Newspaper headlines: Paris attacks 'prompt SAS alert in UK'

With thousands expected to march through Paris in defiance of extremist attacks that left 17 people dead, on this side of the Channel the press ponders the UK's vulnerability.

According to security sources quoted in the Sunday Times, some 150 jihadists could pose a similar threat. The paper says Britain is "on the brink of raising the terrorist threat level to its highest in seven years", with more than 30 extremists under MI5 surveillance because they are considered a serious threat and another 120 being reassessed.

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The Sunday Express says it's prompted the "biggest security operation since the 2012 London Olympics", with an entire squadron of SAS soldiers on permanent standby to react to any incidents alongside counter-terror police.

"Separately, members of a covert 'human intelligence' unit based in the Midlands are working alongside police and secret service officers to identify threats," the paper says, adding that they consist largely of Asian and Muslim operatives used in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Sun on Sunday says plans to form a combined unit, comprising of intelligence officers, armed police and special forces, will be discussed by the National Security Council within weeks.

"The new force will be about 300-strong and based at secret locations in London, the North West, Midlands, the South West and North East," the paper says. "Self-contained teams will be led by a cop or military officer outside the police chain of command."

Any new team could learn from the carefully co-ordinated actions of France's elite police in ending the two sieges in Paris, writes former SAS officer Col Tim Collins in the Sunday Telegraph. "What we witnessed was two simultaneous 'immediate actions'. These are the hardest to pull off, and the French forces managed the equivalent of two drop-goals in rugby under great pressure."

Likewise, former Security Minister Baroness Neville-Jones tells the Independent on Sunday that while it appears the Paris gunmen slipped off French security services' radar, "when they closed in on the guys they did a pretty good job".

'Acts of courage'

Sunday's papers are full of what the Telegraph calls "remarkable acts of selfless courage" during the French horrors.

That paper highlights the story of printworks owner Michel Catalano who hid an employee from two gunmen, for whom he made coffee and dressed wounds, before being allowed to leave. For six hours, the graphic designer he'd concealed in a back room gave information to police about the actions of the hostage-takers, Cherif and Said Kouachi.

The Sunday Times features a tale from the other siege - at a kosher supermarket - where a young Muslim shop assistant herded 15 Jewish customers into a basement cold store to hide them from gunman Amedy Coulibaly.

A "heroic act of self-sacrifice" in the same shop cost one Jewish customer his life, reports the Mail on Sunday. "In an instant, he managed to grab an assault rifle that the terrorist had left on the counter at the deli... But the bid for freedom turned to tragedy when the man discovered that the gun had been discarded because it was jammed. And when Coulibaly caught sight of him, he murdered him in cold blood."

Despite these tales of bravery, author Andrew Hussey describes for the Observer the continuing tension in Paris. "Everywhere you go, you hear the wailing of sirens and see police vans and ambulance in convoy. In normal times, this would be part of the soundtrack and spectacle of daily life. But... you can't help but wonder what is going to happen next, and where?"

After days of cartoonists responding defiantly to the gunmen, the Telegraph's Bob captures a little of this nervous mood by sketching an artist wearing a protective suit and helmet while at work.

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Casualty 'crisis'

There are more horror stories from Britain's casualty departments, with Sunday Mirror case studies including a Lancashire man who waited six days to have a broken hand put in plaster and an elderly Londoner who waited two hours for an ambulance after breaking her hip, then hours longer for a hospital bed.

The Sun on Sunday lists statistics including one showing that 21,000 patients waited up to 12 hours on trolleys over Christmas - four times as many as last year. The unprecedented demand follows the closure of 13 casualty units since 2005, notes the Mail on Sunday. It hears from the College of Emergency Medicine president that lives will be put at risk if any more are shut.

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Meanwhile, the Sunday People says hospitals are offering locum A&E doctors up to £105 an hour to ease the crisis. Telegraph cartoonist Matt offers his take, showing a man with a pot stuck on his head being told: "The good news is that since you've been here that vase has become an antique."

The Telegraph prints a letter from 20 senior health professionals suggesting that a 50p minimum unit price for alcohol would ease the crisis. Some 20% of casualty attendances are alcohol related, the paper says.

However, the Mail on Sunday's Rachel Johnson reckons she could "end the A&E crisis with £5", quoting one consultant who told her: "A&E is always full of people, some of whom are properly sick, but most of whom couldn't wait to see their GP. A tiny fee of £5 would, I guarantee, clear the waiting room."

Meanwhile, the man leading the NHS urgent care review tells the Sunday Express that GPs could be "parachuted into over-stretched A&E units to weed out time-wasters". Against this backdrop, the Daily Star Sunday says the NHS plans to spend £6m on public relations in the next financial year - an increase of 38%.

Debateable politics?

The Mail on Sunday makes mischief with a headline suggesting "Alastair Campbell tells Miliband: You will ruin Britain". However, it swiftly points out that it's because the former No 10 press chief is posing as David Cameron to coach Labour leader Ed ahead of prospective pre-election TV debates.

Even so, the Observer's Andrew Rawnsley reckons the chances of a TV debate happening are "between zilch and nada" thanks to Conservative peer and pollster Lord Ashcroft blaming his party's failure to secure a majority at the 2010 election on the debates that preceded it. "Whether it is entirely true or not, it has been engraved into the Tory soul," the writer says.

Sky presenter Adam Boulton argues in the Sunday Times that "there is no respectable argument against debates". But he says the threat of UKIP to both Labour and the Conservatives, and of the Greens and the SNP to the left of Labour, means "the last thing that Cameron and Miliband want is a debate on ideas". Instead, he writes: "Mission Bore" involves going through the motions of "exchanging blows over hackneyed and well-known policy positions".

A Sunday People cartoon - showing Messrs Miliband and Cameron as babies whacking each other with teddy bears in a pram - sums up political editor Nigel Nelson's opinion of our political leaders "squabbling like snotty children over a bag of sweeties".