Newspaper review: IDS quits and Paris suspect held

News of Iain Duncan Smith quitting as work and pensions secretary over the changes to disability benefits announced in Wednesday's Budget came too late for many of the first editions of Saturday's papers, although it does feature on the front pages of the Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror and the Sun.

The Times reports Mr Duncan Smith's resignation - the first by a cabinet minister in two years - came because he felt the planned reduction in spending on disability benefits was "a compromise too far".

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The paper quotes widely from his letter of resignation, saying he feels the government's "fiscal self imposed restraints" are "perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest".

The Sun states that Mr Duncan Smith's resignation has "plunged the government into chaos", just as Chancellor George Osborne "made a U-turn" on the proposed changes to Personal Independence Payments (PIP). The paper quotes a government source saying the plans would be "kicked into the long grass".

The Daily Telegraph says the "shock resignation", made just before 21:00 GMT, "threatened to throw the government into disarray" and that the offer to delay the introduction of the changes to PIP was not enough to prevent Mr Duncan Smith, a former Conservative Party leader, from walking out of the government.

The work and pensions secretary's decision to quit "leaves him free to campaign vigorously against Mr Osborne and David Cameron in the coming EU referendum", notes the Daily Mirror. It adds that "Downing Street had already been considering whether IDS could be kept in the role after a series of veiled attacks on the prime minister".


'We got him'

A tweet features prominently in Saturday's papers following the capture in the Molenbeek district of the Belgian capital Brussels of Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in last November's terror attacks in Paris which killed 130 people.

"We got him", was tweeted by Belgian asylum and immigration minister Theo Francken after Abdeslam's arrest, and is the headline in the Daily Mail. The paper says the 26-year-old had spent 126 days on the run, having been the driver for a group of gunmen involved in the 13 November attacks.

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The Independent says Abdeslam is believed to be the only survivor of the group behind the terrorist outrage, and his arrest "was a welcome coup for the Belgian security force after a series of bungled arrest attempts and unsuccessful raids over the past four months".

The Daily Mirror notes Abdeslam was stopped at the Belgian border after the attacks, but allowed through, and had also "seemingly managed to give police the slip during a series of raids in Brussels on Tuesday".

Friday's raid was brought forward by 24 hours, reports the Times, "after leaks revealed Abdeslam's fingerprints had been found in another apartment in the Forest district, after a gunfight on Tuesday in which a suspected Islamic State terrorist was killed by police".

"Europe's most wanted man", writes the Guardian's Jon Henley, "was finally surrounded, caught and wounded" after a shoot-out with special forces. "Salah Abdeslam's four months on the run were over."

According to the Sun, analysts believe he could provide "vital intelligence" about the so-called Islamic State terror group and is "likely to be extradited to Paris within days ahead of one of the biggest show trials in French history".


Eye-catching headlines

  • Scientists get 'excited' by watching paint dry - according to the Daily Express, researchers at the University of Surrey have discovered, from literally watching paint dry, that the material displays a behaviour which could change the composition of other products including sunscreen and cosmetics. It's all to do with how small particles "team up" to push larger ones away. No news yet if their next project will be an examination of grass growing.
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  • How 'self-fixing' teeth could mean no more fillings - odontophobics (that's people with a fear of dentists) may be heartened to read in the Daily Mail about the work of another group of UK scientists. A team at Birmingham University has perfected a technique, the paper says, which uses "blasts of ultrasound to trigger healing processes in the mouth" which can repair damaged and decayed teeth.
  • Selfie fans are heirs to the Old Masters - they may clutter our landmarks and bring congestion to our tourist traps, but people taking photos of themselves are helping to save painting, according to the Daily Telegraph. It reports the views of portrait artist Jonathan Yeo, who believes that "thanks to camera phones... we are all starting to think like painters". It's down to how we "manipulate and read self-portrait images", he says.
  • Marmalade war breaks out as Scots raid awards - a row over the provenance of the orange breakfast spread has broken out, the Times reports. Organisers of the World Marmalade Awards have seen "a surge in Scottish entries" as part of an "offensive" to reclaim the produce as of Scots origin. The argument (condensed) is that Janet Keiller of Dundee was first to make it in 1797 with shredded orange peel but one historian says Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare enjoyed it first. It's almost Seville war.

'One in, one out'

The latest attempt by the European Union and Turkey to find a solution to the migrant crisis is covered across Saturday's papers.

Migrants have been given "24 hours to escape to Greece after the EU handed £4.6bn for Turkey to 'shut the Mediterranean'", reports the Sun, as any migrant arriving on a Greek island after then will be sent back to Turkey.

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The Daily Mail calls it a "controversial swap deal" whereby for every migrant deported, the EU will take one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey.

According to the Daily Mirror, human rights groups say the plan is "a dark day for humanity", but European Council President Donald Tusk insisted they would be "in full compliance with international and EU law".

In exchange for taking in migrants, reports the Guardian, "Turkey can expect re-energised talks on its EU membership".

But the Sun says as part of the conditions of the deal, Turks "will be able to visit much of Europe visa-free" with Eurosceptics saying it would create a "borderless zone from Syria to Calais".

The Daily Express quotes UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage saying the deal "is the worst of all possible worlds" and that giving Turks visa-free access "will mean increased numbers of people coming to Europe".

But Roger Boyes, writing in the Times, says there "is a big question mark about the other uncontrolled routes into Europe". He adds that "if Libya's turmoil spreads across northern Africa, then all bets are off".


What the commentators say

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Media captionSusie Boniface from the Daily Mirror and Tim Stanley of the Daily Telegraph review the papers

Victoria (so nearly) victorious

The story of novice jockey and double Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton's barnstorming race at the Cheltenham Festival is promoted from the sport pages to the news pages in Saturday's papers.

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"Victoria Pendleton silenced critics as she placed fifth in the Foxhunter Chase", says the Daily Mirror, reflecting on some of the unease her change of saddles has caused in the racing world. The paper reports she was "odds on with some bookies not to finish the race".

Pendleton "navigated the 22 fences of the Gold Cup course and picked her way through the field of 24 riders to finish far higher than her 25-1 starting price suggested", says the Daily Telegraph.

The Guardian's Owen Gibson notes it has been just 12 months since Pendleton first sat on a horse and the "racing industry also breathed a huge sigh of relief" after she rode Pacha Du Polder round the famous course because if she or her mount had been seriously injured "it would have been a grim finale to an unprecedented experiment".

Reflecting on an afternoon "that could have gone terribly wrong", Kevin Garside in the Independent says the "chorus of cynicism melted away as she first charmed the audience with her poise, then stunned with her technical accomplishment"

The Daily Express reports that Pendleton was asked if she would now ride in next month's Grand National. "I'm more likely to sprout wings," was her reply.


Her Majesty, Gan-Gan

Many papers preview an ITV documentary to be shown on Easter Sunday to mark the Queen's 90th birthday, with some choosing to focus on the nickname given to the Queen by her great-grandson, Prince George.

The Sun says the prince's mother, the Duchess of Cambridge, gives a "rare insight into her relationship with the Queen", revealing the two-year-old calls his great-granny "Gan-Gan".

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As part of a two-page spread, the Daily Telegraph reports that the Queen leaves "little gifts" for her youngest great-grandchildren - George and his sister Princess Charlotte - whenever they stay with her.

The Times says George's father, Prince William, "revealed some people are so over-awed by meeting the Queen that they faint". "A lot of people get very excited and sort of nervous," says the prince, "it's quite difficult talking to people when they can't talk - I don't get past the hellos."

Elsewhere, the Daily Express reports on an interview given to the US TV network ABC by Prince Harry, who believes his mother is "looking down with tears in her eyes" because she is proud of him and his brother.