Newspaper headlines: Prince Andrew 'sexual contact' denial

"Dramatic and unprecedented" is how the Mail on Sunday describes Buckingham Palace statements denying "any form of sexual contact" between Prince Andrew and a woman who claims she was trafficked as a slave.

The paper identifies Virginia Roberts as the woman who says in court documents she was forced to have sex with the prince, reportedly at the age of 17, under the age of consent in Florida where the case is being brought. The Mail dedicates five pages to her allegations and life story. While the BBC has not independently established the accuser's identity, Ms Roberts is named in the palace statement insisting: "The allegations made are false and without any foundation."

According to the Sun on Sunday, Andrew is flying back from a skiing holiday for a summit with the Queen. The paper quotes a "royal source" saying: "He's always been the Queen's favourite but she is naturally horrified by these allegations. She will want an explanation from him."

The Daily Star on Sunday suggests the prince could be forced to answer intimate questions as part of the civil action in the US, quoting a source saying it is "standard practice for depositions - or videotaped statements - to be taken by lawyers". The source adds: "No questions are off limits... The depositions can be made public unless a judge grants an order keeping them secret."

However, the Daily Express quotes the Queen's cousin, Margaret Rhodes describing the allegations as "complete rubbish" and saying the prince would be supported by "the entire Royal Family".


Seconds out...

With both the Conservatives and Labour launching their general election campaign, the Sun mocks up a photograph of party leaders David Cameron - in the blue corner - and Ed Miliband - in the red - wearing boxing gloves. Describing the men slugging it out, it says: "Mr Miliband landed the first jab as he claimed the NHS could not survive five more years of Tory rule. But the PM said 'Red Ed' would plunge Britain deeper into debt - enough to add 1p on income tax."

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More immediately pressing for Mr Cameron, according to the Mail on Sunday, is the state of his house, which he says is "falling apart" while recounting how he unblocked the drains over Christmas. In a wide-ranging interview, the PM promises to introduce legislation on education and welfare within 50 days if he's re-elected, warns that he would be prepared to take Britain out of the EU unless it's reformed and claims Labour's financial plans would cost more than the police budget at £13.5bn.

Meanwhile, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham uses a detailed interview with the Sunday Mirror to accuse the PM of planning a "toxic mix of cuts and privatisation" for the NHS and wanting to "ration" health services. He also insists Mr Miliband is "the right leader" to take Labour back into No 10.

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This early election sparring prompts the Independent on Sunday to ask a number of pollsters for their predictions. The gist of their view is that - through a combination of "boundary wackiness", "the wild-card rise of the Scottish National Party" and a few political "tremors" - Labour will gain the most seats but not enough to secure a majority.

Sky presenter Adam Boulton agrees in the Sunday Times that Mr Miliband is on course for Downing Street. But he adds: "The Conservatives seem more optimistic than Labour, insisting that Cameron will still be leading a government this summer. This is odd because it defies the evidence." If this leaves Mr Miliband thinking "so far, so good", the Sunday Express's cartoon reckons there's a shock in store. It pictures him rounding a corner into the path of political enemies - including predecessor Tony Blair and his brother, David - wielding custard pies, baseball bats and boxing gloves.

Similarly, Janet Daley, in the Sunday Telegraph, reckons the effect of Lib Dem voters going Green, UKIP having "peaked too soon" and the SNP's rise in Scotland points to "a small but workable Conservative majority".


Food for thought

"Roll over apples, pears and rhubarb," declares Daniel Boffey in the Observer, as he reports a government announcement that "it is quietly confident that 2015 will be the year of the great British cherry". The UK doubled its yield to produce some 3,500 tonnes of the fruit - worth about £20m - in 2014 and is expected to exceed that this year, the writer says. He attributes the success to the use of dwarf shrubs under plastic tunnels making the crop economic enough to compete with imports from Spain, Turkey and the US.

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Meanwhile, the Independent on Sunday reports that British firms are selling record amounts of fruit and vegetable juices overseas. Sales reached a high of more than £65m, with apple and orange juices accounting for more than half of that, with the Cayman Islands, Croatia, Grenada, Guyana and the Seychelles among new export markets.

However, the Mail on Sunday wonders if another British product - brown sauce - has "had its chips". The paper quotes industry analysts suggesting sales of the condiment slumped 19% last year, albeit still amounting to 13m kilos. Concerns over salt content and the increasing popularity of alternatives to fried breakfasts, like porridge, are blamed for the decline. However, HP and Daddies sauce maker Heinz is quoted saying the report is "at odds with our data".

Jamie Oliver, it seems, would like to see brown sauce blobbed on "mini eggs" in a restaurant fry-up. According to the Sunday Express, the celebrity chef's latest campaign is to prevent "the scandal of millions of small eggs [being] discarded every year because of our fussy eating habits". Young birds, or pullets, start their laying careers by producing eggs a third smaller than those most shoppers buy in supermarkets, the paper explains, but Oliver believes farmers can find a market by selling them to pubs and restaurants.


Honours dishonour

There's no shortage of grumbling about the New Year honours. The Mail on Sunday reports claims that "jobsworth numpties" have blocked a bid by cricket-loving MPs to have former England captain Geoffrey Boycott knighted. A conviction for assaulting his former girlfriend led the Cabinet Office to veto the bid, the paper says, quoting Conservative MP Nigel Adams complaining that "plenty of knights have been honoured after a brush with the... law".

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Ellen E Jones complains in the Independent on Sunday that "none of the honoured were honourable enough to tell the government where to stick it", or at least haven't admitted so in public. Labelling the system outmoded, she says it "neutralises the threat of establishment outsiders", adding: "For an artist or campaigner... accepting an honour is tantamount to declaring your early retirement".

Observer football writer Daniel Taylor is doing his best not to be annoyed about a system that allowed Sir Alex Ferguson to be "fast-tracked" to a knighthood after winning his first European Cup with Manchester United, while neglecting two-time winner Brian Clough and thrice champion Bob Paisley. "Don't try to base the system on an organised hierarchy of merit because one doesn't exist, or at least not one that makes any sense."

The real scandal of this new year's list, for the Sunday Telegraph's Glenda Cooper, was that Joan Collins had to wait until her ninth decade for a damehood. Saying "sheer hard graft" has finally got its reward, she writes: "While Joan's gong has supposedly been awarded for her charity work, in reality we all know it's for demonstrating what can be achieved with little more than good genes, steely determination, and a lifetime's dedication to wearing a sunhat."

With one eye on Collins's honour, Catherine Bennett in the Observer criticises the damehood's "daft name" and "dubious choices" of recipient, declaring the "special women-only award" as similarly "tainted by snobbery as the rest".