David Cameron's speech, Maidenhead - divorce capital, and failed inventions

It might be seven months before voters go to the polls but the prime minister's showpiece announcement at the Conservative Party conference is still described as an "election giveaway" by the i.

Likewise, the Guardian says David Cameron's pledge to raise tax thresholds to allow 30 million people to keep more of their earnings means the "election starts here". The proposal gets a warm reception from some papers, with the Daily Mail suggesting the country has the "real Tory premier" some of its readers may have been longing for.

Several editorials suggest Mr Cameron's speech might have transformed his party's fortunes at the end of a week that began with a second MP defecting to UKIP and a minister stepping down after a "sexting" scandal. "On Tuesday, this paper said Mr Cameron would have to make the speech of his career," says the Daily Mail. "This was it."

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His performance, says the Daily Telegraph, "has made a Tory victory dramatically more likely", while the Daily Express says the Tory party is now "clearly the party for the aspirational people of middle Britain". Sun columnist Tony Parsons says: "There was enough in his last speech before the general election to suggest that [Labour leader] Ed Miliband will never stand waving at No 10."

However, not all are convinced. While the Mail sets out a table showing how lifting the threshold for the 40% income tax rate will benefit those earning £40-50,000, the Daily Mirror calls the measure - combined with the raising of the starting point for the tax - a "£7.2bn handout... for the rich".

Adding this sum to the earlier Conservative promise to slash £25bn from public spending, the Financial Times says it "raises a fundamental question about the economic credibility of the Conservative case". It adds: "The consequence for already hard-pressed public services does not bear thinking about." The Independent complains: "It was extraordinary to hear these promises of unfunded tax cuts, at a time when the deficit is still vast, from a prime minister who criticised Ed Miliband for 'forgetting about the deficit'."

"If a deal looks too good to be true it usually is," says the Mirror's Kevin Maguire, calling it "dishonest, nasty, cynical politics by a rattled premier".


'Terrific, compelling... painful'

Sketchwriters capture the atmosphere in the conference hall as Mr Cameron delivered his speech.

"Enter the PM. A slow walk to the lectern, that of a cowboy with chapped legs. Vaseline, matron!" writes the Daily Mail's Quentin Letts. But he describes the address as "a six from the moment it left the bat", singling out a passage in which the PM referred to his late son Ivan's treatment for cerebral palsy: "No artifice can explain the extraordinary moment when he defended his belief in the NHS... Stuff the cynics, this was a terrific moment."

The Daily Express's Macer Hall writes: "In 50 compelling minutes, Mr Cameron veered between calm intensity to self-deprecating comedy to quivering anger at Labour hypocrisy and cynicism."

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But the speech wasn't without error. "There was one very promising riff about the Conservatives being the trade union for hard-working parents, mothers who work all the hours God sends, ambitious teenagers, and children from the poorest estates and so on," writes the Financial Times's Matthew Engel. "It might have been unfortunate that he then said "these are the people we resent", missing out three crucial letters, but maybe no one else noticed."

"Defining 'madness' as voting for 'this high-spending, high-taxing... shower, and expecting anything other than economic disaster' came perilously close to suggesting Labour voters were actually mad," suggests the Independent's Donald MacIntyre. And the Times's Ann Treneman writes: "I'm afraid I must report that the PM pretending to have a Yorkshire accent as he pretended to be a young William Hague was painful. 'OK, I won't give up the day job,' he said, though, actually, it will be us who ultimately decide that."

Remembering Mr Cameron's line about the best thing to do for those who "struggle to get by" being to "help them stand on their own feet", the Guardian's John Crace notes: "The cabinet, with a collective net worth of £70m, who were sitting in the second row, applauded enthusiastically."


Italian job

Maidenhead, in Berkshire, is in the headlines on account of it being - as the Independent puts it - "the divorce capital of Italy".

Jamie Merrill and Michael Day explain that a mailbox in the town has been used by no fewer than 179 Italian couples as an address through which to convince English county courts to "rubber-stamp" their separation. But they write: "The top family judge Sir James Munby found that there was no reason to believe that the couples had ever lived in Britain. Instead, the unhappy Italian couples were trying to get around controversial laws meaning a divorce is not granted before a three-year separation period, even if it is consensual."

Harry Wallop and Nick Squires write in the Telegraph: "Number 5, High Street, Maidenhead does not sound like one of the most notorious criminal addresses in Britain. Situated between Sew Crafty, a craft store, and The Suntan Shop, it certainly lacks the ring of 10 Rillington Place."

In fact, it was a stationery shop selling the use of secure mailboxes. In all but one of the cases, the couples had claimed to live at flat 201. However, the writers point out: "Number 201 was not a flat, but one of the little PO boxes." Only when an "eagle-eyed court official in Burnley, Lancashire" spotted the address in two separate cases was the scam uncovered.

However, the Telegraph points out: "It is probable that some of the Italian couples have gone on to marry again, so there is therefore a strong chance that they may now be bigamists."


Never took off

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Some papers are fascinated by a photographic collection showing British "inventions that never got off the ground", as the Telegraph puts it. The archive of 250,000 images is being made available to buy via an online art retailer by the man who built up the collection, businessman Chris Hodge, from Chislehurst.

"The photographs, taken from British trade and business-to-business media titles, document Britons trying to invent the next big thing," says the Telegraph, which quotes Mr Hodge describing the images as a "captivating snapshot of a bygone era".

"They include an early videophone, a Land Rover hovercraft and an amphibious Lambretta," notes the Times, which says that despite the UK's "long tradition of world-changing inventions... for every jet engine there is a bicycle with wings".

"Laughable as the ideas may seem, the pioneers of the past were not always so wildly off the mark about the shape of things to come," reckons the Metro's Catherine Wylie. "The treasure trove of pictures collected by amateur historian Chris Hodge also reveals an early version of Skyping - involving a dial-up telephone speaker with twiddly knobs."


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