Newspaper headlines: Ethiopia's 'Spice Girls' cash and NHS 'winter crisis'

By BBC News

  • Published
International Development Secretary Priti PatelImage source, PA
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International Development Secretary Priti Patel announced a review of the girl band's funding last month

A group described as Ethiopia's version of the Spice Girls receives front page billing in the Daily Mail - not for its latest chart-topping single, but for a decision to pull the plug on its funding from Britain's foreign aid budget.

The paper says the move by ministers is a victory for its campaign to highlight waste in the foreign aid budget at a time when social care is in crisis.

Last month, it reported that the five-piece band, Yegna, had been given a £5.2m grant as part of a three year programme aimed at empowering women in Ethiopia.

The paper has the headline: "Aid: NOW they're listening".

Casualty 'crisis'

A number of papers lead with the pressures facing the health service in England. The Guardian highlights the warning by the British Red Cross that the NHS is facing a "humanitarian crisis" as hospitals and ambulance services struggle to keep up with rising demands.

The headline in the i is: "No room at A&E". It says overflowing casualty departments shut their doors to patients more than 140 times last month, a 68% rise on the same period the previous year.

The Daily Telegraph says NHS hospitals have been accused of trying to "spin their way out" of the growing winter crisis after a leaked memo revealed that managers were being instructed to play down the scale of the problem.

The paper has seen an NHS memo telling health officials the "most important thing" is to avoid language such as "black alert" - the phrase used to denote the most serious level of emergency.

Several leader writers and commentators take time to reflect on the Brexit negotiations ahead following the resignation of Britain's ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers.

Image source, HO via EPA
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Sir Ivan resigned from his post on Tuesday

The Guardian says the new ambassador Sir Tim Barrow faces the daunting task of stopping a tumble towards a disorderly exit.

Where once the choice seemed to be between hard and soft Brexit, the new worry is of a "train crash" Brexit - a scenario in which incompatible negotiating demands from Downing Street and the other 27 countries results in Britain walking away without a deal.

The Sun urges Britain to enter the negotiations without fearing what it calls the consequences of EU pig-headedness and be prepared to walk away rather than sign a bad deal in haste.

The Telegraph acknowledges the talks will be a painstaking, detailed task. In the Mail's view, however, Britain has an extremely strong hand as Europe's best market.

The Express vents its anger at the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, for suggesting that a soft Brexit could remove the prospect of Scottish independence for the time being. It says a Brexit without winning back control of our borders, laws, taxes and trading relationships would be a "fake" Brexit.

The Financial Times says Theresa May has had a difficult start to the New Year, with the resignation of Sir Ivan and tensions in government over her management style.

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The Prime Minister gets a mixed review from Saturday's newspapers

The threat by the Conservative Party donor, Sir Andrew Cook, to withdraw financial support if Mrs May pulls Britain out of the EU's single market, is the main story for the Times.

The paper says sections of the business world are pressing ministers to pursue a "soft Brexit", allowing Britain to have access to the single market in return for some form of payment and a compromise over free movement.

The Mail takes aim at the Economist for what it calls a sneering hatchet-job in this week's issue, in which it accused the Prime Minister of indecision and muddle. The newspaper urges her to ignore the carping and get on with the job.

With a 17 point lead in the polls, it says, she has the country firmly on her side, and the prize is huge.

That prize, the Telegraph agrees, is going down in history as one of our great prime ministers if she can pull off a successful Brexit and begin to rebuild the UK's domestic institutions.

'Hope never fear'

The Guardian pays tribute to Michelle Obama, following her final speech yesterday as America's First Lady before President Obama leaves office. It describes her as the most inspirational First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt.

Image source, Getty Images

Like Mrs Roosevelt, she has proved to be not an old-fashioned helpmeet nor an ornament, but a powerful advocate of equality in her own right, the paper says.

It recalls that Mrs Obama was born into a black working-class family that encouraged and expected her to excel, amid the deep racism of 1960s Chicago. Those experiences, it says, have given her both a deep sense of what is wrong with America and of what people are capable of achieving.

The Express leads with research suggesting that an hour's snooze after lunch is good for your health. American scientists believe it can prevent your brain from ageing and help you perform better in memory tests.

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Siestas are good for you, but they cannot be any longer than 60 minutes, according to researchers

They examined 3,000 adults over the age of 65 and found that those who slept in the afternoon were better able to solve simple maths problems and memorise words - and those who didn't, performed badly.

But the paper warns that the nap has to be for 60 minutes. A longer or shorter siesta won't have the same effect.

Finally, forget about camping, or glamping. The Times reports that more and more people are choosing to spend their weekend breaks "champing" - camping in churches.

Apparently, the trend grew four-fold last year and the Churches Conservation Trust, which runs the scheme, is raising the number of churches taking part from seven to 12.

The experience is basic, the paper warns, with no central heating, no showers, and no curtains. But prices start from £19 a night.

A spokeswoman tells the paper: "We didn't want people to see our churches as museum pieces. Instead, we wanted them to be living, vibrant places."