Conservative conference, Osborne speech, Turner Prize and Hong Kong protests

A glance at the Daily Express's front page would calm the angst of those left exasperated by week-long waits for a GP appointment.

However, closer inspection of the "doctors to open seven days a week" report reveals it to be the latest pledge from the Conservative Party conference. And the plans to keep surgeries open from 8am to 8pm would only come into effect by 2020, assuming the party won an outright majority.

Still, the Express is impressed by the idea - which also leads the Times and Daily Telegraph - declaring it "good news for working people and families".

Much of the focus, however, is on Chancellor George Osborne's conference address in which he pledged to freeze benefit payments to people of working age for two years. Opinion varies depending on the political outlook of your chosen paper.

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The Daily Telegraph welcomes "a politician who dares to tell the truth" and asks: "Will Labour follow his example?" Likewise, the Daily Mail calls the speech a "strong dose of reality" and adds: "The contrast between his clear-sighted realism and Ed Miliband's economically illiterate performance last week could hardly be more stark."

While the Times praises Mr Osborne's aim of lowering the tax burden, it argues: "By reducing in-work tax credits the cut will affect those who are in work as well as those who are not. It will inevitably reduce the incentive to take up a job, which the chancellor says is his main objective."

The Guardian says: "The idea is, yet again, to rally the strivers against the supposed skivers. The difficulty - as the Treasury immediately admitted - is that half of the 10 million households losing are not skiving at all, but toiling for wages so inadequate that they require a state top-up."

"Whatever happened to boasts the Tories would make work pay?" asks the Daily Mirror's Kevin Maguire, who complains that Mr Osborne is "kicking hard-working people in the wallet" and argues that "right-wing ideology, slashing wallet-boosting help, entrenches low pay".


'Cuts regime'

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Sketchwriters enjoyed Mr Osborne borrowing from the opening lines of the film Trainspotting.

The Independent's Donald MacIntyre speculates that it went down so well because those present believed the chancellor "was implicitly standing up for all those bourgeois things the Trainspotting character, Renton, rejected: 'Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career… Choose a [phenomenally] big television, choose washing machines', and so on".

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After exhorting the nation to choose jobs, enterprise and the future, Mr Osborne's next line was: "Choose David Cameron." As Ann Treneman, in the Times, puts it: "Renton didn't say that, though surely he came close when he exhorted us to 'choose leisurewear and matching luggage'."

"Remarkable. Satire de-satirised," is the conclusion drawn by the Telegraph's Michael Deacon. "Still, at least he didn't endorse the intravenous injection of class A drugs. Or maybe he's saving that for the manifesto."

The Sun takes the theme one step further, reworking the film's promotional poster to replace the characters with high-profile Conservatives "Cam, Ozzy, Tezza and Tory Boy".

Others prefer to pick over the bones of the chancellor, rather than his speech, by remarking on his weight loss since previous conferences.

"Our chancellor's been on a cuts regime himself," remarks the Daily Mail's Quentin Letts. "The lasting impression as he stood there, strikingly skinny... was of monk-like denial. Seconds of custard have been cancelled."

Matthew Engel writes in the Financial Times: "The corpulence has been going for a while now. But suddenly the face was younger, too... The cheeks were softer (is that moisturiser?) and so was the tone. Mr Osborne said 'we' more often than 'I' ('Britain, we did this together'), as though the economic success he was claiming might have had something to do with anyone else."


Art attack

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Art specialists get the chance to cast their eyes over the Turner Prize shortlist and the reviewers can't find a consensus on a deserved winner, other than to suggest much of it might not be worthy of the £25,000 cheque that's available to the judges' choice.

"There isn't a painting or sculpture to be seen," notes the Guardian's Maev Kennedy, before adding that there are reassuringly traditional sounds such as the purr of a 16mm film projector.

"You spend an awful lot of time in a darkened room feeling decidedly unenlightened," writes Rachel Campbell-Johnston in the Times, after viewing the three videos on the shortlist. "Even when you finally emerge blinking into the light of a gallery devoted to the work of Ciara Phillips, you will not feel any more illuminated."

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Richard Dorment, in the Telegraph, argues that "there's only one real artist here" and he's not talking about the medium but Dublin-born, Glasgow-based Duncan Campbell. His 55-minute film focuses on how political movements, museums and art dealers manipulate the meaning of objects and images, the writer says, adding: "Whether or not he wins the Turner Prize - and he should - Campbell is the real thing as an artist."

Zoe Pilger, in the Independent, disagrees. She singles out the "enthralling" film installation Rosebud, by James Richards, as providing a "single moment of wonder" when a budgerigar chained to its owner's hand flaps its wings but can't break free. "This humble household pet is transformed into a metaphor of flight and freedom curtailed," she writes, describing much of the remainder of the show as "maddeningly derivative and lazily opaque".

An altogether different sequence from Rosebud lingers in the mind of the Guardian's Jonathan Jones: one in which "a flower tickles an anus, which reacts by clenching shut". But his winner is performance poet Tris Vonna-Michell whose film Finding Chopin: Dans l'Essex involves him asking "Why was I born in this place in this time?" in "fast, ritualistic, cyclic sentences" over images which the writer says "are not important".


Symbol of resistance

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Foreign correspondents capture the atmosphere in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy demonstrations have continued.

"The sign posted on the steps of Causeway Bay metro station yesterday encapsulated the polite ambivalence felt by protesters blockading the usually well-ordered streets of downtown Hong Kong," writes the Guardian's Simon Tisdall. "It read: 'Fight for democracy/Sorry for the inconvenience.'"

Leo Lewis, in the Times, says the use of tear gas has given the demonstrators a "moral and practical upper hand" by turning the umbrella - used by protesters to protect themselves - into a "mundane symbol of resistance". He adds: "If a mass of ordinary Hong Kong people descend on the city centre to vent their anger, the impact will be immense."

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Mary Dejevsky argues in the Independent: "Even if [the protest] fizzles out, it will be seen by Beijing as a harbinger of destabilisation that could spread. Thus far, China has placated the mainland with ever-rising living standards. There could come a time, not just in Hong Kong, where comparative prosperity is no longer enough."

The protests "present China with its biggest political challenge since the pro-democracy movement was crushed in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989", says Gideon Rachman argues in the Financial Times. He argues: "An intelligent response from the Communist party would allow Hong Kong to act as a testbed for democratic reforms."

However, in the Mail, Max Hastings can see little hope of the protests succeeding and hits out at Whitehall "shrugging" at the situation: "It was a grotesque irony that the campaigners were driven from the streets by police gas canisters manufactured by Chemring in Hampshire, and exported under licence."


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