Tesco crisis, Ed Balls's hair shirt and Bake Off 'smut' complaints

The deepening woes of supermarket giant Tesco feature on many front pages, with four executives having been suspended after the firm overstated its half-year profits by £250m.

The Financial Times describes "storm clouds" gathering over the retailer as its share price slumped and an investigation was launched in response to a whistleblower flagging up concerns over its finances. "Any warning that relates to such matters tends to be toxic for a company's reputation," says the Guardian's Nils Pratley, adding: "The £250m figure is an early estimate. The final outcome... could be higher."

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Daily Mail cartoonist Pugh takes inspiration from the store's self-service checkouts by describing an "unidentified error in the accounting area". However, an FT Q&A explains the background to the kind of revenue supermarkets receive from multinational suppliers, in exchange for their brands gaining prime position on shelves and promotional activity, along with the assumptions about these rebates that caused Tesco to overstate its profits.

What the company calls "accelerated recognition" of such rebates amounts to "counting profits before they had been rung up at the tills", according to the Mail's city editor Alex Brummer. "This is the kind of shoddy practice one might expect from struggling businesses way down the corporate pecking order. That it should come at one of Britain's most respected FTSE 100 companies is astounding."

The Independent says Tesco appears to be in a "downward spiral" but says it would be wrong to blame its demise solely on the rise of discount alternatives like Aldi and Lidl, arguing: "Many of Tesco's problems are entirely of its own making." The paper says the retailer "saddled itself with... unfriendly and antiseptic out-of-town warehouse-style supermarkets", embarked on a botched "American misadventure" and took its customers for granted.

The paper's retail correspondent Simon Neville says that while there's no suggestion that former chief executive Phil Clarke played any part in the profit guidance error, "his legacy hangs in the corridors like a bad smell". Meanwhile, the Daily Express quotes Mr Clarke's replacement Dave Lewis vowing to turn around the store's fortunes.


Promises, promises

Political pledges feature on several front pages, with two papers marking the day of Labour leader Ed Miliband's "keynote" speech to his party conference by reporting fresh commitments from his rivals.

The Daily Telegraph suggests that English "home rule" - in the form of banning Scottish MPs from voting on English-only matters - will be a key plank of Conservative leader David Cameron's election campaign. Meanwhile, the Daily Express says UKIP will make a manifesto promise to abolish inheritance tax as part of a "radical tax-cutting programme".

Mr Miliband's speech is the Times's focus, with the paper suggesting he'll promise a "mansion tax" on properties worth £2m or more, with the proceeds being ploughed into the NHS. The Daily Mirror quotes the Labour leader promising a 10-year plan to get as many young people into apprenticeships as university courses, create one million "hi-tech and green jobs", lift two million people out of low pay, ensure wages rise in line with economic growth and double the number of first-time homebuyers.

For the Daily Telegraph, the last of those pledges involves Mr Miliband "embracing the spirit of Margaret Thatcher by pledging to restore 'the dream of home ownership' for millions".

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The Mirror urges Mr Miliband to "go for it" by emulating his last two conference speeches that "created the political weather", adding: "The Downing Street prize is tantalisingly close if only he will grasp it."

However, the thought of a Labour 10-year plan leads the Daily Express to declare: "God help us all." Its editorial adds: "[Mr Miliband's] pie-in-the-sky pronouncements may sound nice... but without knowing how they will be achieved and how they will be paid for they do not constitute a credible plan for government."

The paper's cartoon isn't much more complimentary, picturing two children approaching their dozing dad, with a boy telling his sister: "Mum says don't wake him up until Miliband's finished his speech."

Meanwhile, the Sun prints the results of a YouGov poll suggesting voters don't feel Mr Miliband has provided effective opposition to government, made clear what he stands for or would be up to the job of prime minister. Asked which animal the Labour leader was most like, those polled reportedly selected "sheep".


X Factor?

In his speech, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls apologised for Labour's mistakes on immigration and the banking crisis, or - as the Daily Star puts it - said: "Sorry for all my balls ups."

Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell interprets the speech as "hair shirts for all", while his Times counterpart Peter Brookes imagines Mr Balls as animated dog Gromit - sidekick of Wallace - using a poop scoop to clean up "Labour's economic mess".

The sketchwriters didn't think much of his efforts. "Balls bored," writes the Daily Mail's Quentin Letts, suggesting that had X Factor judge Simon Cowell been in the front row: "He might have stopped Mr Balls long before the end by raising his hand and inviting Cheryl to pass cruel judgment."

The Times's Ann Treneman concludes: "If I were Ed Balls sitting in front of Ed Balls while making this speech, I might have done the 'flat-line' gesture at him. Ed Balls is a political bruiser and... a funny and warm guy. But none of that came over yesterday."

"Ed Balls gave his big conference speech in front of a backdrop that said simply 'Labour's Plan for Britain's Future'. It did not explain what Labour's plan might be and nor, with any coherence, did Mr Balls," writes the Financial Times's Matthew Engel.

Nonetheless, the Guardian's editorial suggests "the shadow chancellor offers austerity with a fairer flavour", having signalled "readiness to put up taxes, drawing a line under the coalition's grotesquely lopsided fiscal tightening, which involves chopping around £9 off public services and benefits for every £1 in extra revenues".


Pun fun

Image caption Pensioner Patricia Hewitson grew the 5ft (1.5m) plant from bird seed

Sub-editors have some fun as they follow-up the BBC Radio Devon story about pensioner Patricia Hewitson unwittingly growing a 5ft (1.5m) cannabis plant in her back garden.

"My garden's gone to pot," is the Daily Star's effort, as it explains how the 62-year-old sent a photograph of her plant to the radio station's gardening show in the hope of identifying it. The expert suggested it had sprouted from spilled bird seed.

Meanwhile the Daily Express manages two drug references by imagining the Exmouth gardener saying: "I feel a bit of a dope... my 'weed' is really a 5ft cannabis plant."

The Sun plays on Mrs Hewitson's age, using the headline: "Grannabis."


Bake Off-colour

"Bake Off fans are fed up of 'soggy bottoms'," declares the Daily Express as it reports complaints to feedback show Points of View about smutty puns based around "buns, nuts and muffins" made by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins on the latest series of the Great British Bake Off.

The Telegraph quotes one viewer saying: "They get smuttier and smuttier, and it is totally unnecessary. Mary Berry looked quite embarrassed on the first programme of this series, and so were we as a family."

"The BBC has been keen to use the risque subtext as a selling point for the show, with the official BBC1 Twitter account creating the #BakeOff­Innuendo hashtag for fans to discuss the jokes and even naming their 'Innuendo of the Week' from each episode," reports the Daily Mail.

However, a corporation spokesman quoted by the Express points out there have been just seven complaints. "Presenter Sue, 45, tweeted: 'Wow, I give up on humans'," the paper adds.


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