Newspaper headlines: David Cameron's 'bombshell' and the 'one-chair' debate

Commentators consider the effects of David Cameron's "bombshell" that he won't seek a third term as prime minister, dropped six weeks before a poll he must win to secure a second.

In the Times's analysis, when Mr Cameron made the remark during an interview at his constituency home with the BBC's James Landale, he repeated the error of Tony Blair ruling out serving a full third term in 2004.

"That announcement was intended to settle leadership speculation. Damian McBride, Gordon Brown's former spin doctor, has vividly described how it had the opposite effect... In setting the countdown clock on his own premiership, Mr Cameron has, in an unguarded moment in his kitchen, put his authority on the chopping block."

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Likewise, the Daily Mail's Dominic Sandbrook reckons Mr Cameron has "made a rod for his own back". He writes: "If he returns to No 10 in May... then it will be as a lame-duck prime minister. For the awkward squad on the Tory backbenches, the penalties for rebellion will seem trivial and short-lived, since a new leader will be along in a year or two. And for the prime minister's ambitious colleagues, the leadership campaign will begin on the day he walks back into No 10... I can hardly think of anything more likely to undermine and debilitate a future Tory government."

Huge doubts?

The Times's Rachel Sylvester reckons that - even if Mr Cameron remains in power post-May - without an outright majority, he might be lucky to choose the point at which he stands down. "His critics will still be sharpening their knives... Mr Cameron would be the man who had failed to beat two of the least popular leaders in Labour's history, even against a backdrop of economic recovery."

The Daily Mirror argues that Mr Cameron's declaration has "created huge doubts in the minds of voters... Tories will plunge into civil war as rivals fight each other to succeed him. Vote Conservative and you will get uncertainty and doubt and possibly a second, unknown, Tory prime minister... The result will be complete chaos".

Meanwhile, those potential successors named by Mr Cameron are profiled by the Daily Telegraph, which describes London Mayor Boris Johnson as "the deadly serious joker in the pack". Home Secretary Theresa May's courting of backbenchers, it says, has made her a genuine prospect, despite some never forgiving her for saying in 2002 that the Conservatives were perceived as the "nasty party". Meanwhile, it says Chancellor George Osborne has bounced back from his 2012 "omnishambles" Budget to become a "star turn".


Eye-catching headlines

  • "Spice one!" - the Daily Star advises readers to "get ready to zig-a-zig-ah", reporting that a Spice Girls reunion is on the cards
  • "Where there's muck, there's gold, say sewage scientists" - valuable metals from shampoos, detergents and clothes, which wash down drains, could be extracted at treatment plants, says the Guardian
  • "Gran's 30-a-day habit gives her dog lung cancer"- a woman quit cigarettes after discovering the illness that caused her pet dog to be put down was brought on by passive smoking, says the Daily Mail
  • "Wayne is true blue in Spanish" - Captain Wayne Rooney fires up the Manchester United's Spanish contingent by swearing at them in their mother tongue, according to the Daily Express

'Very juicy'

As with other BBC interviews with party leaders, there is much talk of the setting for the film. Mr Cameron was shown shopping in his Oxfordshire constituency and preparing lunch at home, allowing the Sun to add a speech bubble to a photograph of the PM saying: "I'm getting out of the kitchen."

Meanwhile, the Mail tots up the value of the Camerons' pendant lights (£22, Ikea), fondue set (£45, John Lewis) and ceramic sink (Victorian Plumbing, £300). The paper's sketchwriter Quentin Letts notes the contribution of Mr Cameron's wife, Samantha."[She] wandered towards the cooking area in a loose-fitting lumberjack shirt and announced that her husband was 'definitely the best man for the job'.

"She added that 'me and the family' (did they not teach grammar at her public school?) kept him grounded. Kept him in the kitchen chopping carrots, more like." Noting the amount of lettuce on show, he adds: "Can a man really run a country on rabbit food?"

The Guardian's Esther Addley was also intrigued by the PM's diet, saying it took a while to "coax the really important revelation" out of Mr Cameron. "Breast or thigh? 'I like thighs because they are very juicy.' This during a visit to the local jolly butcher in Cameron's Witney constituency."

Meanwhile, ensuring balance in its analysis of politician's kitchens, the Mail spots a £1,395 espresso and cappuccino maker in the home of SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon during an interview with ITV's Susanna Reid.


'Yawn'

Sketchwriters were underwhelmed by the Ask the Chancellors broadcast which saw George Osborne and his Labour rival Ed Balls avoid going head-to-head by taking it in turn to answer questions for 30 minutes each. "This was so not a 'debate' between the chancellor and his shadow, that even their separate appearances had a half-hour interval between them in case either of them actually met, let alone started arguing with each other," complains Donald MacIntyre, in the Independent.

Ann Treneman writes in the Times: "We have heard of empty-chairing, now we were seeing 'one-chairing' in action. There is only one word for the 'one-chair' debate and that is 'yawn'."

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The hot seat, says the Telegraph's Michael Deacon, "proved to be an uncomfortably tall stool, of the sort favoured on stage by ageing boy bands". He continues: "The chancellor clambered atop it, his face rigidly adorned by an ill-at-ease grin. (Somehow Mr Osborne looks unhappier when smiling than he does when frowning.)" The writer found the scene little improved during Mr Balls's turn. "Somehow his bulk gave his position high up on the stool an air of Humpty Dumpty-like precariousness."

John Crace, of the Guardian, saw the TV host, Sky, cut to a life insurance advert while Mr Osborne was mid-answer. "Anyone tempted by this insurance offer would have been well advised to read the small print. The only thing anyone was likely to die from in the immediate future was boredom and that was specifically excluded," he says.

Those watching online during the unscheduled cut were rewarded with a global weather map. Writes Treneman: "I saw that it was 31C (88F) in Lahore and 33 in Delhi. I'm sorry but this was waaaayyy more exciting than George." Having persevered through Mr Balls's answers, the writer adds: "Infuriatingly the 'debate' ended properly this time without the map. I have to tell you, I felt cheated."

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