Newspaper headlines: 'Embattled' Osborne, Obama in Cuba, tennis prize money

The row over disability benefits cuts announced in the Budget continues in the press after it was revealed they would be dropped.

The announcement was made by new Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb who replaced Iain Duncan Smith after he resigned over the issue.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Stephen Crabb announced disability benefits cuts would not go ahead

The Independent says "embattled" Chancellor George Osborne declined to attend an emergency Commons statement on the Budget.

"The mood of Tory MPs is so fractious that the chancellor will not try to fill the £4.4bn 'black hole' in his spending plans until he makes his Autumn Statement in November or December," says the Independent.

"The pledge of no further welfare cuts could deliver a further blow for Mr Osborne.

"He is likely to continue to breach his own cap on welfare spending - a device he designed to embarrass Labour but which has now trapped him.

"Unless the British economy does better than the gloomier forecasts in last week's Budget, the chancellor could face the humiliating prospect of missing his flagship target to clear the deficit and run a £10bn budget surplus before the 2020 election."

The Guardian reports that bookmakers have further lengthened odds on Mr Osborne becoming Conservative leader - with new prices offered on how long he will last as chancellor.

The paper says: "The spending climbdown was announced by Stephen Crabb, an hour after Cameron addressed the political crisis engulfing the Conservative Party by offering his support to George Osborne and praise for the work of Duncan Smith.

"The beleaguered Osborne is due to appear in Parliament today to defend his work by taking the unusual step of speaking in the debate following last week's controversial Budget, which caused anger on his own backbenches culminating in the resignation of Duncan Smith."

The Financial Times says the planned cuts were cancelled as Mr Osborne's Budget was "picked apart".

"The chancellor remained cloistered in the Treasury while David Cameron and a series of friendly ministers tried to bolster the government's authority," it continues.

"Mr Osborne, who has made no public appearances since Thursday, will emerge today in the Commons to defend his unravelling Budget amid Labour calls that he should quit."

The Telegraph leads on Boris Johnson's comments that the welfare cuts announced in the Budget were "a mistake".

The Budget shortfall raised the prospect of tax hikes or a huge round of public spending cuts, says the Telegraph.

"Mr Osborne will become the first chancellor for 20 years to close a Budget debate in the Commons in a bid to salvage his leadership ambitions after a row which has led to crisis in the Tory party," it states.


Eye-catching headlines

  • Chickens get dinosaur drumsticks (but they won't be on the menu): Chilean scientists have created chickens with the legs of dinosaurs in the hope of gaining a better understanding of how bones develop and how the dinosaurs of 65 million years ago became the birds of today Times
  • Glyndebourne chief: We're not snobs, we just like to dress up: The sight of opera-lovers donning their black ties to picnic on the lawns of Glyndebourne should not offend anyone, according to its chairman, as he offered a spirited defence against charges of snobbery Telegraph
  • It was a silly idea, says Mr Boaty McBoatface: As with so many impulsive decisions which take on an unexpected life of their own, it seemed like a good idea at the time. But now the man whose suggestion to name a new polar research ship Boaty McBoatface went viral says he is disowning the idea Guardian
  • Warming could take fizz out of Champers: Southern England could one day replace the Champagne region as a grape-growing area as global warming pushes up temperatures in the north-east of France, making it less favourable for the grapes that made its name, a new study finds Independent

'Utter humiliation'

The police come in for heavy criticism after a £2m investigation into an alleged Westminster paedophile ring closed without charges being brought.

The Mail brands it an "utter humiliation" for Scotland Yard, calling it a "shambles".

"Sixteen months after Operation Midland was launched, the Metropolitan Police finally admitted they had found no evidence to support astonishing claims that a string of Establishment figures were responsible for killing three boys in the 1970s and 1980s," says the Mail.

"Embarrassingly for the force, detectives discovered nothing to even justify asking prosecutors to consider bringing charges.

"Officers found no bodies and are still unsure if anyone was killed. Nobody was arrested."

The Guardian says the investigation puts the Met under scrutiny over its methods and raises new questions about the pressure MPs exert during criminal inquiries.

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Image caption The Metropolitan Police investigated claims of abuse by Establishment figures

The Sun reports that former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor, who has been told he faces no further action over claims against him, called for Met chief Sir Bernard-Hogan Howe to quit.

The Met has said it was absolutely right to look into the allegations made by a man in his 40s known as "Nick".

The Times says: "The Met inquiry has been engulfed in controversy since the force declared publicly that Nick's claims were 'credible and true' early in the investigation.

"It began to unravel after many of his allegations failed to stand up to basic scrutiny but the Met has rejected calls for Nick to be prosecuted."

The Telegraph believes the police should have been on their guard from the outset given the outlandish allegations, while the Times says it brings a belated end to a misconceived investigation.


'Burden of the past'

US President Barack Obama's historic meeting with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro is covered widely.

The Guardian says Mr Castro demanded that the US return the Guantanamo Bay base and fully end a trade embargo in an "unexpectedly spirited clash of political values".

The paper reports: "Despite emotional scenes of reconciliation, with The Star-Spangled Banner played to spine-tingling effect by a Cuban band in Revolution Square and the presidents of the two former Cold War enemies grinning as they shook hands, it was clear that rapprochement had only come so far."

The Telegraph says Mr Castro said Cuba would not bow down to US pressure for human rights reform in a "remarkably defiant" press conference in which he "confronted the US with a list of its own failings".

"Yet Mr Castro and Mr Obama, despite their obvious disagreements, made it clear that they were working on areas of mutual co-operation - especially on trade and tourism," it adds.

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Image caption Hand of friendship... but there were some disagreements

Analysis by Rupert Cornwell in the Independent states: "It didn't quite have the shock value of Richard Nixon sitting down with Mao in Beijing, or of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat addressing the Knesset in November 1977. But it came close."

In an editorial, the Guardian believes that the US has taken an overdue step - and now it is Havana's turn.

"Mr Obama has made a necessary move by going to Havana," it says. "The next moves depend on Cuba. Young Cubans will expect more than nice TV pictures from the normalisation.

"Cuba's revolution has tired, but the regime still wants to retain its grip, especially as it prepares for its Communist Party congress in April.

"Mr Obama's visit is not just about good neighbourly relations, nor about lifting the burden of the past. It also confronts Cubans and their regime with the question of what kind of future they want to make possible."


Net payment

The controversy over prize-money gender equality in tennis makes it on to the news pages of the Guardian.

It reports that Martina Navratilova, winner of 18 Grand Slam singles titles, suggested that female players could boycott the prestigious Indian Wells tournament in the US in future after comments by its chief executive.

Raymond Moore has apologised after saying that the women's game "rides on the coat-tails of the men".

The Guardian says: "The chorus of condemnation had been led by Serena Williams, the winner of 21 Grand Slam singles titles, who, after playing in the final of the tournament, called Moore's comments a 'disservice' to tennis legends such as Billie Jean King, as well as every woman on the planet that had ever tried to stand up for what they believed in.

"The world's top-ranked men's player, Novak Djokovic, also drew criticism after winning his final at Indian Wells on Sunday when he said that he is 'completely for women power', but also suggested that men should earn more prize money because they draw larger crowds."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Novak Djokovic weighed into the row about prize money for female players

In an editorial, the Independent believes Djokovic was unwise to get involved in the debate.

"After successive years of dominance in the modern men's game, it is understandable that tennis fans are relishing the sight of a rare Novak Djokovic mis-hit," it says.

"This is a supply and demand argument that risks intensifying the already indentured relationship of sport to money.

"On this point, Djokovic would do well to heed his own advice made to rising tennis stars earlier this year: 'Leave this sport with dignity. Tennis is greater than all of us.'."


Vacant property

Finally, the Times comments on news that Historic England has recommended that a run-down house in central London with graffiti scrawled by Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten should have Grade II* listed status.

Image caption The writing is on the wall for John Lydon

The paper says: "Cynics might think that the cultural life of the capital would be better served by obliterating the band's artwork altogether.

"The houses, in Denmark Street in Soho, contain a wealth of period detail and fittings, in which the Sex Pistols represented an anachronistic intrusion.

"The naysayers would be wrong. Heritage is a succession of eras, and Soho has had many incarnations. In the 1960s and 1970s it was a centre of the music industry.

"The Sex Pistols were a short-lived but notorious part of it."