Newspaper headlines: Business warning, zero hours policy, and feckless fathers

A large lists of names, some familiar to the general public some less-so, adorns the front of the Daily Telegraph.

The names are those of 103 senior business figures who have signed an open letter saying the Conservative-led government has "pursued policies which have supported investment and job creation" and a "change in course will threaten jobs and deter investment.

"This would send a negative message about Britain and put the recovery at risk."

Although Labour is not specifically mentioned by name in the missive, the Telegraph says the letter is a warning to electors that electing the party would endanger the economy.

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Image caption Apprentice star and West Ham chief executive Karren Brady was one of the three businesswomen to sign the letter in the Telegraph

It notes the executives specifically single out the lowering of corporation tax to 20% by the coalition for praise. Labour has pledged to raise the level again, although not for small and medium-sized companies.

The Telegraph says five of the 103 signatories have endorsed Labour at some point in the past. The paper does not mention how many have been long-standing Conservative supporters or donors.

The paper's editorial says the letter "punctures Labour's somewhat frantic efforts to demonstrate that they are a business-friendly party".

Ross Clark, the Daily Express's political commentator, expands the point when he writes: "Business-bashing may go down well among Labour's traditional supporters in the trade unions, but [Ed] Miliband is indulging in it without any thought to the consequences for the businesses who create jobs and generate the wealth which pays for public services.

"Ed Miliband has lost no opportunity over the past few years trying to portray businessmen as a bunch of vultures who feed on the efforts of their workers and avoid their taxes."

One of the Telegraph's letter's signatories may be less pleased with his second appearance in Wednesday's press.

The Daily Mail reports that Tidjane Thiam earned £11.8m at insurance giant Prudential last year.

A Labour MP is quoted as saying: "Savers and particularly pensioners will be incredibly angry at this greed which comes at their expense. The failure in annuities demonstrates why such obscene pay is out of order."

'Insecure workers'

The other major political story of the day is Mr Miliband's proposal to ban companies from keeping workers on so-called zero-hours contracts for more than 12 weeks.

The Financial Times says the move will affect more than 90% of the 1.8 million British workers who have signed such contracts.

The paper notes the new pledge is a change from Labour's previous policy which was to ban such contracts from extending for more than a year.

It adds that the Labour leader knows that the policy will not play well with "big business", but he believes zero-hours are "a cause of Britain's miserable productivity record".

Image caption Ed Miliband

A Miliband ally tells the FT: "Miserable, insecure workers are not productive workers."

A Daily Mirror graph charts the rise of zero-hours contracts from an estimated 167,782 in 2010 to 679,119 last year. The official estimates, it will be noted, vary dramatically from the FT's total.

The paper continues: "Mr Miliband will remind voters that David Cameron admitted in last week's TV interviews he could not live on a zero-hours contract.

"The Labour leader will say in a speech in Yorkshire 'If it's not good enough for him, it's not good enough for you'".

The Independent also leads on the pledge.

It says industry analysts say zero-hours contracts helped keep unemployment down during the recession, but "many firms, such as Sports Direct, have stuck with them since the economy returned to growth".

The paper adds: "Mr Miliband's move follows repeated personal criticism of him by Mr Cameron, who has called him a 'Hampstead socialist' and said that 'the personal is national'."

Expose truths

The Liberal Democrats manage to win one front page lead today, with the Guardian highlighting the party's plan for a US-style "First Amendment" in Britain.

The party promises a charter which will "protect journalism from state interference" and put an end to "ministers appointing the heads of broadcasting regulators".

Image copyright PA

The press freedom charter comes after media organisations have argued that the right to freedom of expression as spelled out under the European Convention on Human Rights offered the sector little protection against state encroachment, the paper adds.

The party also proposes that media regulator Ofcom "undertakes periodic reviews of media plurality in the UK", the Guardian adds.

"There would also be stronger defences for whistleblowers sending information to MPs and doctors," it adds.

The Lib Dem move coincides with a raft of stories about the CPS's decision to review prosecutions of journalists brought in the wake of Operation Elveden, which examined potentially corrupt payments to public officials in return for stories.

The Daily Mail's comment column calls the prosecutions "a witch-hunt" and says the CPS "should declare an amnesty on all pending trials.

"There can be no place in a free society for hounding journalists who seek to expose truths officialdom seeks to hide."

Philip Johnston, writing in the Daily Telegraph, compares the arrests of journalists with the actions of despots in North Korea, Zimbabwe and the old Soviet Union.

"The bill to the taxpayer for the offended sensibilities of a few Establishment blowhards has been enormous," he adds.

"Elveden has cost £12.4m and the Met's investigation of journalists for a variety of reasons, including hacking, is already the biggest and most costly inquiry in British criminal history.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Essex meets Mr Clegg

"To date, it has cost £36.1m with 125 police officers and staff working on it - a figure that once stood at 195."

Back to Lib Dem matters, and Nick Clegg might be reflecting that his major appearance in Wednesday's paper is less flattering than his front page one in the Guardian.

The party leader allowed himself to be interviewed by reality TV star Joey Essex for an ITV2 show. Mr Essex famously claims to be unable to read the time.

The Daily Mail notes that Mr Essex thought the party was called "demo-cats" and its leader was "Mr Leg".

On learning that Mr Clegg had been deputy prime minister, the former fish market porter, told him he was "sick" - which the Mail helpfully explains is "slang for good".


Non-political news featured a number of stories about a pair of "feckless" dads, who are unemployed but have fathered large numbers of children.

Both the Sun and the Daily Mirror lead with the story of Mike Holpin, an Ebbw Vale man who is said to have had 40 children with 20 mothers.

The Sun says Mr Holpin is "scruffy, charmless, jobless and relentlessly unfaithful to his partners".

He tells the paper, "I don't believe in contraception. I want more kids. I'll never stop. In the Bible, God says go forth and multiply. I'm doing what God wants."

His words do not impress Andy Silvester of the Taxpayers Alliance pressure group.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The waltzers are a romantic tip from Mike Holpin

"It is sheer arrogance to think you can have as many kids as you want and taxpayers will pick up the tab. Whatever happened to personal responsibility."

Mr Holpin, who has been on incapacity benefits for 10 years, says the many women in his life date back to a period when he worked in a travelling fairground.

"The waltzer was unbelievably good for pulling women because you get to spin them," he notes.

However he adds, "People are judging me on what I was. Judge me on what I am now.

"I was a dirty alcoholic and I was irresponsible, but I've always loved my kids and nobody can take that away from me."

The Times and the Daily Express features the case of 29-year-old Keith MacDonald of Sunderland, who has 15 children by 10 mothers, and has a 16th child on the way.

Because Mr MacDonald is on benefits, the Times says the collective cost to the state of raising his children could top £2m by the time the last of them has left school.

The paper notes that Mr MacDonald collects £44 income support and £68 incapacity benefit for a bad back every week.

He told the Channel 5 programme which features both dads that he cannot find work because he is "no good at listening". Mr MacDonald denies that all 15 of the children are his.

Paolo Flirs

You want a round-up of April Fools' jokes in the press? Oh, go on then...

The Sun says that a special limited edition £5 is to be produced by the Bank of England with Simon Cowell's face in the place of the Queen's.

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Image caption Simon Cowell: a noted face

Mr Cowell "won the honour" the paper claims in a public vote to find the most popular TV personality.

In addition to the "SiVer" it suggests that Dame Helen Mirren may reprise her role as the Queen on a special tenner.

The Daily Mail has a story suggesting that Longleat safari park in Wiltshire is offering to cover visitors' cars with bubble wrap in an effort to beat the pesky monkeys who attempt to dismantle motors.

The Mail says the wrapping service costs £10 but comes highly recommended by a park employee, the anagrammatically named Paolo Flirs.

With the recent Richard III mania hitting Leicester, the Independent suggests that the city's oldest university is to rename itself after the medieval king.

The University of Leicester, which temporarily housed the king's bones before their reburial, will become Richard III University in September 2016, the paper claims.

And it isn't just one change, the paper continues, the students union bar will become "carnage@Bosworth" while an administration building is to be renamed "Hunchback House".

The Daily Mirror turns to politics and the prospect of a new coalition government in May.

It says a "secretive" new government agency, the Office for Estimation, will take governing decisions if coalition talks become protracted.

The agency, the Mirror says, will put in place an "Estimated prime minister" for the duration, and put policy decisions to the vote using Facebook and Twitter.

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Image caption King Richard lies in state at the university which will bear his name. Possibly.

And if some might think that is a good idea, another story in the Daily Telegraph seems even more plausible.

It reports on a newly invented bookmark which can measure the breathing of a reader and sound a noise to wake them if they drop off.

The "boo!mark" will be available from bookshop Foyles and will be a positive boon to bedtime story readers, the paper adds.

Perhaps, the least convincing joke sits in the pages of the Guardian.

The paper says that Jeremy Clarkson has "rethought" his life as a "petrolhead" and has become the latest celebrity to support the paper's campaign for fossil fuel divestment.

The sacked presenter "tells" the paper he became interested in fighting climate change after reading about it during "a dark night of the soul" which occurred when he stopped at a pub for a pint.

"In the end, this is bigger than Planet Clarkson. This is Planet Everybloodybody, including members of the traveller communities and our Burmese and Argentinian friends.

"We've got to put some oomph under the bonnet of this campaign. I've got the thick end of five mill following me on Twitter. Think of the g-force if they all switched to giving a toss about the human race," he "concludes".

More of the same, this time next year!

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