BBC News

Newspaper headlines: PM 'hasn't a clue' and 1m missed breast cancer scans

By BBC News

image copyrightPA Media
image captionThe PM visited Exeter College on Tuesday

Several front pages use an image of Boris Johnson scratching his head to illustrate the confusion surrounding the new coronavirus restrictions for the north-east of England, which elicited an apology from the prime minister.

"Sorry, the PM hasn't a clue," declares the Metro. With the headline "And you thought YOU were confused?" - the Daily Mirror is scathing about Mr Johnson's ignorance of his own rules. It says that "busking and jokes helped him win an election, but there is nothing funny now".

The council leader in Bolton tells the Guardian that the government's handling of the local lockdowns is "breeding resentment" among "red wall" voters who switched to the Tories in December's general election. The Daily Telegraph says the MPs who gained those seats in the North East "reacted with anger and disbelief when the prime minister got his facts wrong".

The lead in the Daily Telegraph suggests the confusion surrounding the new "rule of six "restrictions in the north-east of England has strengthened the case for MPs to be given greater scrutiny of any further coronavirus measures. It says the Conservative rebels backing Sir Graham Brady's amendment to the Coronavirus Act are "on the brink of winning their fight", as the "prime minister's gaffe" proved that the new legislation had been rushed.

The front pages of the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the i newspaper carry the estimate from a cancer charity that as many as one million women are thought to have missed out on breast cancer screening during lockdown. Breast Cancer Now fears that the four-month suspension of services could result in thousands of deaths. The leading cancer expert, Prof Karol Sikora, writes in the Daily Mirror that the UK cannot afford a second backlog over the winter months. "That would be a disaster that would take many years to recover from," he warns.

The vice-chancellors of Birmingham and Sheffield Hallam universities make a call for next year's A-levels to be scrapped, arguing that it would be "simply wrong" to waste time on anything other than lessons. Writing in the Times, Sir David Eastwood and Sir Chris Husbands predict next summer's exams will be "chaotic" and say teacher assessment should be used instead. The Department for Education says it expects exams to take place as usual. 

'Almost unwatchable'

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No one appears impressed with the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. For the Washington Post, it "was so contentious and full of interruptions that it was almost unwatchable".  It says President Trump tried to "steamroll" his opponent - which it views as "the strategy of a challenger, rather than an incumbent". 

The New York Times says it was "a performance that amounted to shouting his Twitter feed at Joe Biden".    

The Sun says that, for the Democrat, "simply maintaining his energy levels across the 90 minutes was enough for it to be a success", having been depicted by the Trump campaign as a "senile old man". It adds that television viewers took to social media to complain that it was the worst debate they had seen.

Tim Stanley, for the Daily Telegraph, says it was the "ugliest US presidential debate ever", due to Mr Trump's technique having the effect of "dragging everyone down to his level". 

Back in the UK, a leaked report cited by the Independent digital newspaper suggests a leading surgeon collected bones from thousands of his patients for 25 years. It says police are investigating Derek McMinn, who was "feted" for his skill at performing hip and knee surgeries at a private hospital in Birmingham - and listed celebrities, politicians and sports stars among his patients.

Quentin Letts in the Times offers his analysis of the new BBC director general, Tim Davie, after his appearance before the Commons Culture committee. "Davie is a Mr Fit, geezerish, estuarine, full of marketing zing", he writes. "He is definitely one of life's Tims. Matey. I quite liked him". He adds that Mr Davie is at least not in denial about the "radioactive problems" he faces. The Daily Express predicts he needs to "pursue value for money with a new urgency" and consider an alternative to the licence fee. It adds that "it would be cruel" to demand payment from the over-75s if there's a second lockdown.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionParty politics is "not the right place to be" for top BBC presenters, Tim Davie said

The Guardian says it's seen a leaked letter from the Cabinet and Treasury minister Lord Agnew to civil servants, in which he accuses them of "infantilising the civil service" through an "unacceptable" reliance on management consultants. The paper says the government spent £1.5bn on consultancy fees two years ago - and Lord Agnew is quoted as saying that's depriving staff members of opportunities to tackle challenging issues like Brexit. 

The Financial Times reveals that a whistleblower at the accounting firm EY highlighted claims of fraud at the German payments group, Wirecard, in 2016 - four years before the allegations came to light. The paper says EY audited Wirecard for more than a decade, and is being sued by investors who lost billions when Wirecard collapsed. EY insists its staff "conducted their procedures professionally and in good faith". 

The Spectator carries what it says is the Armenian prime minister's first interview with a foreign journalist since hostilities resumed in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Nikol Pashinyan tells the magazine the conflict with Azerbaijan is an "existential threat" to Armenians and a "war against democracy" - and he says his people have a "moral and political duty" to defend their compatriots.

According to the Guardian, MPs have put aside their differences to resolve one of the major issues in the Commons. The question of who runs the MPs' football team is said to have turned the beautiful game ugly in recent months, with Labour accusing its Conservative chair, Karl McCartney, of effectively mounting a takeover. He denies the claims. The paper says a "power-sharing agreement" has now been brokered, which allows the two parties to share chairing duties.

And the Times has depressing news for anyone over 40, and fans of Jilly Cooper novels: the words "cad" and "bonk" are apparently alien to the younger generation. A survey of people under the age of 30 found that more than a third claimed never to have heard the terms - while 40% were unaware of the meaning of "sozzled".