Newspaper review: PM 'harangued' by flood victims

As the bad weather goes on, several of Saturday's front pages show David Cameron coming face to face with some of those bearing the brunt.

The Daily Telegraph says the prime minister "appeared rattled" when he was confronted by angry residents in Kent who have been without power for several days.

Elsewhere, the front pages are a mixed bag, but one of the stand-outs is the Independent, which tells readers that the Children's Commissioner for England, Maggie Atkinson, wants to outlaw smacking completely.

The Daily Mail, meanwhile, reports that England has become the "most overcrowded major country in Europe".

Discussing the papers for the BBC's News Channel, media commentator Neil Wallis says Gen Sir Barney White-Spunner, leader of the Countryside Alliance, makes "a very valid point" when he criticises the RSPCA in the Daily Telegraph, but then "damages [it] significantly with wilder and wilder accusations against a whole variety of organisations".

The general's argument, he says, is that the charity has launched a series of "very strange and extreme" legal actions and "stopped being the cuddly RSPCA that we all remember".

Author Ian Leslie - pointing out that Sir Barney also attacks the BBC and National Trust in the same interview - says "he probably should have focused his fire with a little more discipline", but agrees that the RSPCA has moved away from being an organisation concerned solely with "the welfare of animals" to one championing "the rights of animals".

Image caption Virtually every paper features the smiling faces of five Greenpeace activists arriving back in the UK after 100 days in a Russian prison

Mackay's marching orders

The departure of Malky Mackay from Cardiff brings to a close "endless episodes of farce" at the football club, claims the Times. It says club owner Vincent Tan "has fought his own players, dismissed the club's head of recruitment - replacing him with a 23-year-old from Kazakhstan who had no football experience - and tried to interfere in football tactics".

Mackay laughed at the latter - the Independent says - most notably Tan's suggestion that players try to score more often from their own half. Tan is "accustomed to a more subservient attitude from his employees and was bent on revenge", adds the paper.

But while "Tan has been cast as the pantomime villain this Christmas," writes Alan Smith, in the Daily Telegraph, perhaps the "bottom line" is that "managers today must start to accept that wealthy benefactors expect more bang for their buck". He adds that never before has the Premier League been "so cut-throat".

Indeed, despite Tan's reputation, the Guardian's Stuart James thinks he "will have plenty of applications on his desk over the coming days". He does add, though, that "says more about the pull of the Premier League and the money it brings" than a desire to work with Tan.

Flood 'fury'

The Daily Mail says the prime minister was "heckled" by victims of the bad weather in Kent on Friday and then took part in "a tense exchange" with one resident, Erica Olivares, who had been without electricity since Christmas Eve.

"David Cameron's sympathy visit was knocked off course," says the Times, summing up an uncomfortable day.

The Daily Mirror focuses its ire on energy minister Greg Barker, whom it says "chose to spend his Boxing Day supporting the local hunt" rather than trying to help those hit by flooding and power cuts. "Little wonder David Cameron got such an earful" in Kent, it adds.

Elsewhere though, Jeremy Clarkson, in his Sun column, thinks the recent weather should be "small talk, not big news". Describing the past week's low pressure, he writes: "In the past, this weather phenomenon was known as 'December'. But this time around it was described as a 'bomb'."

A couple of papers do manage to find some romance in the whole mess. The Daily Telegraph's leader column says the weather "instantly stripped households of technology... but neighbour spoke to neighbour and Christmas dinner was cooked for strangers". It goes on: "Amid domestic tragedies, it was not water that ruined Christmas, but generosity that made it."

Philip Hoare, in the Guardian, meanwhile, says being cut off from power and technology "forces us to reconnect with the primal". "We remember that our natural state is not constant noise or even constant warmth," he writes, adding: "Suddenly we are forced to listen to ourselves."

Contrasting fortunes told

As New Year creeps closer, the papers have begun doing their traditional look-ahead to what might be in store for 2014, and Saturday's Daily Express and Guardian produce two rather different versions of that late December newspaper staple.

The former's is a more light-hearted take, predicting among other things, that "mellow yellows and pastels are the colours to be seen in" and that the contrasting options of children's favourite Paddington and thriller Gone Girl will be the biggest hits at the box office.

The Guardian, meanwhile, asks its correspondents around the world to come up with their list of likely news events for the year ahead. Among them, from Brussels, Ian Traynor says that "as a result of years of austerity, soaring unemployment an the 'renationalisation' of European politics, anti-EU populists will do well in elections from Britain to Greece".

Beirut bombing

Several papers consider the implications of the murder of former Lebanese finance minister Mohamad Chatah in a car bomb attack in Beirut.

"Though no-one has claimed responsibility... it is almost certainly tied to the decades-long conflict between Lebanon and Syria, which has consistently attempted to dominate the affairs of its smaller neighbour," says the Financial Times.

"Lebanon, more than ever, is divided according to allegiances in the Syrian war," says the Times' editorial and "not since the end of its own civil war in 1990 has Lebanon's peace looked so fragile".

The Independent feels that "Lebanon has lost a courageous intellectual and an eloquent voice for moderation." It explains that Mr Chatah used "numerous tweets and blogs" to spell out "the extreme peril his nation faces as the civil war in Syria continues to polarise the Lebanese people". The paper adds that now more than ever, the outside world must "strain every muscle" to make progress on the conflict at the Syria peace conference in January.

Piers pummelled

"Cocky Piers Morgan got a painful lesson" on Friday, says the Sun, "as he faced an Aussie fast bowler's 90mph missiles". The former newspaper editor had vowed to hit Brett Lee for six in Melbourne, but in fact "did not touch one ball with his bat".

"One of Piers Morgan's disgruntled interviewees must have written a particularly persuasive letter to Santa Claus this year," says the Daily Mail, "because they were given the perfect present - seeing the chat show host being terrorised and toppled by a demon paceman."

The Times adds: "It is not often that an Australian fast bowler carries the hopes of Britain on his shoulders, but few were able to resist egging on Brett Lee as he steamed in to bowl at Piers Morgan."

Image caption Several papers show Russian President Vladimir Putin at the funeral of gun creator Mikhail Kalashnikov

Bye bye bank job?

The Daily Mirror reports on figures that show traditional "brute-force" bank robberies have fallen by 92% in 20 years. It says the news is "reassuring", but while "the banking industry is putting it down to better security measures.... isn't the real reason that all the robbers are working for the banks these days?"

"For wannabe robbers the bank job is getting harder to pull off than their clingy stocking face mask," jokes the Sun. It helpfully comes up with a list of eight of the most "infamous heists" in British history, including the 2006 Securitas depot robbery in Kent and the Northern Bank robbery in Belfast in 2004.

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