Newspaper headlines: MPs 'cash for access', Church low pay and 'Prezza'
The gulf in earning power between the UK's high-earners and its lowest paid is laid bare on Monday's front pages.
Ex-foreign secretaries Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind deny any wrongdoing in the face of Daily Telegraph claims they offered to use their positions as politicians on behalf of a fictitious Chinese firm in return for cash. However, the Telegraph's investigation reveals the rewards available to MPs when taking on work outside Parliament. Mr Straw was filmed saying he usually charges £5,000 a day when giving a speech, while Sir Malcolm suggests he earns "£5,000 to £8,000" for half a day's work.
The Telegraph says MPs earned £7.4m from outside work and second jobs in the past year, with some taking home as much as £1,600 per hour. "Official data confirmed that 30 members earned at least the equivalent of an MP's £67,000 salary in extra work. Of those, a dozen were paid more than David Cameron."
It comes on the day the Daily Mirror reports Trades Union Congress analysis suggesting that more than five million workers are paid less than £7.85 an hour. It prints a list of top 10 "worst pay black spots", where as many as 53% of people earn less than the figure campaigners consider a "living wage".
They might have been cheered by last week's open letter from Church of England bishops backing the living wage concept and calling on employers "to ensure that all their staff earn a modest hourly rate that is sufficient for a full time worker to live decently". However, the Sun points out that the Church is recruiting staff for some jobs at the current national minimum wage, which stands at £6.50 for those aged 21 and over.
"The revelations will be embarrassing for Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury," says the paper. It argues: "There's nothing wrong with paying someone minimum wage or just over it. But there's a lot wrong with taking the moral high ground against employers who don't pay the higher living wage and then refusing to do so yourself."
Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that investment bank Rothschild is making plans to pay its 2014 bonus round early to avoid any potential windfall taxes Labour has vowed to introduce if it returns to power after May's election. The paper says Rothschild usually pays bonuses to 1,000 London staff in June. Thirty "senior staff and key risk takers" shared bonuses of £12m in 2013/14, it adds.
- "Crafty pint: Britain gets a thirst for 'hipster' beers" - the Independent on the craft beer-inspired resurgence in the UK's brewing industry
- "'Witty' Victorian parents named and shamed" - a genealogy firm spent 40 years collecting bizarre names registered in the 19th Century, such as Zebra Lynes, says the Daily Express
- "Rats grow big as cats... on spuds" - the Daily Star enjoys one of its favourite topics, saying poison-resistant rodents are munching through farm silos of surplus stocks
- "Owl's your father" - a "randy" eagle owl is dive-bombing residents of a Gloucestershire town under the mistaken impression they are potential mates, says the Sun
Fighting for votes
The emergence over the weekend that former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is returning to front-line politics ahead of the election is greeted by the Sun with the headline: "Two Jags back." However, the paper's editorial suggests that appointing "a man who thinks the way to win over voters is to punch them" to advise Labour on climate change is: "Not so much New or Old Labour as Here We Go Again Labour."
Still, Daily Mail sketchwriter Quentin Letts is delighted. "[Lord Prescott] was also known as Two Jabs, Thumper, Prezza and much else besides. Nicknames are always a sign, if not of undying public adoration, that a personality has cut through to general consciousness, and newspaper column inches. Prescott always did give us fabulous copy, even if he did our country terrible damage."
The political comeback also gives inspiration to cartoonists. The Independent's Dave Brown pictures an oversized version of the Labour peer held on a leash by his party leader, with the caption: "The Oscar goes to Ed Miliband for How to Train Your Dragon 2." Adams, in the Telegraph, pictures Mr Miliband in a coffin, reaching over with a stick to open the lid on the coffin of Lord Prescott.
Daily Express columnist Leo McKinstry reckons "nothing could be more laughable than the idea that this charmless old bruiser... will enhance Labour's electoral appeal". Calling the peer a "lumbering political dinosaur", he adds: "His return to frontline politics just shows the depths to which Miliband's hapless leadership has descended."
However, Dan Hodges writes in the Telegraph of Lord Prescott's importance to Labour during its reforms of the early 1990s, and under Tony Blair when "he gave an ideological stress test to each major policy". He writes: "If Prescott could be sold on it, Tony Blair knew that he could sell it to the rest of the Labour movement... I've long been of the view the the failure of [Conservative prime minister David] Cameron's modernisation project was in part down to his inability to find his own John Prescott - someone who... could bring the diehards and sceptics grudgingly into step."
Several papers report that the prime minister will again pledge to protect free bus passes and winter fuel payments for pensioners, while ruling out charges for prescriptions and eye tests. The Times says it's a measure to "win over the age category with the highest turnout at elections" but adds it will "mean greater cuts from the welfare budget, in a move likely to penalise the working-age poor further".
The Daily Mail also sees Mr Cameron trying to "woo grey voters" and quotes positive reactions from groups representing elderly people, while the Daily Express champions the move. "Following a lifetime of paying into the system it should be there to look after people in old age," it argues.
However, other papers consider the circumstances of younger people. The Guardian's Zoe Williams takes issue with reports describing as a "raid" Labour's plan to reduce the tax breaks offered to higher earners who save for pensions in order to reduce the cost of university tuition fees. "Those saving for their pensions are presented as the adversaries of those who want to go to university, rather than what they most probably are: Their parents. Rather than being encouraged to build humane systems for one another, generations are shown as being de facto at war."
Meanwhile Helen Whitehouse, in the Daily Mirror, says politicians should be trying to win over the potential two million first-time voters who "could swing the election". She writes: "Tuition fees and cuts to Education Maintenance Allowance have made an already difficult situation surrounding jobs, tuition costs and saving even harder."
An ICM poll for the Mirror suggests just 23% of those aged 18 to 22 are certain to go to the polls on May 7, with another 37% saying they probably would. This is despite more than half having signed a petition on an issue they care about. The paper quotes think tank Britain Future arguing: "It's not apathy that's turning young people off voting - it's politics."
Making people click
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