Newspaper headlines: 'Tainted' New Year Honours, Storm Frank and housing crisis

"Tories take the honours" - as the i paper puts it - is a theme on several of Thursday's front pages.

The Independent says the New Year Honours list includes almost 30 Conservative members or supporters - which it says will reignite a row over awards for Tory "cronies".

Tory election strategist Lynton Crosby has been knighted, and the paper says analysis of the list shows he is "just one of many who have been honoured not for what they had done for the country, but for their services to the Conservative Party".

The Daily Mail says the honours system was "plunged into fresh controversy" by the latest list, which it says included "sex shop queen" Jacqueline Gold - chief executive of Ann Summers.

It is "depressing" that the recognition of worthy recipients is overshadowed by honours given to "celebrities, political cronies and controversial figures", the paper adds.

The Times agrees, saying the honours system is devalued by the inclusion of people who have "no compelling reason to be there".

Image copyright PA/BBC
Image caption Clockwise from top left: Barbara Windsor, AP McCoy, Sue Barker and Simon Weston are among those honoured

The papers pick out famous faces from the honours list, including cyclist Chris Froome, jockey AP McCoy and actress Barbara Windsor.

"Dame Babs" said being included was "truly like a dream", the Daily Star reports.

The "true heroes" of the awards include a consultant who helped Ebola victims, and 13-year-old fundraiser Jonjo Heuerman - the youngest person to be honoured - the Daily Mirror says.

The Daily Express says screenwriter Peter Morgan was "delighted and proud" to be appointed CBE - though he initially thought the letter was a speeding ticket.

'Penzance to Perth'

Flooding and damage caused by Storm Frank continue to make headlines.

In Scotland, which bore the brunt of the latest bad weather, caravans were swept away and Balmoral Castle was "under siege" due to rising flood water, the Times reports.

A Royal Navy helicopter was used to airlift passengers off a bus which got stuck in flood water in South Ayrshire, the Daily Express says.

The storm caused chaos from "Penzance to Perth", the Mail says, with a month's rainfall in 12 hours in some areas.

And it says the misery may continue, with more rain expected today and another band of wet weather arriving at the weekend.

Image copyright PA

Like several papers, the Telegraph reports on the activities of Environment Agency chairman Sir Philip Dilley, who it says recently returned from a holiday in Barbados.

Sir Philip's response to the crisis "descended into farce yesterday as he dodged the media on a visit to northern England", the paper says.

His return answers a question posed by the Sun on Tuesday - "Where's Welly?"

But it says he avoided the media yesterday before the agency released a picture of him talking to soldiers - something the paper calls a "cynical PR stunt".

The Guardian says Chancellor George Osborne has been accused of prioritising cutting the budget deficit over Britain's "crumbling flood defences".

It highlights analysis by an academic who says recent flood spending shows little sign the government had changed course to take into account the "growing threat of extreme weather".

Eye-catching headlines

  • Sperm bank bans donors with dyslexia and social disorders - Britain's largest sperm bank has been accused of eugenics by a donor who was turned away for being dyslexic, the Telegraph reports.
  • Our boys took one heck of a battering - The "worst football side in Britain" is refusing to give up despite losing every game this season, the Daily Star says.
  • Beware the beast of Bolton - The people of Bolton are "living in fear" amid claims a massive black panther is prowling the streets, according to the Daily Mirror.
  • Bubble bursts for champagne as drinkers raise glass to prosecco - More revellers will drink prosecco than champagne this New Year's Eve, the Times reports.
Image copyright Getty Images

Trek troubles

Film studios have taken out an injunction to stop a group of fans making their own Star Trek prequel, the Independent reports.

The film - called Axanar - was close to wrapping up production when CBS and Paramount filed a lawsuit, the paper adds.

Speaking of ill-advised treks, the Times says four British students who tried to walk across Iceland have come in for "heavy criticism" after they were rescued three times in just over three weeks.

The paper says they showed "unhappy confidence" in taking on the Icelandic winter - but there is "no shame and much honour" in admitting they failed.

Safer - and warmer - conditions might be found in the "snowless slopes" of many European ski resorts, according to the Daily Mail.

It says a lack of snow all over Europe has ruined Christmas skiing holidays for thousands of families.

Image copyright AFP

Housing hopes

Major house-building firms are holding back enough land for more than 600,000 new homes - raising questions about whether they are doing enough to tackle Britain's housing crisis, the Guardian says.

The number of unused housing plots held by nine top companies is four times the total number of homes built in Britain last year, the paper adds.

A novel solution to the housing crisis features in the Financial Times, which says aristocrats have been urged to release part of their estates to be used for affordable homes.

The results of a 2010 survey suggest a third of the UK's land is still owned by "aristocrats and the landed gentry", it says.

A report by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors suggests landowners should follow the example of their ancestors and make land available for homes, the Express says.

In the days of Downton Abbey landowners took a "more patriarchal approach" to housing which might prove beneficial again today, a policy expert tells the paper.

What the commentators say

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Media captionCampaigner and broadcaster Lynn Faulds Wood and James Cusick, political correspondent at the Independent, join the BBC News Channel to review Thursday's front pages.

Making people click

Guardian: Obama cries as Aretha Franklin proves why she's the queen of soul

Mail: Twelve bus passengers including a girl, five, are saved in dramatic helicopter rescue after getting trapped in floods as Storm Frank hits UK with 80mph gales and the North gets month's rain in a day

Times: David Moyes speaks up for Louis van Gaal: he deserves more time

Mirror: Beached killer whale's stomach is cut open to find something horrifying inside