Newspaper headlines: UK national debt will 'match France'

As the chancellor gives his Autumn Statement, the papers have good news and bad.

First, the good. The economy, says the Mail, is growing faster than the national debt for the first time in 14 years.

Now, the bad. The country owes £1.64 trillion - "the equivalent of £25,000 for every person in the country".

The Times says the debt - as a proportion of GDP - will match French levels "for the first time in more than 25 years" by 2018.

In the same paper, the columnist and Conservative peer Daniel Finkelstein urges Mr Hammond to "restore the public finances to health".

"Whenever we discuss the deficit we're prone to conventional economic thinking," he writes.

"Yes, we say, we do need to drive down the deficit, that's true. Just not, you know, quite now.

"[But] there will come a moment when this habit becomes wholly unsustainable - and the worst part of it is we won't know the moment has arrived until it's too late."

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The Guardian leads on Mr Hammond's proposal to ban up-front letting fees. But overall, the paper isn't impressed by the chancellor's plans.

"While Mr Hammond's giveaways may be considered rabbits out of a hat, they are rather small bunnies," says their editorial.

"In the UK, the richest 1% own a quarter of the country's wealth...if Mr Hammond were serious about evening up the economy, he would try to tackle that giant gap.

"Now that would make the Autumn Statement really newsworthy."

The Mirror is also unimpressed.

"Philip Hammond is trying to sweeten us up for the economic woes ahead but his numbers don't add up," says the paper.

"The fallout from Brexit will add to our economic problems but the pain is the work of the financially incompetent Conservatives."

The Sun, though, is more optimistic.

It says people "just about managing" - dubbed "jams" - will get a "vital leg-up" from a higher minimum wage, a freeze in fuel duty, and smaller-than-planned benefit cuts.

"Wham, jam, thank you Hamm," reads their headline.


'The politics of envoy'

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Three papers lead on Donald Trump's enthusiasm for Nigel Farage as Britain's ambassador in Washington.

The Times calls it "the politics of envoy". But - says Jonathan Aitken in the Daily Mail - "Ambassador Farage may not be so daft an idea."

"It is no slur on excellent career diplomats...to suggest they are unlikely to strike a warm rapport with the abrasive Mr Trump," writes Aitken.

"The golf-club style of deal-making that comes naturally to 'The Donald' and Mr Farage could prove a winner."

In the Daily Express, Leo McKinstry makes the same point.

"The western world is changing," he writes. "The smug conventional wisdom has been found wanting.

"New thinking is necessary...the idea of Mr Farage taking charge at our Washington embassy should be treated with seriousness rather than a shudder."

In the Mirror, Kevin Maguire is less keen.

"We need an ambassador fighting for Britain, not Trump's tame messenger," he writes.

Perhaps a compromise is needed. Enter Graham Jones, from Tytherington in Cheshire, on the Telegraph's letters page.

"If Donald Trump is keen for Nigel Farage to become an ambassador, perhaps the Ukip leader could start with a four-year stint in a country such as Afghanistan, so he can cut his teeth before getting a bigger posting."


Footballer abuse

Two more footballers have waived their anonymity to reveal that they were abused as children by their coaches.

Their moves follow the decision by the former Crewe Alexandra player, Andy Woodward, to break his silence over being a victim of the serial abuser Barry Bennell.

Steve Walters, who became Crewe's youngest ever player at the age of 16, tells The Guardian he too was abused by Bennell.

The Daily Mirror devotes its first five pages to claims by the former Spurs and England star, Paul Stewart, that a coach abused him every day for four years, until he was 15.

He says his attacker got away with it by threatening to kill his relatives if he ever told anyone and he blames the abuse for drink and drug problems later in his career.

The paper salutes his bravery in speaking out and hopes his decision may save others from a similar fate.

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Media captionAyesha Hazarika and Kevin Schofield join the BBC News Channel to review Wednesday's papers

Crime of the century

Caldey Island is one and a half miles long and sits off the coast of south-west Wales.

It is home to 18 Trappist monks who live in silence between 7pm and 7am.

And now - for the first time in living memory - it has recorded a crime, reports the Times.

The incident happened in September, when a visitor from the West Midlands grabbed his seven-year-old son.

The Mirror says police hitched a ride on an RNLI lifeboat from Tenby, two miles away, to arrest the man.

The father admitted assault at Haverfordwest Magistrates' Court. He will be sentenced next month.

Island manager John Cattini, 65, said: "This is the first crime I can recall and I've been here more than 40 years.

"I'm glad to say I didn't witness it but I'm sorry to say I was told about it. It is very sad.

"We are happy to say we live here very peacefully. This person was a visitor and is a sign of the modern world, I expect."


They eat it in the Congo

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A curry house on Tyneside has delivered to the Democratic Republic of Congo, reports the Daily Star.

The paper says a businessman working in DR Congo, Mohammed Kabir, visited the Monsoon restaurant in South Shields last month.

He was so impressed that he emailed the chef, asking him to feed 70 UN soldiers based in the African state.

Showkoth Choudhoury took up the challenge, with a helicopter picking up the dishes from Tyneside.

Mr Choudhoury sent the troops mirch masalas, achargola curries and butternut squash. But not, he admits, onion bhajis.

"They wouldn't be as nice if they weren't enjoyed fresh," he says.


Also in the news

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Flat on "Only Fools and Horses estate" sells for £1.1m (Daily Mirror)

Father Christmas sacked for alleged far-right support (Daily Telegraph)

Mother fined for putting out rubbish on wrong side of the street (the Times)