Newspaper headlines: 'Spend now, tax later Budget' and 'war at palace'

By BBC News

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The Times, the Financial Times and the Guardian summarise Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Commons statement on Wednesday as the "spend now, pay later Budget".

The Guardian says it combined life-support for the economy with the biggest tax increases since 1993.

The Daily Telegraph says the chancellor announced a five-year personal tax grab - as the bill for vast government spending during the pandemic was finally laid bare.

But because the bill was postponed, the i says, it was a masterclass in delaying consequences.

The Daily Mail describes it as a masked tax raid. For the Sun, the Budget was "bittersweet". While trumpeting the freeze on alcohol and fuel duty, the paper adds: "But prepare yourselves for an almighty hangover!"

As for Mr Sunak himself, the Financial Times says he presented two fronts: "Swishy Rishi", the guy who tops up your salary, and Honest Rishi, announcing that, sadly, income tax thresholds would be frozen, and corporation tax raised.

Bruce Anderson, writing on the Spectator website, says that while Mr Sunak bears no resemblance to an embattled sailor steering a perilous course through mighty waves, thus far he has been the pilot who weathered the storm.

Mr Sunak's statement was, for the Financial Times, a made-for-TV Budget, delivered with gravity, but oozing confidence, self-congratulation and political intent.

It was Lights, Camera, Action! the Guardian says.

But the Daily Mirror says we were promised Superman and got Clark Kent - with the chancellor confessing that the economy would be 3% smaller in five years than before the pandemic.

It was a big day for Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, too. Though, as the Spectator points out, probably far less enjoyable than the chancellor's.

Nevertheless, her appearance before the Holyrood parliamentary inquiry into the Scottish government's handling of harassment claims against former first minister Alex Salmond attracts some favourable reviews.

The Daily Record says she came out fighting, while the New Statesman says she defended herself with suppleness and surgical precision.

There was no knockout blow, the i concludes.

However, the Daily Mail says the first minister's career remains on the line after she failed to answer a series of critical questions.

"Sturgeon still faces her day of reckoning", is the main headline in the paper's Scottish edition.

image copyrightHarpo Productions/Joe Pugliese
image captionOprah Winfrey's interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will air in the US on Sunday

The announcement that Buckingham Palace is to investigate claims that the Duchess of Sussex bullied two personal assistants, makes the lead for the Mail and the Daily Mirror.

The Mail describes the inquiry as a sensation, while the Sun calls it a bombshell.

The Mirror has the headline: "All-out war at the palace".

Writing in the Telegraph, Camilla Tominey says that with the practicalities of Megxit settled last month, it had been hoped both sides could focus on burying their differences.

Yet the announcement of the Oprah Winfrey interview appears to have opened a Pandora's box that's unlikely to be closed soon, she says.

Finally, passengers travelling from London to Manchester on Tuesday evening were kept waiting at Euston station... after a cat climbed on top of their high-speed train and refused to come down.

As the passengers were transferred to another train, staff spent two-and-a-half hours trying to coax the feline intruder off the driver's cab and away from the station's 25,000 volt overhead lines.

The Times reports that staff eventually pulled a heavy duty bin beside the carriages, giving the cat its own special platform on which to disembark.

Staff said it then "swaggered" out of the station without as much as a thank you to its rescuers.