Newspaper headlines: Rochester fallout and Winkleman's Strictly return

Surveying the political landscape after UKIP's victory in the Rochester by-election, some front pages report predictions the party could hold the balance of power after May's general election.

The i says UKIP is targeting 20 Westminster seats, while the Daily Express talks it up to as many as 40. "Nigel Farage's People's Army is marching on relentlessly as the general election approaches," writes Express political editor Macer Hall, although he says the first-past-the-post polling system will make the touted figures difficult to achieve.

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The Independent's Andrew Grice says the Rochester result shows that "two-party politics are a thing of the past" and Mr Farage is given space in the paper to reveal the secret of how his party won: "Listening to people... to hear what they want and build these concerns into sensible policy recommendations."

But while Mr Farage is pictured basking in victory, not all the coverage is sympathetic. Bill Emmott writes in the FT Weekend of "Cheshire Cat smiles that mask a dangerous trend in British politics", such as using "humorous bluster" to divert from headlines about policy "flip-flops".

The Times describes Mr Reckless "taking a swipe" at his party leader within hours of his election, accusing Mr Farage of "changing UKIP policy overnight in response to a row over immigration". And the paper says UKIP faces key policy questions, listing five on NHS funding, a credible fiscal programme, housing, welfare and transport.

Meanwhile, the Daily Star manages to find a photograph of Mr Farage celebrating victory, alongside his newly-elected MP Mark Reckless, with some cheeky scamp's fingers adding bunny ears. And the Daily Mail asks readers who the UKIP leader resembles most from a centre spread of pictures matching him to characters as diverse as Larry Grayson, Compare the Meerkat puppet Aleksandr and cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn.


Labour woes

Elsewhere, the focus isn't on the Conservatives - who lost the seat - but Labour. The Mail describes a party "in chaos" after what it calls the sacking of shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry. She'd tweeted a picture of a house adorned with England flags, with a white van parked outside, in a manner leader Ed Miliband deemed "disrespectful".

Wealthy barrister Ms Thornberry - who lives in a £2m London townhouse - was accused of being "snobbish", says the Times, although it points out she was brought up on a council estate. Meanwhile, Mr Miliband's comment that he felt "respect" on seeing a white van is described as "bizarre" by the Sun. "He'd have been better off saying: 'Not a lot, really, it's just a van.' It would have been honest. And not weird."

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But the Labour leader has his say in the Daily Mirror, insisting Ms Thornberry resigned and vowing not to "let UKIP get away with the claim they will stand up for working people" as he asserts they think "working mothers aren't worth as much as men... the NHS would be better off privatised... workers should have fewer rights and bankers should have bigger bonuses".

The Sun takes the man inadvertently thrust into the limelight - "White Van Dan" Ware, whose house was pictured in Mrs Thornberry's tweet - to the MP's Islington constituency to seek an apology but reports "he left empty-handed". She had already left for work.


And the others?

As the Guardian notes: "The focus on Labour meant that the prime minister escaped a major public post-mortem in the wake of the loss of Rochester and Strood after pledging to throw the kitchen sink at the campaign."

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"Doubtless David Cameron was grateful to Labour for providing a distraction," says the Mail. But it points out: "Experts say the most likely outcome next May is a minority Labour government - propped up by the even more Left-wing SNP and Greens."

And the Telegraph says: "The failure to defeat UKIP in Rochester has shown that the Conservatives need to stop focusing on UKIP-friendly issues such as the EU and immigration and return to discussing the economy."

Meanwhile, the Independent says the Lib Dems blamed "tactical voting" for the party having lost its deposit, while the Times says leader Nick Clegg "kept his head down" in the wake of the result.

The Telegraph points out that the Greens are "planning sustained attacks to poach key Lib Dem seats". It adds: "They are hoping that the collapse of the Lib Dems will mean that they are left with at least a handful of MPs in the Commons in May."


Claudia's back

Away from politics, readers might be concerning themselves with Christmas shopping or looking forward to the latest episode of Strictly Come Dancing.

In the case of the latter, the Daily Mirror reports that Claudia Winkleman will be back in her presenting role for the first time since her eight-year-old daughter suffered serious burns when a Halloween costume caught fire. The Sun quotes her saying: "Matilda is doing well and although it will be a long road to recovery, she is getting the best possible care."

She'll be stepping back in as a row has flared between producers and judge Len Goodman, according to the Daily Express. The paper says the show's producers accused him of "using the F-word after a scintillating performance by singer Simon Webbe and his partner Kristina Rihanoff" and Winkleman's stand-in Zoe Ball issued an on-air apology.

But Goodman tells the paper he didn't like being accused of turning the air blue: "I'm convinced I didn't swear so I have asked the BBC to get a sound man who can really sort of isolate words and things and see if I did because as far as I know I didn't swear."


Sweet success?

Chocolate is on the minds of a number of reporters this week, and not just those sustaining themselves through the night to cover by-elections.

The Guardian, noting warnings of a cocoa shortage, takes dispatches from writers to find out the cause. It hears about farmers ditching the crop for more lucrative alternatives in Ivory Coast, processors battling declining harvests in Indonesia, Chinese shopkeepers eyeing an expanding market and the UK's chocoholics devouring the product in ever more guises.

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Schoolchildren doubtless account for a sizeable proportion of British consumers but the Telegraph reports how one 15-year-old has coined £14,000 from selling sweets from a "black market" tuck shop. Tommie Rose, of Salford, Greater Manchester, was reportedly inspired by enterprise-based TV programmes such as Dragons' Den but faces a suspension from school if he fails to cease trading.

The Star quotes Burnley businessman Dave Fishwick, of Channel 4's Bank of Dave, saying Tommie - who is putting his profits aside to fund his studies - should be encouraged. And the Mirror says the youngster has the backing of one of the "Dragons" who inspired him, Deborah Meaden.

However, the Times suggests the Dragons don't always make the right calls. They make more than twice as many offers to men than women, the paper notes, while only 3% of projects funded by venture capitalists are led by women. Yet the paper says analysis of 3,225 projects launched on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter showed women exceeded their targets more than a third of the time, while the success rate for men was less than one in four.


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