Newspaper headlines: Soaring shares, and cold callers 'disconnected'?

The news that the FTSE 100 index has reached an all-time high - and accompanying praise for Chancellor George Osborne from the international organisation, the OECD - hits many headlines.

Image copyright Thinkstock

At 6958.89, share prices beat the previous record set in the 1999 " boom" providing what the Daily Express says "a huge financial shot-in-the-arm" to millions of savers and pensioners.

The paper notes Tuesday's record was set, "after the markets were boosted by an agreement to extend Greece's bail-out terms".

The Express says analysts expect the upward trend to continue for some time.

In the Financial Times commentary, investment columnist John Authers says because the FTSE 100 covers "big companies that happen to list in London" and is "weighted towards miners and energy groups whose operations are almost wholly outside the UK" it "means little" to most Britons.

He notes that while the Index does not reflect a financial "bubble" like that in the late 90s, it has actually underperformed most other financial markets.

The Daily Telegraph's coverage focuses on praise for Mr Osborne's handling of the economy from Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the OECD.

Mr Gurria says that Britain "deserved a pat on the back", the paper notes.

The Telegraph adds that Mr Gurria said that continued cuts would be needed to get Britain's deficit down to a size comparable with most OECD economies, and he warned about the risk of a house price "bubble".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Angel Gurria

The Independent's commentary focuses on Mr Gurria's economic warnings for the UK.

He notes Britain's productivity is low compared to its competitors, which the paper says is so familiar a refrain "it often gets overlooked".

And it adds his suggestion that the country needs to invest more in its infrastructure is "no less sound".

The paper also says the OECD says the ring-fencing of some government spending while delivering huge cuts in other areas "has distorted public expenditure".

However, the paper says if a politician espoused the "sensible, rational, logical" approach suggested by Mr Gurria's organisation at the next election, he or she would lose their deposit.


The Daily Mail headlines on what it says could be "the end of the line for cold callers".

The paper says the government is set to announce a change to rules which will mean that from now on it will be easier to punish persistent nuisance callers with fines.

The Mail says the Information Commissioner's Office received 175,000 complaints about the problem last year alone.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Nuisance calls make 60% of less likely to answer the phone, reaearch suggests

Existing guidelines, the paper says, have been called a "scammer's licence" as the watchdog had to prove nuisance callers and texters have caused "substantial damage or substantial distress" before taking action.

The review of the existing legislation was prompted by research which suggested that 60% of people no longer wanted to answer their own phones because they were so fed up with cold callers.

Information commissioner Christopher Graham will now be able to act on a single complaint, the "harm" test will no longer apply, and fines are to be upped to £500,000, the Mail continues.

The paper says Mr Graham has been at the forefront of plans to curb the nuisance.

He is quoted as saying, "the elderly and vulnerable are particularly at risk, and this can only add to the worries of those who care for them".

The consumer group Which? has welcomed news of the impending change.

Its executive director Richard Lloyd tells the Mail: "These calls are an everyday menace blighting the lives of millions so we want the regulator to send a clear message by using their new powers to full effect without delay.

"It's also good news that the Government has listened to our call and is looking into how senior executives can be held to account if their company makes nuisance calls."


When politicians make the papers these days it is often for reasons that they would rather not.

This is almost certainly the case for Green Party leader Natalie Bennett whose self-confessed "brain fade" while being interviewed on housing policy by a London radio station gets acres of coverage.

A full transcript of Ms Bennett's "three minutes of humiliation" at the hands of radio host Nick Ferrari can be found in the Daily Mail.

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Image caption Natalie Bennett joined the Green Party in 2006, and became its leader six years later

In a less-than-flattering feature on the Sydney-born Green leader, Mail columnist Ian Birrell opines, "this ambitious Australian will have to make a much better fist of explaining her policies if she has any hope of radically transforming her new nation."

He adds that "many fear" those policies "would result in the economy being wrecked and much-loved traditions destroyed".

The Guardian, one of Ms Bennett's previous employers, says that her "stuttering, cough-strewn and shambolic" interview on LBC will do little to dent her party's popularity with its target electorate.

The "green surge" in the polls is less to do with particular proposals, an editorial argues, and more to do with "a yearning for different values, and a new, less venal, style of politics".

In a feature in the paper, Zoe Williams argues that Ms Bennett has not been "discredited" by the interview, as some detractors have claimed.

"You're discredited if you believe lizards are taking over the world... not if you fail to recall how much is spent giving mortgage tax breaks to buy-to-let landlords," Williams says.

In the Times, sketch-writer Ann Treneman gives her view of the Green Party's campaign launch, which followed shortly after Ms Bennett's "brain fade" interview.

Events at the press conference were marshalled by "Green baroness" Jenny Jones who, Treneman says, has "a manner that I might, kindly, describe as Stalinist".

Baroness Jones, she adds, beamed a "fizzling, frazzling irritation" with the assembled press, the lack of women asking questions and the concentration on the earlier interview.

However, Treneman said this made the event "an unforgettable joy", adding "Baroness Jones of Moulescoomb should be given her own TV show, immediately".

Spontaneously combust

The news that a Fifa taskforce has recommended that the 2022 World Cup, due to be held in Qatar, be moved from its traditional summer slot to November and December has led to some unseasonable heat from Fleet Street's sports writers.

The Daily Star accuses Fifa's head Sepp Blatter of saying a rude but football-linked term to fans.

Image copyright AFP

The move, it says, will "wreck Premier League fixtures and the FA Cup".

The paper says that the change could rob England's top tier of 150 stars during the height of the season. It adds that "furious fans" have called for a supporter and sponsor boycott of the event.

The Sun says the proposed switch - which could mean the World Cup final being played two days before Christmas - could be a "Qatarstrophe", disrupting not just English and Welsh football, but 50 other national leagues.

The Daily Mirror however thinks the Winter fixtures could help England end "56 years of hurt" by allowing it to play a team who are not as tired by the long season as usual.

The paper's pundit Robbie Savage says, "as pathetic as Fifa's decision may be, it could yet work to [England's] advantage".

The Guardian lists the various other issues with Qatar's troubled award of the world's biggest sporting tournament: concerns over its treatment of migrant workers building facilities for the Cup; allegations of corruption in the bidding process; worries about whether the stadia will be ready in time, in a country with no pre-existing football network; and human rights concerns over Qatar's laws.

Image copyright PA
Image caption West Brom's ground, the Hawthornes: much cooler than the Arabian peninsula

In the Daily Telegraph, Jim White argues that with the World Cup switching to winter it is time for British football chiefs to consider the advantages of playing the domestic game in summer.

It is only "historical convention" he says, that means the British season is based around winter.

"Warmer temperatures would mean warmer muscles and possibly better performances. Besides, no one is going to spontaneously combust on the West Bromwich pitch in July. This isn't Qatar, after all."

On the paper's front page, cartoonist Matt pictures three football mad Wise Men. One tells the others, "I'm just saying, we could catch the World Cup Final and THEN go to Bethlehem".


But forget the world of economics, politics and sport: the big news in Wednesday's papers is being caused by gerbils.

That's right, gerbils: the bouncy rodents - or rather a giant variety of them - have been suggested as the true source of the Black Death, which swept Europe in the 14th century.

The Sun headlines its coverage "rats: an apology".

It explains that research by Norwegian scientists, who studied of the ring patterns of ancient trees and other evidence, led them to conclude that conditions were ideal in the 1340s for an influx of flea-ridden Asian gerbils into Europe.

Image caption The 14th century has not been the only period in history when rats were linked closely to gerbils

The fleas are assumed to have spread the plague.

The Times says the research suggests the culprit plague carriers are Rhombomys Opimus - a considerably larger cousin of the Mongolian gerbil, the familiar pet in many British homes.

The paper notes that professor Nils Christian Stenseth, who led the study, has reassured gerbil keepers that there is no potential harm in their hobby as "plague bacterium is not endemic in Europe".

This is perhaps just as well, as elsewhere the Times reminds us that the Black Plague outbreak in England killed a quarter of its population in less than a year.

The Daily Telegraph's leader column says the name of the black rat has been unfairly blackened.

"Just think: had we known this earlier, children could have kept black rats as pets, rather than those dastardly gerbils, whose innocent looks and cuddly appearance seem to have been a clever disguise all along."

Cartoonist Mac in the Daily Mail pictures a couple menaced in their living room by tiny grim reaper lookalikes.

The husband exclaims: "Oh God! Run for it Edith, I think we've got gerbils!"

Expect a press apology to gerbils in the near future!

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