Newspaper headlines: Alex Salmond 'to hold Labour to ransom'

Alex Salmond's contention that "if you hold the balance, then you hold the power" in Parliament gives the papers plenty to talk about.

The Daily Mail records Conservative MP Anna Soubry's response to the former SNP leader's interview on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show, telling him: "The thought that we are in a position where you could actually be controlling, in the way you have described, this United Kingdom, fills me with absolute horror. The audacity is astonishing." She said it would be "dangerous" if the Scottish Nationalists ruled out a renewal of the Trident nuclear defence system as a condition of any pact with Labour.

Cartoonist Brian Adcock, in the Independent, pictures this balance of power as a see-saw made from a Trident missile. Mr Salmond is balanced on one side, dangling the keys to No 10 in front of Labour leader Ed Miliband on the other.

Times sketchwriter Ann Treneman sums up Mr Salmond's performance by saying: "There he was, on the face of it nothing more than a potential backbencher... sweetness and light wrapped around a tartan sledgehammer... I began to realise what Mr Salmond thought his new job was. He was, quite simply, the power: kingmaker, and rulemaker combined."

For Matthew D'Ancona, in the Guardian: "Salmond made clear to Marr that the SNP seeks not only to influence a Miliband government but to 'move the Labour party in a different direction' and set a fresh course for progressive politics in these islands. You have to hand it to the old bruiser: only six months after his defeat in the Scottish independence referendum, he is proposing to hammer the final nail in New Labour's coffin and to rewrite Ed Balls's first budget."

Guardian cartoonist Ben Jennings illustrates this by picturing Mr Salmond as an enormous ball chained to the Labour shadow chancellor Mr Balls's foot, telling him: "Nae more shifts to the right from you my friend." Despite the commentary, some in the Labour camp remain confident of outright victory.

Labour MP Caroline Flint insists in the Independent that: "We are in touching distance of winning this election because of Ed, not in spite of Ed."

If they fail, the Daily Mirror's Kevin Maguire reckons a deal involving the SNP is on the cards: "Miliband's camp are optimistic, as they believe Labour could finish second and their man would still be PM... If that happened, Miliband would have 14 days to stitch together a deal. I'm told he is optimistic the SNP, Plaid, SDLP, Green, Respect and Lib Dem rump would favour him over another election."


Eye-catching headlines

  • "Laurence's magnolia makeover (well, he has got a £1.6m house to sell)" - designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen has given his colourful home a lick of neutral paint to help it move, says the Daily Mail
  • "Bamber Gascoigne's starter for £10m: to save a stately home" - the former University Challenge host needs to fund restoration of a house he "accidentally" inherited, reports the Times
  • "Buzz Nightmare" - mosquitoes could start spreading the deadly malaria disease across the UK in as little as 15 years time, thanks to warming temperatures, says the Sun
  • "Total seaclipse" - the Daily Mirror says huge tides triggered by last week's solar eclipse are threatening flooding across much of the UK

'A hearse, a hearse...'

The papers capture in colourful words and pictures the pageantry of the funeral procession of Richard III, whose remains - found under a Leicester car park in 2012 - were taken to the city's cathedral ahead of his reburial.

"From re-enactors who spend most weekends reliving the Wars of the Roses to the woman who has been obsessed with Richard since she was 12, the supporters of the last Plantagenet were a reminder that history is never so much fun as when it involves a chance to wear an authentic costume," writes the Times's Valentine Low.

Tom Rowley, of the Telegraph, had noticed a traffic sign marking out the route and warning motorists to "expect delays". "It hardly needed to be said. After all, it had taken 529 and a half years for the death of England's last medieval monarch to be formally marked," he adds, referring to 1485, the year Richard was killed in battle.

Image copyright EPA

For those whose history is rusty, the Sun gives a brief reminder: "Richard, the last Plantagenet king of England, was defeated by Henry Tudor. Richard was portrayed by Shakespeare as a hunch-back villain, leading to famous theatre performances like Anthony Sher's, but some modern historians believe he is a victim of Tudor propaganda."

The Daily Star is among the papers tweaking the king's dying words - as imagined by Shakespeare - to create the headline: "My kingdom for a hearse."

And the Mail's Robert Hardman quips: "You wait 529 years for a horse and four come at once," in describing the horse-drawn gun carriage that carried the king's coffin to the cathedral.

The Daily Mirror gives details of the lead-lined coffin - built by his 17th great grand-nephew. "The two types of wood were chosen because they were powerful symbols of Britain's military might. Oak boats beat the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the longbows used to defeat the French at Agincourt in 1415 were made from yew."

"It is time for him to be left in peace to begin his new career as a minor tourist attraction," suggests the Independent's editorial.

Image copyright Getty Images

However, not everyone is so enamoured with his fate.

Historian David Priestland writes in the Guardian: "The solemn processing of Richard III's relics around the villages of Leicestershire followed by a grand, archbishop-led reinterment service is reminiscent of the saints' cults of the middle ages. We haven't had any cases of bystanders touching the king's bones to be cured of their ailments, but I'll be keeping an eye on news websites for reports of miracles in the east Midlands."

Looking ahead to Thursday's reinterment - and recalling that of Richard's father, Richard Duke of York, in 1476, the Telegraph's editorial says: "A feast was held in his honour at which 8,000 gallons of beer were consumed. Will Leicester rise to the occasion?"

Meanwhile, the episode inspires the Daily Express to list other royal resting places that readers might think wouldn't befit a monarch. They include the body of James II having first been dissected, then desecrated by a mob, the bones of King Stephen having been thrown in to Faversham Creek in Kent and one of Charles I's vertebrae being passed around at dinner parties by a physician.


'Nutters'

There is scrutiny of UKIP's apparent appeal to members of far-right groups in today's papers, with the Independent reporting that it has seen leaflets issued by Britain First - which campaigns against "Islamification" of Britain - that "effectively endorse Nigel Farage's party". The leaflets reportedly say that 2015 will be "the year of Britain First and UKIP".

The paper says Mr Farage has "previously tried to distance itself from support and associations offered to UKIP from the extreme right" but quotes a party spokesman insisting the endorsement was not embarrassing but farcical.

"We are just not where they think we are. On the fringes of our politics are nutters we don't want them anywhere near us," he reportedly said.

Separately, the Times reports that UKIP faces further embarrassment over reports suggesting the party "declined to kick out three senior figures connected to the National Front".

The Guardian's focus is on the Conservatives, with the paper suggesting the suspension of Dudley North candidate Afzal Amin, over an alleged attempt to strike a secret deal with another far-right group, the English Defence League, "symbolizes the party's troubled history on race relations" in the area.

Nicholas Watt writes that Amin went to school in Smethwick, a seat won by a Tory candidate who used a racist slogan in 1964, and that another candidate was deselected from a seat neighbouring Dudley North in 2007, after he suggested ex-cabinet minister Enoch Powell had been right in delivering his "rivers of blood" speech on immigration in the 1960s.


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