Newspaper review: By-election fall-out and diesel warnings

By BBC News

  • Published
Theresa May in Copeland
Image caption,
The Prime Minister visited Copeland to celebrate the win with campaigners and new MP Trudy Harrison.

The fall-out from Thursday's two by-elections in Copeland and Stoke Central continue to dominate the newspapers.

The Times gives Theresa May credit for the Conservative victory over Labour in Cumbria. The paper says it shows that she has expunged the metropolitan and elitist image which caused so much damage for the Tories under David Cameron and George Osborne.

For the Daily Mail, this was a resounding vote of confidence in Mrs May. The paper urges her to ease the "shockingly divisive disparities of wealth between the North and the South" and seize the opportunity to redefine politics for a generation.

The Financial Times says that with no personal mandate, Brexit negotiations and a healthcare crisis, Mrs May should be in trouble. Instead, declares the FT, she is "supreme" following the victory.

The i paper's political editor, Andrew Grice, writes that Copeland shows that Mrs May's pitch is right - with her appeal to "ordinary working families". But he believes the downside for the country is that this marks another step towards a one-party state.

The Daily Telegraph reports that some of Mrs May's ministers have privately said they want her "to get on with a snap election" which could cut Labour "to the bone". But sources close to the prime minister say that she believes a general election would not be in the national interest and that it would delay Brexit.

When it comes to the role of the Labour opposition, which lost Copeland after 80 years of holding the seat but still held Stoke, opinion is more divided.

Image source, AFP/Getty Images
Image caption,
Jeremy Corbyn had questions to answer after Labour lost its seat in Cumbria

Jeremy Corbyn's elections campaign chief Ian Lavery is quoted in the Daily Telegraph saying that, despite the upset in Cumbria, the Labour leader is one of the most popular politicians in the country.

But the Daily Mirror believes that Mr Corbyn was a major factor behind the defeat. It says his lieutenants refuse to accept this and are making excuses for the loss, and in doing so they betray the working people who need a Labour government.

The Guardian says the by-election results point to a continuing erosion of the party.

The Times describes him as "remorselessly incompetent". A senior union official tells the Financial Times he believes Mr Corbyn will be "gone in a year". And the Sun says there is no point to the party under Mr Corbyn's leadership.

And it isn't just Labour getting a hard time from the press. For Matthew Parris, writing in the Times, the Conservatives aren't just feasting off the slow death of Labour, but the sharp existential crisis of Ukip.

Image source, AFP/Getty Images
Image caption,
The leader of Ukip came second in the Stoke by-election

The Daily Mail says the defeat of Ukip's leader, Paul Nuttall, in Stoke, shows that the party's work ended with the Brexit vote.

But the Sun believe it's too early to write off Ukip and the Daily Express predicts "plenty of battles ahead" which will be fought on much more favourable ground than Stoke.

In an article for the Daily Telegraph, the former leader, Nigel Farage, writes that Ukip is a "radical party, or it is nothing" and he calls on Mr Nuttall to own the immigration issue in a way that no other party can.

It is not all good news for Mrs May, though.

According to the Financial Times, the PM is facing a "high stakes political battle" as she tries to curb disability benefits.

The paper says there's nervousness within government as it attempts to close a £3.7bn pound hole in the public finances. The FT understands that Labour and the Liberal Democrats are preparing to resist the move.

'Timid girl'

In other news, the Sun claims that two of the women who allegedly assassinated the half brother of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, were recruited in massage parlours.

According to the paper they were picked to use the highly toxic nerve agent, VX, to kill Kim Jong-nam because their looks made them appear harmless.

A Facebook photo of one of the women in a bikini appears in the paper while she is pictured in the Daily Mail, also in swimwear, posing on a motorbike.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Doan Thi Huong was arrested soon after the killing.

Her father is quoted in the Sun, saying his daughter could not have taken part in the murder and describes her as a "timid girl" who screams at the sight of a rat or a frog.

The Daily Mail reports that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has warned motorists to think hard before buying a diesel car.

The paper says he suggests that an imminent clampdown on air pollution would encourage a switch to cleaner cars.

The Daily Telegraph features a Francis Bacon triptych of one of his lovers which is expected to fetch up to £56m at auction in May.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Francis Bacon's Three Studies For A Portrait Of George Dyer will be auctioned in May

Three Studies For A Portrait Of George Dyer, from 1963, was Bacon's first study of his muse and it was bought by Roald Dahl

The paper says it is thought Dahl could only afford to buy art when he started making good money from his children's books and spent less than £6,000 on the paintings.

The Times reports that BBC foreign correspondent Caroline Wyatt - who has multiple sclerosis - has been given a "second chance of life".

She has travelled to Mexico to receive a pioneering treatment which, according to the newspaper, was denied to her by the NHS because she wasn't considered to be a suitable candidate for a trial.

Ms Wyatt tells the paper the MS appears to be retreating following the treatment, which cost £55,000.

"I'm less stiff and my unyielding body seems a little more responsive to my brain's commands each day", she says.