Newspaper headlines: Osborne 'unspun', and the 'poppy plot'

On Friday, George Osborne announced that he had secured the halving of the £1.7bn bill which the EU had dropped on Britain's doorstep to "correct" its budgetary contribution.

Saturday's papers examine that claim in some detail.

Image copyright AP
Image caption As well as a reduction in the overall bill, Mr Osborne was able to announce the payment deadline had been put back and no interest would be charged

The Guardian leads with the story, claiming the chancellor used "sleight of hand" in claiming the surcharge had been reduced.

The paper says Mr Osborne had simply counted Britain's rebate from the EU against the total bill, and the rebate "was always going to be paid", so the bill reduction was not the result of any negotiations.

The paper quotes Mr Osborne's Labour counterpart Ed Balls who said, "David Cameron and George Osborne are trying to take the British people for fools.... not a single penny has been saved for the taxpayer."

The Daily Mirror's opinion column also casts scorn on Mr Osborne's mathematics.

"No matter how loudly the slippery Tory fiddled with figures the fact remains that he lost the war and Britain's bill went up.

"When the going gets tough, Osborne is out of his depth. The Tories have no friends in Europe and isolation is an expensive mistake," the paper says.

The Daily Express - which has a staunchly anti-EU editorial tone - is slightly kinder to Mr Osborne.

Its leader comment says, "given Eurocrats' antagonism towards Britain securing any cut is no small diplomatic achievement."

But it adds, "this remains a sorry episode. After Prime Minister David Cameron displayed such righteous anger when the bill was unveiled Osborne's victory rings hollow. It would have been reasonable to expect the bill to be slashed by far more than 50%."


'Torpor and drift'

The brickbats Mr Osborne has faced in the press might seem positively benign to Ed Miliband, as the media continues to examine the so-called Bonfire Night plot to ditch the Labour leader.

The Times devotes four pages to the affair.

Image copyright Getty Images

The paper says Labour's high command are planning "a relaunch of Mr Miliband's leadership", involving "a tour of key constituencies to meet the public directly".

A Labour strategist Lucy Powell tells the paper that the party need to find a way of "distilling" Mr Miliband's policies to translate his vision, "into the world of individual conversations - can we pass the 'conversation in the hairdresser's' test?"

The paper lists several potential successors to Mr Miliband, but notes that one, Alan Johnson, has ruled himself out, and Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper have denied discussing a post-Ed future.

James Kirkup's analysis in the Daily Telegraph says that Mr Miliband's problems stem from his character: "His personal caution overriding his political boldness.

"The result, as Labour MPs are increasingly keen to point out, is torpor and drift."

Simon Heffer in the Daily Mail says Mr Miliband is David Cameron's "most powerful not-so secret election weapon in his fight to remain prime minister".

The Independent's leader column says there is "no mileage" in Labour looking for a new leader.

The paper adds that Mr Miliband has "attractive policies" although at times has seemed "a walking disaster".

Image caption Chuka Umunna is one of the name's touted as a potential successor to Ed Miliband

"There is no one else who would now obviously deliver an immediate boost in the polls. Labour should stop self-harming and rally around Mr Miliband.

"He is the only leader they've got. We mean that in a nice way," the paper adds.

Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian writes that the talk of a leadership challenge has been fanned by newspapers "who always had a hit job on the Labour leader pencilled in for autumn 2014."

He argues that Labour's best electoral chance is to "shift the focus off Miliband and even away from Labour" and instead concentrate on "what the country would look like under another Tory-led government.

Freedland says this would be, "a zero-hours Britain that could well stumble out of the European Union in an act of internal Tory party management; a country of ever-stagnant wages, suffocating personal debt and shredded human rights protections; a union imperilled by a Conservative administration tin-eared to the demands of the people of Scotland; a country slamming down the shutters against immigrants and the wider world."


'Big challenge'

Who is your energy supplier? It could be your local council in the future, if the "revolution" in the power market outlined in the Independent goes ahead.

The paper says various British local authorities, including Plymouth, Islington in London, Nottingham, Bristol and Berwickshire, are planning to set themselves up in competition to the "big six" firms which currently dominate the UK's electricity and gas markets.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Solar farms like this one are one of the options councils are exploring to generate energy

They aren't alone either, the paper's environment editor Tom Bawden reports: a consortium of Scottish housing associations and a renewable energy charity is planning similar.

Bawden says, "the move comes amid growing discontent at the big energy firms, which have consistently come at the bottom of customer satisfaction surveys after continued price hikes over the past few years."

He continues, that the proposed new energy retailers will initially sell power generated by existing power companies, but ultimately want to produce their own energy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar.

A pilot scheme has already been launched by a consortium of Somerset social landlords and is supplying 6,500 tenants in the county with electricity at a cheaper rate than they'd hitherto had available to them.

The projects posed "a big challenge to the incumbents [in the energy market]", a Greenpeace spokesman says.

Energy issues of a different kind are explored in the Sun as part of its Keep It Down campaign for petrol price reduction.

Image copyright AP

The paper says "thousands of motorists and nearly 150 MPs" have called on the government to investigate allegations of price-fixing in the petrol and diesel market.

"Oil prices have fallen 25% since June, but forecourt prices have only come down 6%," the paper notes.

In a related story, the paper hits out at airlines for failing to pass on the falling costs of fuel in their flight prices.

A BA spokesman tells the paper fuel deals were made "long in advance", so the current price falls will not affect what the airline has to pay.


'Curl up'

In a relatively weak day for news, the papers carry a raft of lighter stories, and two focus on our eating habits.

The Guardian reports what hitherto seemed impossible has happened - as a nation we are eating up our greens.

Image caption These sprouts are getting ready for the Christmas rush.

Sales have soared in everything from peas to Brussels sprouts to asparagus to cucumbers.

Leading the veg pack, is "trendy" curly kale, which has seen sales sprouting - pun intended - by 54% in 12 months, helped apparently by the endorsement of superfan Gwyneth Paltrow.

The paper's Felicity Cloake offers some recipes to try to convince readers that "sprouts are too sweet to save for Christmas". This sprout-phobic blogger has not been convinced.

As the green stuff rises, an old tea-time favourite is in decline, according to the Daily Mail.

Just 60% of us now eat cheese on toast, the paper reports; that's down from 67% two years ago.

Mintel, which carried out the analysis, says it thinks the comfort food's decline may have something to do with the high-fat, high-salt reputation of cheese and the warmer weather meaning "fewer people are likely to curl up with a plate of cheese on toast".

Nigel White, of the British Cheese Board (yes, the trade body is really called that) remains optimistic about the future of the combination, which he calls "a standby product" and "a lifesaver".

But it's the eating habits of snakes rather than humans that feature in the most bizarre story in Saturday's press.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Film-makers are not part of an anaconda's usual diet

The Independent reports that "green Indiana Jones" Paul Rosolie, an American film-maker, donned a snake stomach acid proof suit and got himself swallowed by a 30ft anaconda as a stunt filmed for the Discovery Channel.

Mr Rosolie, who was coated in pig blood to attract the snake, was swiftly hauled out by his friends using a cord attached to his costume.

The incident has been slammed by animal rights organisation Peta, who pointed out that snakes use a lot of energy eating food and such "torment" would exhaust the anaconda.

Many Twitter users have also been vocal in their disapproval of using a wild animal for entertainment.

But the paper says, "Mr Rosolie responded by saying 'he would never hurt a living thing' and welcomed the fact that people cared about snakes."

I'm not sure everyone would swallow that explanation.

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