Newspaper review: Nigella claims, 'plebgate' and Scotland's 'blurry' blueprint

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Media captionBroadcaster Lynn Faulds-Wood and James Lyons, deputy political editor of the Daily Mirror, review the papers for the BBC News Channel.

Claims aired in court that Nigella Lawson regularly uses drugs result in the TV chef's image being splashed across several front pages.

However, the suggestions have been described as "totally scurrilous" by the lawyer bringing fraud charges against two sisters who acted as personal assistants to Ms Lawson.

The other public figure to make Wednesday's front pages - former chief whip Andrew Mitchell - also claims his reputation is under attack.

"Spokes, lies and videotape," is how the Independent describes the re-emergence of the "plebgate" row, so-called because Mr Mitchell was accused by a policeman of calling officers "plebs" and swearing at them when he was stopped from cycling through Downing Street's gates. For the Sun, it's a "Pleb of intrigue".

After a 12-month inquiry concluded there was insufficient evidence to form a case that the officer had lied, Mr Mitchell held a press conference during which he was "stern, insistent, outraged... emphatic in his assertion of innocence," according to Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail.

But for Ann Treneman, of the Times, time dragged as the reporters sat through a "tame thriller" - a CCTV recording lasting 49 seconds of Mr Mitchell's departure from Downing Street - which he used to support his claim that he would not have had time to say everything the police claimed he had.

The Guardian says the matter can "only be resolved in the libel courts". Mr Mitchell is already pursuing the Sun - which broke the story - via that avenue. The Independent's editorial accepts "we will never know who said what" and argues for Mr Mitchell's return to cabinet. But the Daily Mail quotes sources suggesting that would be "unthinkable" while a libel action is ongoing.

Independence debate

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond comes under fire from a number of quarters after issuing his "blueprint" for Scottish independence.

The cartoonists get straight to the point, with Peter Brookes in the Times depicting Mr Salmond as Mickey Mouse, standing in front of a "Holyrood" sign. Dave Brown in the Independent pictures the first minister's face on the bare behind of a Scotsman - kilt raised by flatulence - holding the "declaration of independence" written on a toilet roll.

"An-och-aye in the UK," is the Sun's Sex Pistols-referenced headline to the plan to "break up Britain".

The Daily Mail calls the Scottish National Party's vision a "670-page insult to Scots' intelligence". "There is hardly a statistic to be trusted among the SNP's wildly optimistic estimates of Scotland's oil revenues, income and debts," its editorial reads. For the Daily Telegraph, it's a "blurry blueprint", suggesting that: "Mr Salmond appeared a little embarrassed by the situation in which he now finds himself, trying to put the flesh of reality on the bones of a dream."

The leader of the pro-UK Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling, describes the white paper as a "mix of assertion and wishlist" in the Guardian.

However, for Allan Massie, writing in the Telegraph, it's not enough for the No campaign to "pick holes" in Mr Salmond's argument. Instead, it should "appeal to nationalist sentiment, stressing Scotland's contribution to the United Kingdom and the importance of our friendly and co-operative relationship with England - 'our sister and ally'."

And the Guardian's Simon Jenkins warns against lecturing Scots with economic arguments, pointing out that "no nation seeks independence to get rich". He adds: "Westminster's arrogance has played straight into the SNP's hands: next year's vote could deliver the shock of the century."

Migration message

While the prospect of an independent Scotland worries the Daily Express lest it should become a "soft point of entry" to the UK for migrants, the paper celebrates David Cameron's latest message on immigration.

The prime minister has written in the Financial Times that he "shares the concerns" of many people that, from January, Romanians and Bulgarians will have the right to work in the UK. He sets out restrictions on unemployment benefits, barring migrants from claiming them until they've been in the country for three months and no longer paying them indefinitely.

However, reviewing the papers for the BBC News Channel, Daily Mirror deputy political editor James Lyons said: "The government admits that one of the key points - the three-month wait for benefits - needs legislation and they probably aren't going to get it in place [in time]."

His co-panellist, broadcaster Lynn Faulds-Wood, argued that in any case: "There aren't millions of [migrants] waiting to come here and sponge off us."

The Express still declares "victory" for its Say No to New EU Migrants "crusade", while the Mail also sees Mr Cameron coming on-side.

Quiz master

The Guardian pays tribute to its crossword compiler John Graham - alias Araucaria - who died aged 92, by printing his photograph superimposed onto his last puzzle. "Time to go," is the answer to one clue, it notes.

Inside, it lists some of his memorable clues such as:

  • Cox at me (6,3,6). [Answer: Income tax return]
  • A forbidding place (7,4). [Auction room]
  • Of of of of of of of of of of (10). [Oftentimes]

Mr Graham is remembered elsewhere. The Telegraph notes how he revealed his terminal cancer to puzzle fanatics via a crossword clue, and Independent crossword editor Mike Hutchinson says: "I don't think there's a single crossword setter who generated as much affection among solvers as John."

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