The papers: The UK's 'litmus test'' and the return of school milk

Eritrean migrants in Calais, hoping to come to Britain Image copyright Reuters

The political "earthquake" caused by UKIP's advance in the European and local council elections in May continues to reverberate, and it is small wonder that the results of the latest British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey attracts much attention.

The Daily Telegraph headlines its story on the survey "politicians blamed for hostility to migrants".

It says the results of the study show a "widening 'disconnect' between the 'liberal political class' and public opinion".

Most notably, the paper says 77% of those surveyed wanted immigration to be cut (56% wanted that cut to be 'substantial') and 47% believed immigration had a negative economic effect.

The paper also identified a growing trend of people saying "British ancestry" is an important factor in having "British identity".

The Times' leader column says the result that "stands out" from the survey was that 95% of respondents believed you must speak English in order to be truly "British".

The paper agrees, saying that the UK should join other "advanced economies" and make English proficiency "a condition of work and settlement visas as well as citizenship".

The Daily Mail's comment says the BSA survey provides a "litmus test of the nation's thinking" which "mainstream parties ignore at their peril".

On the subject of migration, the paper says "how comfortable it is to be 'liberal' when this entrenches your own economic advantage and there's no threat to your own job or pay".

The Daily Express focuses on "benefit tourism" fears, with almost two-thirds of those questioned in the BSA study wanting EU migrants to be unable to claim anything from the state for three months.

The paper also ties in studies by the Open Society Foundation which concludes white, working-class Britons face "systematic marginalisation" due to "immigration and badly paid jobs", and a study last year by the think-tank Demos which showed ethnic minorities are becoming less integrated in England and Wales.

The Independent knows how the BSA research exposes a divide in British thinking, with young, metropolitan professionals believing immigration is "economically and culturally" positive.

There is also a geographical divide, the Financial Times explains, with Londoners more than twice as likely to welcome immigration than those elsewhere in the UK.

The Daily Mirror challenges the relevance of the findings of the survey by citing the example of one man - athlete Mo Farah.

"Farah wasn't born in Britain. He could barely speak English when he arrived. But we bet most would agree, indeed are proud, that he is English."


As the shock of the pictures of apparent atrocities carried out in Iraq by the Sunni extremist group ISIS sinks in, the papers seek a way forward.

The Times notes that the US is to open talks with its "arch-enemy" Iran to try to stop Iraq from "unravelling" under the ISIS onslaught.

The move, the paper says, has split opinion in America with some, like former Republican presidential candidate John McCain arguing that a deal with Iran would be "the height of folly" and saying that Tehran's involvement in Iraqi affairs would "make matters worse".

On the other hand, the Times continues, other senior senators such as Republican Lindsey Graham argue: "Why did we deal with Stalin? Because he was not as bad as Hitler. The Iranians can provide some assets to ensure Baghdad does not fall."

The latter strategy, the paper adds, will be tested by the presence in Iraq of Qassem Suleimani, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general said to have "been the architect of numerous attacks on British and American personnel throughout the region".

Gen Suleimani, who is helping the Iraqi government co-ordinate its defence of Baghdad, has been in the past described as "a truly evil figure" by the former American commander, David Petraeus.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Iran's Revolutionary Guards were at the forefront of their country's battles with Iraq in the 1980s.

In Baghdad itself, the Independent notes, there is an atmosphere of fear.

The paper says this can be shown by the fact that the price of bullets has tripled.

The Financial Times says the Sunni population of Baghdad has started to leave the city, as sectarian violence flares, many saying they will try to leave Iraq for good.

The paper also reports on Kurdish ambitions in the north of the country.

The FT says the Kurds are "watching cautiously" with the aim of expanding into the "vacuum" left by ISIS, taking oil-rich areas currently outside the defined Kurdish self-ruling region.

A Kurdish shopkeeper seems to sum up the feeling of many Iraqis, when he tells the paper: "Let everyone split and rule themselves.

"Iraq needs to do what Berlin did and build a wall between the Kurds, Sunnis and Shia."

Iraqi refugee Sami Ramadani, writing in the Guardian, says it is a "myth" that his homeland's different ethnicities and religious faiths cannot co-exist.

He says the different peoples of Iraq lived together throughout history, but a three-way division risked "permanent wars" driven by "violent sectarians and chauvinists" and only "oil companies, arms suppliers and warlords" would benefit.

Mr Chips

The diet of our schoolchildren is under the microscope, with the papers reporting new rules to limit unhealthy food served in schools.

The Daily Mirror says it will be "Goodbye Mr Chips" for pupils, with just two portions of deep fried food being allowed to be served per pupil in any week.

The regulations, which apply in all state schools, as well as new free schools and academies , ban salt cellars from tables and encourage children to "talk about their food", the paper adds.

The Mirror says the guidelines intend to replace earlier rules which school chefs criticised as "overcomplicated" and which required schools to run a computer program to regulate the nutritional value of their offerings.

The Sun describes the change as "the tuck stops here", saying schools will no longer be able to sell sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks to their pupils.

The Times quotes restaurateur Henry Dimbleby who co-wrote the new guidelines.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Henry Dimbleby, who co-wrote the new regulations, runs the London restaurant chain Leon

He says: "The previous standards did a lot of good in removing the worst foods from children's diets.

"But when we were writing the School Food Plan we met lots of wonderful cooks who were restricted by them."

The new rules, he says, offer much greater flexibility to schools in setting their menus out.

It's not just food in schools which concerns the government - the Daily Mail says it has looked at what children drink.

The paper says school milk will be offered to all pupils from the New Year, reversing the decision of Margaret Thatcher who phased it out when she was education minister in 1971.

However unlike the bottles given to children in the past, school milk will not now be free, the paper notes.

The intellectual diet of our children is the subject of another school-related story in the Times.

The paper interviews Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw who suggests "bad parents" should be fined if they didn't attend parents evenings, did not read to their children and allowed homework to go undone.

The paper says Sir Michael's comments will "provoke anger from poverty campaigners who say that poor families are least able to pay the fines and that their children will suffer".

However, Sir Michael says "deprivation was used as an excuse for low achievement" and teachers should tell parents "if they weren't doing a good job".

'Dry up'

Just like the stereotypical Briton, the newspapers love to talk about the weather, and a story in the Daily Mail may have some readers looking to the heavens.

The paper reports that weather forecasters are warning that parts of southern England are facing a drought.

With parts of Britain, notably areas of south-west England, unlikely to see much rain for the next 10 days, the Mail says, the Met Office is warning people to "use water wisely".

The Times points out that the drought warning comes after "the wettest winter since 1766".

Despite the warning, the paper says, experts say water stocks are at healthy levels and forecasters are only cautioning people to be sensible with the use of a "precious resource".

"Absolute drought" - the paper explains - is defined as when no more than 0.2mm of rain falls for more than 15 consecutive days.

The Daily Telegraph has no truck with the official advice, particularly that from the Environment Agency "whose very name has become 'mud' along Somerset's undredged waterways".

The paper's leader column says "The big water companies are allowed a virtual monopoly to catch [rainfall] and sell it to us. Perhaps they should hold more in reserve.

"To be told not to splash about is like being told to breathe less deeply lest there be insufficient air to go around.

"Bossy, self-appointed water guardians should just dry up - at least until Wimbledon fortnight is over."

Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror tells us that MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee have warned that last winter's flooding could be repeated this year unless "bare minimum" funding was increased.

"Regular maintenance" of defences is being neglected, the MPs say. It looks like it never rains but it pours.

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