Newspaper headlines: Conservative and Labour funds and Premier League TV deal

As more details emerge of the Conservatives' fundraising black and white ball, the papers poke fun at the party's big party.

Among the auction lots available were a "private jet trip, pheasant shoot and a chicken dinner with Michael Gove", says the Daily Mirror which suggests dining with the Chief Whip was the "booby prize". Andrew Pierce, in the Daily Mail, notes that another of the prizes on offer was a personal theme composed by Mike Batt, most famous for his musical exploits with The Wombles.

Image copyright PA
Image caption A trip shoe-shopping with Home Secretary Theresa May was among the auction lots

It's all fodder for the cartoonists, with the Times's Peter Brookes picturing cabinet ministers wearing auction labels such as "Lot 1. Jogging with [Education Secretary] Nicky Morgan". In the cartoon, David Cameron holds up former bank boss Lord Green with a label reading: "Lot 5. Swiss tax holiday with HSBC." Dave Brown, in the Independent, draws the PM handing out an invitation reading: "The Black and Blue Election Policy Sale." Privatisations, regulation cuts and tax breaks are listed as auction lots.

The Guardian's Owen Jones agrees with this implication that the "entire manifesto is pitched to the highest bidder". He suggests the Conservatives are "bankrolled by... the mean and the greedy who will more than recoup their donations" when their taxes are cut. Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror reckons the party is less than keen on publicising the event "because it shows how City speculators and fatcats are spending a small fortune to buy the election for the Conservatives."

It's not just Conservative party funds under the microscope, however, with the Financial Times suggesting that Labour's donations have slumped by more than 50% compared to the last parliament. However, having examined Electoral Commission data, the paper says that while wealthy individuals have deserted the party: "Suggestions that Labour would no longer depend on the unions for its financial health were exaggerated." A halt to automatic subscriptions from union members has had little impact, the FT concludes.

It all leads Alice Thomson, of the Times, to suggest that public funding of parties would lead to "clean politics" costing "less than a packet of crisps". She acknowledges the public "hates the idea" but argues: "With public funding, everyone pays, everyone is involved and it feels more democratic and less feudal."


'Loss-leader'

The eye-watering sums paid by Sky and BT Sport for the right to broadcast matches from English football's Premier League prompt a variety of reactions. The Times is one of many predicting a "bonanza" for players who, it says, are "heading for pay packets of half a million pounds a week" as a result of the £5.1bn auction. One certain effect, as the Sun reports, will be regular Friday night matches for the first time in the competition's history.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Viewers who sat through Everton's recent goalless draw with West Brom might question whether £10m-a-game is money well-spent

Meanwhile, the Guardian's Owen Gibson suggests the "embarrassment of riches" could bring about reduced ticket prices for away fans and greater investment in amateur pitches. "Only around 4% of the Premier League's income filters down to the grassroots. This time around, there is a feeling that the sums are so huge that the elephant in the room can no longer be ignored."

However, the Mirror foresees some side-effects, writing: "Let's hope the rocketing wages of already overpaid players aren't funded by soaring prices for armchair viewers." That's exactly what's predicted by sources quoted in the Mail, which points out the average cost-per-game to the broadcasters works out as £10m. "If they're forking out that much, the money has to come from somewhere," the paper quotes one analyst as saying. If the charges aren't passed on it could lead to cuts in spending on drama and entertainment, he adds.

Allister Heath writes in the Daily Telegraph that the deal is "ruinously expensive" for the broadcasters. "In the current deflationary environment, [Sky] won't find it easy to hike the price of subscriptions... BT is also being hit by inflated costs." The FT's Lombard column agrees that Sky could start "looking stretched if economies turn down sharply" but says "a historic capacity to absorb punishment would help".

However, the Independent's James Ashton argues that "as long as viewers are sofa-bound and spending", the broadcasters will continue to pay. He explains: "Sport as a loss-leader is the gateway through which subscribers step to sign up for more profitable entertainment channels. The other way round just doesn't work."


Eye-catching headlines

  • "Caught Ted-handed" - the Daily Star's description of how a thief was spotted on CCTV stealing a giant cuddly bear
  • "For sale: 1968 car with 190 miles on the clock" - a pristine classic Morris Minor not driven for almost half a century is to go under the hammer, reports the Daily Express
  • "Multi-skilled robots will do us all out of a job - even butchers" - the Independent's take on a report predicting that automation use will double in a decade
  • "You silly tweet" - the Daily Mirror describes how a teenager given work in a pizza shop was fired before her first shift because she complained about the job on Twitter

'Not patronising'

As the Independent reports, Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman will spend the general election campaign touring 70 seats in a pink bus to urge more women to vote for the party. But, the Guardian notes, Ms Harman was forced to defend the tour, insisting that for the party to announce it would talk to women "around the kitchen table" was "not patronising".

Image copyright various
Image caption Harriet Harman wants to get "around the kitchen table" with women on her bus tour

However, the Sun - which brands the initiative "Hattie's batty battlebus" - quotes Daily Mirror commentator Kevin Maguire tweeting: "PINK? I'd have expected Harriet Harman to demand a blue election battlebus to fight gender stereotypes." And the Mail quotes Atul Hatwal, editor of grassroots website Labour Uncut, saying: "What next? A convoy of Labour rickshaws wheeling round Bradford?"

"So much for the battle against gender stereotyping," remarks the Times's TMS diary. "The vehicle has been dubbed the Barbie Bus, but I'm told that party bigwigs rejected a proposal by a Labour frontbencher to put eyelashes on the headlamps."

All this aside, the Daily Telegraph reports one small, yet historic, step forward for womankind. It describes how the Royal and Ancient Golf Club - "one of the last major bastions of all-male sporting privilege" - has named seven female honorary members after being the preserve of men for 260 years. Among them are Princess Anne and Britain's most successful woman golfer Dame Laura Davies.


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