Newspaper headlines: French elections, EU 'opt-out' call and Kate's Christmas shopping

Several papers focus on the French public's backing of a "united front" of mainstream parties - as the Financial Times puts it - over the far-right National Front in regional elections.

Charles Bremner, in the Times, describes the "National Front bandwagon... brought to a juddering halt" by tactics, including the withdrawal of socialist candidates in regions being contested by Ms Le Pen and her niece. "This forced the Le Pen candidates into head-to-head run-offs with Nicolas Sarkozy's Republicans, and socialist supporters flocked yesterday to Mr Sarkozy's candidates to deny the Front power," he says.

However, the writer adds: "The Le Pen candidates increased their share of the vote, on a higher turn-out, suggesting that France has shifted to the right since Jean-Marie Le Pen, the former National Front leader, won only 18% of the vote after making it into the final presidential run-off against President Chirac in 2002."

Image copyright AFP

As the Financial Times points out: "The anti-immigration party has extended its reach since Marine Le Pen succeeded her father and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2011, by softening the xenophobic rhetoric and developing a statist platform designed to lure blue-collar workers."

The Daily Mail says Ms Le Pen had also "linked immigration with terrorism in the wake of the Paris terror attacks - insisting she could become head of state in 2017". However, the paper says the party has been "crushed" by the regional results.

The Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls nonetheless "deliberately avoided any gloating", says the Guardian. It quotes him as saying: "Tonight there is no relief, no triumphalism... The danger of the far-right has not been removed - far from it."

Still, as the Independent puts it, "an avalanche of 3.5 million previous non-voters" returned to the polls to help secure what the prime minister called a "victory for the Republic" and values of "fraternity, common sense and togetherness".

Eye-catching headlines

  • "Crumbs! Council bans town hall toasters" - Bradford's town hall staff have been banned from using toasters, hair dryers and heaters at work because they breach "green" standards, according to the Daily Telegraph
  • "From jewels to shoulder pads: Dame Joan has a clearout" - the Guardian describes lots put up for auction by Dame Joan Collins, including love letters from Warren Beatty and "her outfit from one of Dynasty's many doomed wedding scenes"
  • "A stray in a manger... puppies dumped at stable" - the Daily Express pictures three 12-week-old crossbreeds "abandoned in the hay" at a south Wales animal rescue centre
  • "The getaway in a manger" - a suspected drink driver smashed his car and then tried to evade police by hiding in a nearby nativity display, reports the Daily Mail

Bags of attention

While thousands of people are battling crowds in a bid to buy their Christmas presents, few are likely to have their shopping trips analysed in the way of the Duchess of Cambridge.

Most papers are reduced to speculating about the contents of the duchess's bags, although the Daily Telegraph spots that she emerged from a west London department store "carrying a wipe-clean PVC table cloth which will... prove useful as Princess Charlotte starts to tackle her first pureed foods".

It continues: "It is not known what else caught her eye at Peter Jones, but she left carrying a large carrier bag laden with purchases, some of which may have been presents for the children."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Keen royal wardrobe-watchers will recognise the coat from the Duchess's previous public appearances

"Not knowing what exactly is inside that bag is enough to drive you crackers," admits the Daily Mirror, although it reckons it has an idea. "The safe money is on a £20 John Lewis police helicopter for chopper-crazy [Prince] George. Though he might have to wrestle it off his helicopter pilot dad come Christmas Day."

Either way, "it's a fair bet her purchases were fit for a prince or princess", says the Sun as it admires the Duchess's £325 Reiss coat.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail's Sarah Vine concerns herself with the Duchess's health, noting that she "really hasn't stopped" since resuming official duties after childbirth. While plenty of women manage exhausting postnatal lifestyles, "few of us have to do it in the full glare of the cameras", she says.

And Vine suggests that her page three spread revealing the duchess's "normally lustrous and bouncy hair scraped into an updo and her eyes puffy and lined" might just be "the wake-up call she needs to... stop being such a perfectionist and have a well-deserved rest".

What the commentators say

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Media captionParliamentary journalist Tony Grew and Huffington Post entertainment editor Caroline Frost review the papers for the BBC News Channel.

Surrender in Europe?

"Show some steel, Dave," is the Daily Mail's front-page advice to the prime minister ahead of this week's summit with European Union leaders. It says David Cameron's "retreat" on a demand for the EU to change its rules to allow the UK to ban migrants from claiming in-work benefits for four years is the third in a short period, after the government "shelved" policies on tackling obesity and holding bank executives to account.

Daily Express columnist Leo McKinstry reckons the PM faces "humiliation" after his tough language gave way to "enfeebled rhetoric of compromise and surrender" on the "one robust promise of change" in the package of reforms he set out to win ahead of a promised referendum on continued EU membership.

Image copyright Reuters

Cartoonists seem inclined to agree. In the Independent, Brian Adcock contrasts a "then" of Mr Cameron standing atop the white cliffs of Dover waving a union jack marked "no benefits for EU migrants", with a "now" of the PM clutching a white flag reading: "Oh, alright then."

Morten Morland, of the Times, shows a series of frames depicting Mr Cameron trying to beat down an EU flag-decorated door with a battering ram marked "demands", before collapsing exhausted and finally knocking on the door to serve up champagne to those inside.

And the Sun says the PM "has begged EU leaders to bail him out by proposing a new way to limit immigration to Britain".

London Mayor Boris Johnson offers his solution via the Daily Telegraph, writing that the UK could impose waiting times on migrant benefits by emulating an exemption from EU rules which allows Denmark to ban non-residents from buying homes. "Like the Danes, Britain is a special case," he argues.

The Financial Times finds the UK's situation mirrored in Switzerland, which also wants to keep access to the EU single market while winning tighter controls on immigration ahead of a referendum.

"EU diplomats say one solution could be a safeguard allowing restrictions on EU migration if a country can prove its public services are overwhelmed," says the paper.

But it adds there are "considerable obstacles" to finding a politically acceptable solution.

Downing Street insists Mr Cameron merely wants to reduce the "pull factor" for incomers and is open to different ways of doing so.

But the Guardian's Zoe Williams reckons working tax credits can hardly be considered a huge draw, quipping: "Psst, there's this brilliant country where the wages are so low that governments have to top them up so that people can eat."

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