Hoffman death and 'cronyism' row - the papers

Philip Seymour Hoffman Image copyright Reuters

Tributes are paid to Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman on a number of Monday's front pages after he died aged 46.

The Metro and Independent say the actor sought help for his drug problems, but now appears to have lost that battle.

Elsewhere, the row over alleged Conservative "cronyism" appears on several front pages - the Guardian reports that Downing Street is being dragged in following the latest salvo from Labour's shadow Cabinet Office minister.

The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, leads with an article written by Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith, in which it says "he defends his embattled organisation".

The Daily Mail splashes on an investigation it says has revealed the "unprecedented access to the heart of government" given to the food industry.

Discussing that story for the BBC News Channel paper review, broadcaster Henry Bonsu said: "One of the things that David Cameron said in the run-up to the last election was that the next big scandal in politics was going to be lobbying, so access to ministers should be very, very tightly controlled and it shouldn't be about money, power and influence.

"That's one of the reasons the Daily Mail has put it on its front page."

Randeep Ramesh, social affairs editor at the Guardian, said: "This plays into other fears about, perhaps, how the Tories may be captured by big business.

"The Daily Mail is a very populist newspaper and it understands what gets people excited. This is one of those things."

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Image caption The Queen, smiling in rare sunshine, appears in the papers as she greets well-wishers outside church in King's Lynn

'Formidable presence'

The tributes being paid to Philip Seymour Hoffman all agree on one thing - the enormity of his talent. He could have gone on making "life-enriching movies" for another four decades, says the Sun, and "the fact he won't feels like a robbery".

It didn't come easy though. "Hoffman didn't play his parts, he lived them. The word 'play' implies enjoyment," writes Christopher Stevens, in the Daily Mail. He "described the concentration involved in acting as physically gruelling".

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Image caption Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for his role as Truman Capote in the eponymously-titled 2005 film

"Hoffman was not a man who embraced levity," says his Times obituary. "For all his passion for acting, it was a vocation that constantly troubled and tested him, something that he frequently described as a 'struggle'."

That he was an unlikely star - at least to look at - is remarked upon widely. "If you saw him in a VIP area with George Clooney or Brad Pitt you'd think he'd come to empty the ashtrays," writes David Edwards, Daily Mirror film critic. "But his extraordinary range gave him a CV any superstar would envy."

Indeed, "at first glance, Hoffman, who had the build of a prop forward, seemed perverse casting as the elfin writer Truman Capote," agrees Geoffrey McNab, in the Independent, but "he captured perfectly Capote's mischief, his lilting Southern delivery, his peculiarity and his doggedness".

Nevertheless, Peter Bradshaw, in the Guardian, thinks he did have a "lithe sexuality" and "a formidable presence" - "he looked like someone who would debate, seduce or get in a physical fight at the drop of a hat".

"A long, inventive, daring career seemed to stretch before him," adds the Daily Telegraph. "But in what turned out to be his last years he starred in the mainstream features that he had always dotted between the expressive, idea-driven parts in which he excelled."

Calculation or cronyism

The row over alleged Conservative cronyism, driven by the departure of Baroness Morgan as head of Ofsted, shows no sign of abating.

The Independent's Ian Birrell is unimpressed with the Labour peer, whom he says "fumed that her ousting was part of a Stalin-like purge". He thinks what's most "bizarre" is that she was ever appointed in the first place "given the political importance of Gove's education reforms".

The Times' leader also feels the coalition deserves credit given "it has appointed political rivals to senior positions where their experience merits the post" - such as Alan Milburn on social mobility and John Hutton on pensions. And anyway, it adds, there was some "political calculation" in Lady Morgan's original appointment - as a demonstration that the Tories were "continuing some of the Blair government's reform programmes".

The Guardian, however, thinks "ministers who appoint their own partisans to run what should properly be independent inspectorates breach one of the cardinal principles that help to ensure trust in government and good policy management". And it adds: "The tactic also seems designed to promote men at the expense of women, which recklessly sacrifices another important principle."

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Image caption The colour and celebrations for Chinese New Year in London are widely pictured

State school plans

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Image caption Taylor Swift seems to have gone down a storm at London's O2 Arena, judging by newspaper reviews

Michael Gove is certainly a man in the headlines, and away from the cronyism allegations, his actual plans for the education system also attract comment.

One is the idea of extending the school day to 10 hours to increase the range of extra-curricular activities on offer. The Sun is wholeheartedly supportive. "It's so obviously right," the paper says, but "the fact that Mr Gove even needs to spell this out is a sign of how much work still remains to get state schools back to where they should be."

On ideas of using more traditional discipline, like writing lines, the Daily Mirror says it is "so unimaginative it is laughable". He's harking back to "a mythical 'golden age' that never existed" and when "far more children failed" at school.

Another suggestion, as explained by the Daily Mail, is that state schools could make pupils sit the "robust" Common Entrance exam used by leading private schools. The aim, it says, is that it would "indicate how well they are performing against some of the top schools around the world".

All in all, the Daily Telegraph is thrilled with Mr Gove's programme, which "represents a much-awaited rejection of bog-standard equality in favour of the excellence that typifies the independent ethos".

Terrible tour

After England lost the final Twenty20 match in Australia, "the only piece of good news was the 84-run defeat finally brought to an end the miserable tour Down Under," says the Daily Star gloomily.

The Daily Express says: "England's embarrassed team took the bus virtually straight to the airport... It was the best thing to do. It was the only thing to do."

"Indeed, the tour was so awful that quite a few of the original touring party had left long before their planned exit," complains the Times leader. Speaking of exits, coach Andy Flower is gone too because, despite his contribution, "it may be that all methods in professional sport have a natural life span".

Nick Hoult, in the Daily Telegraph, manages to pick "10 of many moments when it went from bad to worse". Among them, "Day two, 11.59am" - the precise time Jonathan Trott was bowled out by Mitchell Johnson. "Trott was on the plane home three days later and Johnson had the first of 37 series wickets," he writes.

In another list, a forward-looking one, Mike Selvey, in the Guardian, picks five things Paul Downton, managing director of England cricket, needs to do now. Among those, find Flower's replacement and decide what to do about KP. On the latter, Selvey writes: "All teams have high-maintenance players but there is none in the game more so than Kevin Pietersen."

Thailand crisis

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Image caption Swallowed up: this sinkhole gobbled up a family car in Ash, Buckinghamshire

Protests have disrupted Thailand's general election, halting voting in parts of Bangkok and the south.

"Activists bedecked in the red, white and blue of the Thai flag and the trademark yellow of King Bhumibol Adulyadej denied their behaviour was undemocratic, arguing that the government and the electoral system were discredited," reports the Financial Times.

The Independent says the two sides - the governing Pheu Thai party and those demanding its ousting - must "step back from the brink, start talking and hammer out a compromise". It points out that "however reasonable the protesters' objections", attempts to prevent voting "amount to a negation of democracy and are a recipe for yet more strife".

"Yesterday's election was a chaotic mess, but it did succeed in demonstrating one thing," thinks the Times. In between the government and protesters, "there is a third group - ordinary people disgusted with the conflict, who want the right to vote".

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