Newspaper front pages: Maternity pressures and Strictly 'riddle'

It's a tale of two NHS "scandals" in the papers on Wednesday, as the tabloids highlight different issues facing the health service.

The Daily Mirror uses the story of a newborn baby - whose life was saved by an "eagle-eyed midwife" - to sound a warning about the state of the profession in the UK.

It says the NHS is short of 3,500 full-time midwives in England alone - "a scandal that will inevitably end in tragedies".

"Empty promises by the Tories to boost numbers are cheap, deceitful words," it continues, arguing that the public sector pay cap is "deterring candidates from joining the profession and leaving some midwives unable to afford to remain in it."

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For the Sun, the "sickening scandal" is the problem of so-called health tourism.

The paper says pregnant women from overseas view the NHS as a "soft touch" and "the government is dead right to want to check on IDs, passports or other proof patients are eligible for free care."

"Bleeding hearts will hate such a clampdown. But they are the first to complain about the NHS being starved of funds. They cannot have it both ways," its leader adds.

Putting the opposing view though, Holly Baxter, in the i, urges readers: "Don't let the Tories kid you - 'health tourism' isn't the reason the NHS is collapsing on their watch.

"But even if it were, then the only decent thing would be to respond with investment and a commitment to protecting basic human dignity."


Royal with a pearl earring

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"The secret of a successful royal visit lies in the planning, and the Duchess of Cambridge showed a superb eye for detail on her first solo foreign trip," says the Daily Telegraph.

It's referring to her decision to borrow the Queen's pearl earrings for the visit to the Netherlands, "knowing she would be shown Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring".

She wore a blue suit too, echoing the colours in the painting, but "at least she stopped short of a blue headscarf," writes Valentine Low in the Times.

Low agrees the duchess "showed a masterful attention to detail - and a canny eye for a PR opportunity".

The Daily Mail, meanwhile, spots a different parallel. It notes that the aforementioned blue suit was "air hostess-style" - appropriate given "her mother worked as a British Airways air stewardess".


'Embittered Remainers'

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The Daily Express and the Daily Mail were the papers most enthusiastically campaigning for Leave ahead of June's referendum and it seems they now see the UK's eventual exit from the EU being put at risk.

The Mail devotes an entire page to a furious editorial - or "a simple message", as it puts it - to "embittered Remainers" in the worlds of politics, business and the media.

"You lost. Stop the anti-democratic games and respect the emphatic verdict of the British people," it orders.

It saves special vitriol for Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, who are among MPs pushing for the Commons to have a say on the terms of Brexit. It accuses them of "trying to stick up two fingers to their own constituents by seeking to allow Parliament to block the referendum verdict".

The paper also argues the BBC is "leading the Remain charge" by giving too much "air-time" to "the embittered pro-EU ramblings" of some ex-Tory ministers.

'Meaningless adjectives'

Writing in the Express, political commentator Chris Roycroft-Davis says people are "sick of all the claptrap from a pro-EU cabal that ranges from the Governor of the Bank of England to the boss of the CBI".

He vents at "Eurofanatic Clegg", "Clueless Corbyn" and "bibulous idiot Juncker" - European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker - and attacks the use of "meaningless adjectives" - hard and soft - in relation to Brexit.

"The word hard being used in a pejorative sense and the word soft being made to sound like a sensible option."

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The Mail and Express think pre-referendum warnings about the economic impact of Brexit are being confounded, but for an opposing view entirely, see the Guardian's editorial, which focuses on the continuing fall in the value of sterling.

"The right wing of the Conservative Party has thus engineered an 18% devaluation of the pound against the US dollar," it says.

"This is itself a historic reversal: the Conservatives are meant to be the party of sound money. It's Labour who are meant to be the louche Keynesians."

The paper adds: "This is what a car crash looks like - and Article 50 hasn't even been triggered yet."

Martin Wolf, in the Financial Times, criticises "unwise words" from Theresa May in recent days, feeling she has effectively ruled out a bespoke deal to maintain UK single market access and attacked the "skilled foreigners on whom the UK depends".

"Unwise words have consequences," he continues. "The UK government's extreme goals are now clear.

"Investors have duly marked down the value of the country's assets in the simplest way, by selling the pound."


Syria's 'slaughter'

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On Tuesday, MPs debated the possibility of the West imposing a no-fly zone over the Syrian city of Aleppo to try to protect its citizens from air strikes by the forces of Presidents Putin and Assad.

The Sun says it has learned that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is in favour of committing the RAF to just such a mission and "has urged Theresa May to try to persuade America to adopt the plan after the US elections in November".

But the Times rejects the idea: "No politician should countenance such a strategy who is not ready for a rapid escalation to a full-scale war with Russia."

Instead, it argues that the world should focus on pursuing Putin and Assad for war crimes.

"Neither... can stay in power indefinitely, and the more they bomb the longer the indictments drawn up against them by international prosecutors are likely to be."

Popular protests

The Mirror agrees that "the butchers in Moscow and Damascus... must account for the wholesale, indiscriminate slaughter of men women and children in Aleppo and other cities".

"Sanctions and diplomacy are the only realistic weapons unless Britain and the US are prepared to risk a military confrontation," it adds.

The Daily Express backs Mr Johnson's call for the public to demonstrate outside the Russian embassy in London.

"If popular protests in this country can help to shame Putin and highlight his crimes then we owe it to the beleaguered people of Aleppo to try," it says.


Eye-catching headlines

Robochop - MPs are warning that robots are poised to put millions of people out of work, according to the Sun

Holy jumper! The moths are back - the Mail says a plague of moths is munching through our wardrobes thanks to "perfect" breeding conditions

Fishing is angling for Olympic recognition - the Times says angling's professional body has applied for inclusion in the Games


Why Will, why?

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Finally, there's near palpable frustration in the papers at the "riddle" of Will Young's departure from Strictly Come Dancing - and they resort to different unnamed contributors to float possible explanations.

The Mirror finds some "insiders", one of whom says, "Will has created the biggest mystery possible by quitting out of the blue in such an upbeat fashion" and he is now "under mounting pressure" to explain.

The Daily Telegraph quotes "some sources" who "suggested that the singer had been surprised by the difficulty of training and the scrutiny that contestants receive".

The Sun, meanwhile, speaks to "pals" who say "the former Pop Idol winner has struggled with the pressure of Strictly after a history of previous emotional breakdowns".


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Media captionThe Papers: Wednesday's front pages