knife" - the Daily Mirror describes how a party-goer dressed as the Gestapo operative from 'Allo 'Allo disarmed a drunken knife-wielding teenager
  • "The thieves who stole my wife's house and sold it for £1.3m" - veteran reporter Max Hastings writes in the Mail about a fraud that struck close to home
  • "Dunblane divided as Murray academy plan fails" - the Times describes the atmosphere in the Scottish town, where Judy Murray - mother of tennis players Jamie and Andy - saw a £70m tennis academy plan rejected
  • "I've got Blues" - the owner of a farm shop in the Nottinghamshire village of Everton complains of "bullying" from bosses at the football club of the same name

X Factor or fiction?

Image copyright PA

On the day of the X Factor final, it's the show's judges who are making most of the headlines. While the Daily Mirror reports claims from Simon Cowell that the burglar who raided his home had "inside knowledge" of the west London mansion, the Sun says fellow judge Rita Ora has also been a victim of an "inside job".

"Cops fear both stars were robbed by a professional gang responsible for a string of recent nearby burglaries," it says. Reviewing the papers for the BBC News Channel, Neil Midgley commented: "Imagine the Sun running a Simon Cowell-friendly story on the day of the X Factor final."

The Daily Express, meanwhile, reports that Cheryl Fernandez-Versini has been tweeting her excitement about the talent show's climax, despite suggestions her marriage is "hitting the rocks". The paper's stablemate - the Daily Star - says Mr Fernandez-Versini, French restaurateur Jean-Bernard, has "lashed out" at the suggestions, branding them "lies".

While reporting that the marriage, which followed a "whirlwind three-month romance", is "under strain", the Daily Mail isn't totally convinced. "Is it all just a stunt?" it wonders, reminding readers of an appearance by former judge Mel B last year with "what seemed to be scratches and a bruised cheek". Her husband denied any wrongdoing and the ex-Spice Girl revealed all was well with their marriage a few days later - after a boost to the show's viewing figures, the paper says.

What the commentators say

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Media captionNeil Midgley from business website joins Daily Telegraph political correspondent Laura Hughes to review the papers for the BBC News Channel.

Charting Christmas trends

With one eye on the music to be performed on the X Factor, the Daily Mail wonders whether 17-year-old contestant Louisa Johnson will top the Christmas charts. It uses the occasion as an excuse to run through some of the biggest-selling festive songs, from 70s classics by Slade and Wizzard to less memorable efforts, such as the 2009 charity cover of Silver Bells by Terry Wogan and Aled Jones.

Image caption Mud's Lonely This Christmas was the UK's 33rd most played festive track last year

Meanwhile, there's hope for shoppers left grinding their teeth at hearing Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You for the fifth time in an hour, according to the Daily Express. They're being offered free ear plugs by Sheffield's Meadowhall mall, the paper says.

The Daily Telegraph has more good news for bargain-hunters, saying supermarkets are offering a "Christmas bonus" in the form of petrol prices falling below £1 a litre for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis. However, the Daily Star doesn't reckon shoppers will find much inspiration on how to spend the resultant saving from Pippa Middleton's column in the Waitrose Weekend publication.

The Duchess of Cambridge's sister "helpfully" told parents that "children like stockings filled with presents" and that it pays to shop early, the Star reports.

'Visibly shrinking'

The Tony Blair who appeared before MPs to answer questions about the UK's military intervention in Libya cut a very different figure from the one who inhabited 10 Downing Street, according to the Guardian's John Crace: "The vanity is still there, but the man isn't. Tony Blair is visibly shrinking. He's lost weight and looks withered and gaunt. Without his cheekbones for support, his face would have collapsed in on itself long ago."

In the eyes of the Mail's Quentin Letts: "Citizen Blair sat before yesterday's foreign affairs committee a shrivelled, yellowing figure, his brow so lined it could have been Aramaic parchment."

Image copyright Reuters

Telegraph sketchwriter Michael Deacon describes Mr Blair explaining that he had called Gaddafi during the Libyan conflict not in a bid to "save" the dictator but to encourage him to "step down, leave Libya and go to 'a safe place'. (So he was sort of trying to save him then)". In describing the call as being from "a concerned private citizen", the writer suggests, Mr Blair made it sound "as if he'd been ringing the council to complain about fly-tipping".

Noting Mr Blair's comment that Gaddafi put forward "theories on Third Way politics, on Israel and Palestine, on the development of Islam" after the UK re-established links with Tripoli in 2004, the Independent's Tom Peck says: "Tragically we were not treated to what those theories were. It was still a few years too early by then for the Colonel to have worked out something that may dawn on Blair at some point - that if the rich get exponentially richer, the poor are not going to like it".

Despite all that, the Daily Mirror tells readers that by "bringing Libya in from the cold", Mr Blair performed a "diplomatic triumph which made the world a little safer". It adds: "Supping with Colonel Gaddafi left a bad taste in the mouth and nobody is pretending human rights abuses ceased in the North African state. But Libya's chemical weapons programme ended, as did the sponsorship of terrorists."

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