Newspaper headlines: 'Knives out' and EU election 'meltdown'

Nigel Farage at the EU election count in Southampton Image copyright Reuters

Although the early editions of the papers were printed before the European parliamentary election results were revealed, the direction of travel was clear.

A smiling Nigel Farage dominates the front pages of the Times and the Daily Telegraph, which says his Brexit party has surged across the country, while the Conservatives have suffered their worst-ever election result.

The paper also points out that what it calls Labour's "Brexit muddle" has brought the Lib Dems back from the dead.

And with the new pro-EU Change UK party considering whether to merge with the Lib Dems as it failed to win any seats, the Daily Express says that after last night's shuddering alarm call, it is make-your-mind-up time for parties old and new.

The Guardian's headline neatly sums up the wider picture: "Power shifts away from major parties as voters across Europe desert the centre ground".

The i newspaper agrees that the establishment parties have been punished, with nationalists and Greens claiming victories around Europe.

The results mark the end of what the Guardian calls the cosy consensus in the European Parliament, but it notes that there is still a fairly comfortable pro-European majority.

Many papers consider the effect that the EU election results will have on the Conservative leadership race.

"Farage might be crowing, and Jeremy Corbyn rethinking," writes the Daily Mirror, "but the Tories are sinking deeper into their civil war, losing the ability to govern."

The civil war that's shaping up appears to be the former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson against the rest: under the headline "Operation Stop Boris", the Daily Mail highlights attacks on Mr Johnson from other candidates, as well as senior Conservatives who are not standing.

Image copyright Getty Images

The Sun says this leadership battle is already doing the Conservatives serious damage, turning all too quickly into a circular firing squad.

It says of another contender, the International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, that "having a pop at colleagues on day one won't help rebuild the party's battered reputation".

But it is more critical of Chancellor Philip Hammond, for "threatening to bring down the government if a new leader pushes for a clean-break Brexit, even if his party's MPs and members vote for exactly that".

In its editorial, the Times warns that it would be a disaster for the party and the country if the race becomes as ugly, divisive and bitter as the Conservative infighting over Brexit.

This would make it "very difficult for any new leader to bind up the wounds, fashion an acceptable compromise or command the confidence of the electorate," it concludes.

Noting that the schism in the Tory party is between those who could accept a no-deal Brexit and those who could not, the Guardian says: "Throwing off Theresa May has changed nothing significant. But it has made one important thing clearer, which is the fault line along which the party is being broken."

In his regular column in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson writes that "No-one sensible would aim exclusively for a no-deal outcome," but adds that, "No-one responsible would take no-deal off the table."

Writing in the Times, another challenger, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, warns against personal attacks and says there is a need to repair our fractured sense of national community.

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