Newspaper headlines: Budget analysis, Zayn Malik's 1D future and solar eclipse
Having had another 24 hours to crunch the numbers, Friday's papers dig a little deeper into this week's Budget.
The Daily Telegraph reports Chancellor George Osborne saying his Liberal Democrat coalition colleagues blocked an increase in the threshold for the 40p income tax rate to £50,000. Increases already agreed by the coalition will instead leave higher rate taxpayers £535 a year worse off by April 2016 than they would have been had the threshold kept pace with inflation, the paper says.
Citing Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) analysis, the Daily Mail says the chancellor's claim that families will be better off this year than they were when the coalition came to power stands up to scrutiny. However, the Daily Mirror quotes the same independent experts saying this was "only 'probably' true excluding OAP income" and pointing out that the poorest 10% of citizens had been hit harder by tax and benefits changes than the richest tenth.
The Guardian combines IFS analysis with Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts to conclude that "high levels of inward net migration are a key factor in fuelling Britain's economic recovery". With as many as 300,000 more people expected to arrive in the next five years, that could mean as much as an extra £8bn in taxes, the paper says.
Meanwhile, the Times quotes pensions analysts suggesting the Treasury's forecast of raising £1bn in the first two years of its annuity buyback scheme "is not worth the paper it's written on". While the government expects large numbers of pensioners to cash in poorly performing annuities - guaranteed incomes for life - industry analysts are sceptical, it says.
The Financial Times says Labour has accused Mr Osborne of handing out sweeteners to Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs in marginal seats. "Tory MP Andrew Stephenson, defending a 3,500 majority in Pendle, was awarded £56,000 to upgrade his local theatre while £250,000 will be spent researching aggressive urban seagulls in Bath - at the behest of Lib Dem MP Don Foster," it says, adding that the birds had reportedly been "stealing people's kebabs".
For the Independent, however, the important figures remain missing. It says all parties are being urged to explain "the £30bn question: where will the next cuts come from". The paper quotes IFS director Paul Johnson saying: "We are being told what they want to protect. We are not being told what they actually want to chop."
- "Vermouth sales show it's not just for gran" - the spirit is making a comeback thanks to a resurgence of interest in cocktails, says the Times
- "Now the Germans are sponsoring our Olympic team!"- the Daily Mail reckons supermarket Aldi's British Olympic Association sponsorship deal will "ruffle feathers"
- "Not happy"- the Financial Times interviews Pharrell Williams about the court ruling that he infringed the copyright of Marvin Gaye's estate when composing Blurred Lines, his track with Robin Thicke
- "Barking children limber up for curious climbing frame" - the Guardian describes the public art creation of Turner Prize-winning surrealist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd at an east London leisure centre
'Terribly, terribly yellow'
Photographs of empty Commons benches accompany reports on Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander's "alternative Budget", delivered - via a yellow version of the Budget box - on behalf of the Lib Dems. However, the Daily Express suggests: "The stunt backfired when only 17 of the party's 57 MPs bothered to turn up. Even his own leader Nick Clegg walked out of the near-empty Commons chamber before the debate ended."
"Yellow? Anyone there?" is the Daily Mirror's caption to the photograph of Mr Alexander delivering his statement, branded an abuse of Parliament by Labour. The Independent's Donald MacIntyre describes the reaction: "'What a farce,' the shadow Chief Secretary Chris Leslie declared. Had Alexander not signed off on the Budget, not to mention been a big help in writing it?"
"Look at it from Danny Alexander's point of view," suggests Telegraph sketchwriter Michael Deacon. "Seven weeks from now, he won't be a minister any more. He may not even by an MP. This, almost certainly, was his last chance to realise a lifelong dream."
For Ann Treneman, of the Times, Mr Alexander's "very own budget photo-op on the Treasury steps", conducted after the debate, was "too bonkers to miss". She writes: "Danny Alexander stood there, waiting to be interviewed about fairness but, instead, we crowded round the box. Was it leather? Was it empty? Could we touch it? We discovered it was wood and began to knock our knuckles on it. Knock knock, who's there? Though, of course, it wasn't a joke."
"I thought for a minute he might be modelling one of designer Anya Hindmarsh's new fashion power-handbags," writes Quentin Letts, in the Daily Mail. "It was chunky, leather and terribly, terribly yellow - not unlike Danny's gulpy face a few minutes earlier when making a statement to the Commons."
The Guardian's John Crace asked if he could open the Postman Pat lunchbox but says: "A Lib Dem aide looked panicked. 'Um, no,' he said. 'We might reveal our secret tax plans to everyone.' Perhaps. The lunchbox felt empty to me."
The departure of Zayn Malik from One Direction's Asia tour - citing stress - triggers playful headlines, including: "Gone Direction" (Sun), "One Down" (Times) and "One less Direction" (Mirror).
The Daily Star points out that Malik's departure comes days after the singer - who is engaged to a member of the band Little Mix - was photographed "cosying up" to a blonde fan. Malik has since tweeted: "I'm 22 years old ... I love a girl named Perrie Edwards. And there's a lot of jealous [people] in this world I'm sorry for what it looks like x."
The Sun quotes the mother of the woman pictured with Malik saying her daughter found the fuss hilarious. "She was just on holiday in Thailand posing for a snap. It's not as if she's a teenybopper following them round. She's more into Florence and the Machine." Still, the paper suggests Malik has been left "questioning his One Direction future".
Some papers examine the level of scrutiny social media has brought to today's stars. "The Beatles only had to contend with screaming mobs chasing them across train platforms and airports," writes Adam Sherwin, in the Independent. "For today's X Factor-created pop stars, the level of camera-phone scrutiny is overwhelming and the damage possibly fatal to their careers, should they ever let their guard slip."
The Daily Mail quotes a source saying: "Having his every movement scrutinised causes great anxiety and the pictures which surfaced with the fan yesterday [were] the final straw. He did nothing wrong, but the amount of criticism he received was simply too much. He needs to get away."
"It's easy to compare Zayn's current troubles with Robbie Williams quitting Take That at the age of 21," writes Ashleigh Rainbird, in the Mirror. "Time out of the spotlight for the sensitive Zayn could finally see him heading in a different Direction."
Meanwhile, there's help for the nonplussed in the Times: "For... readers less familiar with the band than they might be, he is the one from Bradford, with lots of tattoos," explains Valentine Low.
Much excitement is generated by the prospect of a solar eclipse, with papers printing maps showing the percentages of partial eclipse visible in various locations, tables with the relevant the times of maximum eclipse and diagrams of how to make pinhole cameras to view the event safely. The Metro even eclipses the "o" on its masthead.
"Don't take a selfie!" warns the Mail, which runs through safety advice, notably: "NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN." The Star pictures both a youngster and a dog using purpose-made eclipse glasses, and warns: "Even your pooch should cover up."
The Mirror offers a different take, having astrologer Russell Grant interpret how the "solar powers" of the eclipse will "affect your health, wealth and love life" for six months. Meanwhile, the Sun reports that 10,000 tourists who paid £6,000 to travel to the Faroe Islands to see the total eclipse could "see nowt" because of thick cloud.
And the Express reports that thousands of people in Britain could also be left disappointed because "clouds and air pollution crossing the English Channel from as far afield as Russia" could threaten the views. Still, if "astronomer folklore" is correct, the vista might be unaffected, says the Times. "Meteorologists want to use today's near-total eclipse to investigate a long-standing claim that the sudden change in light hitting the Earth's surface has an effect on the weather, including, if you are lucky, parting the clouds."
The Independent explains some more of the science, saying: "Total eclipses are only possible because of a fluke of nature due to the true diameter of the Sun being about 400 times greater than that of the Moon, yet about 400 times further away. As a result, both the Sun and the Moon appear the same size when viewed from Earth, allowing the Moon to perfectly cover the Sun during a total eclipse."
Noting the varying interpretations of the eclipse by peoples such as the ancient Greeks and Vikings, the Daily Telegraph adds: "The Batammaliba people, in Benin and Togo, still believe that it is the Moon and Sun fighting and that the only way to make them stop is to cease all human conflict. Their science may be slightly off but, in these often dark times, the sentiment is appreciated."
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