Newspaper review: New Labour, Nigella and 'no-fly UK'
- 8 December 2013
On a day when every paper leads with a different story, many headlines have a political flavour.
Most eye-catching is the Observer which says it has seen "a secret memo" revealing that some of New Labour's biggest and most controversial names, including Alastair Campbell, are set to return to help the party's leader Ed Miliband fight the 2015 general election.
The Sunday Times has news that MPs are in line for an 11% pay rise - despite party leaders' objections - while the Mail on Sunday has a story on a UK Independence Party councillor, based on a 2008 video.
Elsewhere, the disruption caused to flights by telephone problems is covered by the Sunday Express, which fears the situation doesn't bode well for the Christmas getaway.
Discussing the papers for the BBC's News Channel, Nigel Nelson, political editor of the Sunday People, said suggestions of a Blairite return "will not go down awfully well with a lot of Labour MPs", not least because until now, Ed Miliband has done all he can to distance himself from that era.
"Provided they stick to tactics and keep out of policy it might work," he said, but that might be hard with Alastair Campbell, for example, who "has always seen policy and presentation as one thing. They're not separate... the presentation must be part of the policy."
London Evening Standard columnist Mihir Bose said: "Isn't Labour's problem that [Tony] Blair won three elections, which no other Labour prime minister had done, and they need the skill of winning those elections... whatever the policy?"
Mandela funeral in focus
Unity and division - the two opposing themes run through discussions of Nelson Mandela's forthcoming funeral.
"Almost every world leader is going," says the Sun on Sunday's editorial column. "The US and Iran. The Dalai Lama and the Chinese. Even North Korea has paid tribute." It adds: "In death, just as in life, Mandela is bringing sworn enemies together."
However, the Sunday Times says one glaring absence from the funeral will be that of the Queen. "He was one of only a few world leaders she would call a friend," it writes, but she has "reluctantly" decided not to attend because of the length of the journey involved. Nevertheless, so many world leaders and celebrities will be brought together that "it looks set to put Pope John Paul II's pomp-filled funeral in 2005, attended by five kings, six queens and 70 heads of state, in the shade".
The Queen may miss the funeral, but the People says there will be a service closer to home - at Westminster Abbey - to honour the memory of Nelson Mandela. It will be "the first of its kind for a non-British citizen," says the paper, and according to Abbey spokesman Duncan Jeffrey, will be held in the New Year.
Her Majesty excepted, famous faces from around the world might well be coming together, but it seems Mr Mandela's own family are divided.
The Daily Star Sunday says his grandson, Mandla, has been banned from attending. It says he was originally in charge of arranging the funeral, "but some family members think the three-times married South African MP has brought them such shame that they have decided to cut him off".
The Observer's Daniel Howden says Mandla "has made headlines for everything from assault charges to bigamy and grave tampering". The family is also split, he writes, by a legal challenge being fought by two of Madiba's daughters "to seize control of trusts that oversee Nelson Mandela's money".
The Sunday Telegraph says Mandela's family may have "become notorious for disputes that have sometimes spilt into the public domain", but on Saturday, "they pledged to recreate themselves in his image".
It's been a tough week for Nigella Lawson, but the seemingly unanimous view of the papers and their columnists is that she's more popular today than a week ago.
The Times has gone as far as to commission a YouGov poll - more often reserved for political matters - which has found that 39% of people have more sympathy for the TV cook following her drug admissions in court - but only 2% had more for her ex-husband Charles Saatchi. Times columnist, India Knight, says her performance showed "that below the pastel-coloured frosting and fairy lights is a core of purest steel".
"When the allegations had first emerged, media pundits had gone into overdrive," says Elizabeth Day in the Observer - one, for example, declaring her "perceived misdemeanours... unforgivable". But she writes, "it seems they underestimated Lawson" and the "bravura performance" she gave in the witness box.
And there's yet more support from Tony Parsons, in the Sun on Sunday, who calls her "an English rose... proud, beautiful and unbowed by bullies and those who would torment her". On the subject of whether the revelations will affect her budding career in the US, he adds: "Whatever the Yanks think, Nigella Lawson's quiet strength matters more to the British people than her sad experiments with drugs."
The Daily Express is furious at the "air chaos" which left thousands of people stranded at UK airports as a result of a major telephone fault.
"It would be a joke if the matter were not so serious," its leader column says, worried about the impact on the UK at a time when the country is just getting back on its feet economically. "In the Seventies Britain gained a reputation for laziness and incompetence, something it took decades to put to rest. Is that the image we want again?" it asks angrily.
The Sunday Mirror takes a human view of the story and a group of "heartbroken" children whose flight to Lapland was cancelled. The Mail on Sunday pictures one of those children, three-year-old Madison Smith. Her mum, Natasha McNiven, tells the paper: "Madison was in tears as I tried to explain there was something wrong with the aeroplane."
The Daily Star Sunday, on the other hand, adopts a stoical approach. It says the glitch shows "how vulnerable we are to technology failures" and urges readers to bear that in mind when they next grumble about the more minor "gripes" associated with UK airports. "Next time security annoy you by asking you to remove your shoes, remember it could be a lot worse," it says.
Mercy for marine?
The story of - and indeed, in some cases, campaign for - jailed ex-marine Alexander Blackman continues to make headlines.
The Mail on Sunday's leader argues "we must remain within the law. But there is almost always room within that law for flexibility and mercy." It criticises the government for its "silence on the subject", accusing it of double standards: "While governments give their troops a wide licence to kill when things are going well, they back away in exaggerated horror if any individual in the ranks is caught breaking the laws of war."
The Sunday Times says Lord Ashcroft, "billionaire Tory peer" has "offered to bankroll the campaign" to cut Blackman's 10-year minimum prison sentence.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph says it can reveal that British troops are facing 11 separate inquiries into their conduct in Iraq following a human rights court ruling. It argues strenuously in its leader column that "law designed to cover civilian life" is being applied to "the special, and uniquely stressful, circumstances of the battlefield". It says "ramping up legal scrutiny" will make it even harder for service personnel to do an already "tough, sometimes unpleasant job, fraught with moral complexity".
Making people click
What's top of the most viewed lists on some of the papers' websites:
Sunday Telegraph - Ashes 2013-14: Australia v England, second Test: live
Independent on Sunday - Hundreds arrested as Canadian police smash worldwide paedophile ring
Sunday Mirror - X Factor star's theft shame