Newspaper review: Currency 'volatility', rail fare pledge, and the oil 'bonanza'

The election campaign has reached that time when candidates take time out from kissing babies - and being interviewed in their kitchens - to try to connect directly with to the electorate via the newspapers.

David Cameron makes a personal appeal to Daily Express readers - and as the paper points out, UKIP supporters - in an interview it trails on its front page.

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Image caption David Cameron: calling for a "reasoned debate" on EU membership

The Express highlights the PM's thoughts on immigration where he vowed to take away an "£8,000 incentive" to migrants to the country by denying automatic access to the tax credit system for new arrivals.

It also says the prime minister vigorously defended his EU referendum pledge, saying, "I think the right answer is for Britain to stay in a reformed EU but we shouldn't be frightened of having a reasoned debate and making a reasoned choice."

The Independent's front page interview is with Nick Clegg.

The Lib Dem tells the paper that he fears Mr Cameron will attempt to form a Tory minority government, which will be "hostage" to his party's right-wing "swivel-eyed brigade".

"Far from voting for competence, a vote for the Conservatives in marginals against us, is a vote for the chaos of a Conservative administration held to ransom by Nigel Farage and right-wing Tory backbenchers," he argues.

The former deputy prime minister isn't the only party leader in the paper: UKIP's Nigel Farage writes a column thanking Tony Blair for bring the European issue back into the election spotlight.

"Of course, I don't agree with a single word he said, but Britain's continued EU membership is a significant issue at this election, and it's painful to watch the establishment politicians try and run away from it," he adds.

Big two

So much for the personalities, what are the policies and pledges being highlighted in Friday's papers?

The Times and a number of other papers give extensive coverage to Mr Cameron's proposal to freeze rail fares in real terms for five years.

"Regulated tickets" - such as yearly travel cards - will be held in line with inflation, which the Times reckons could save the average commuter £400 over five years.

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The paper adds that "firms will be banned from using flexible pricing policies to put some fare up by as much as 5%".

The Daily Mail says Mr Cameron will also unveil a plan today to allow employees to take three days paid leave every year to work on voluntary projects.

The scheme will operate for anyone working for a company with more than 250 staff, and all public servants.

The Guardian says that shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper is to outline an £800m plan to "protect neighbourhood policing and safeguard the jobs of 10,000 police officers".

The paper says force job losses will be halted due to finding money by "scrapping elected police and crime commissioners, ending the subsidy of the gun licensing system and by making police forces share back-office and procurement services".

The Daily Telegraph focuses on defence spending and the failure of the big two parties to commit to the 2% of national income threshold that Nato expects its members to spend on their armed forces.

"British defence chiefs have been furiously lobbying the Tories to make the commitment amid fears for Britain's military capability and status as a global power," the paper says.

It adds that it has learned that no such pledge will be made when the Tories launch their manifesto on Tuesday.

The paper's leader column says that recent Conservative attacks on Labour's commitment to Trident missiles were "ill-judged" and "negative".

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Image caption Housebuilding is running well behind the level needed to meet demand, the Financial Times says

But it adds: "What the voters really want is to know how the parties plan to fund military spending after the election."

The Financial Times highlights something else that isn't happening at the moment - housebuilding.

It says a property market analyst says that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is "pulling up the drawbridge" on developers plans to avoid antagonising voters.

The FT says just 454 schemes have been approved since January, whereas plans to build 10,000 new houses have been rejected in the same period.

'Elevated uncertainty'

As ever, polls are much in evidence, splashed across the inside pages of the papers in a riot of blue, red, yellow, purple and green.

The Guardian leads on what it says is a trend that shows that Thursday was "the day the polls turned" for Labour, with three major surveys putting the party ahead of the Conservatives by between one and six percentage points.

And it says a poll which put Ed Miliband's personal approval rating ahead of David Cameron's was the "strongest, if still tentative, sign that the Conservatives' narrow and negative campaign is misfiring".

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Image caption Ed Miliband can reflect on a rare personal approval poll win

"Other polling data showed that Labour was appearing to enjoy a positive week. Survation showed that 59% of the public back Labour's policy to abolish the non-dom status. Only 16% are against Miliband's proposals. Even one in two Conservatives are in favour of the plans, with just 20% against," the paper adds.

The Daily Mirror - which commissioned one of Thursday's surveys, says in its opinion column: "Our poll... confirms what we always knew, which is that Miliband is a far better leader than the Tory-dominated media caricature as Wallace, and Cameron isn't as good as the strutting Tory leader he thinks he is.

"We always doubted Cameron to make this election a choice between him and Miliband, when the Tory toff chickened out of a direct head-to-head."

But it's not all good news for Labour, the Times commissions its own poll which shows that the party has fallen even further behind the SNP in its traditional Scottish powerbase.

The YouGov survey, taken after the first Scottish leaders' debate, suggests supports for the Nationalists has grown by four points to 49%.

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Image caption Nigel Farage on the campaign trail: The Times says the party sees its "ramshackle" campaign as a strength not a weakness

Such a result could translate as the SNP winning 53 of Scotland's 59 seats, the paper notes.

The Daily Mail carries a ComRes poll it has commissioned in conjunction with ITV News which shows the Conservatives one point ahead of Labour.

The paper says its poll also carries bad news for Mr Farage, as it suggests his party is now running neck-and-neck for support with the Lib Dems, who enjoy a 3% surge.

The Mail says the survey's results "is the latest bad news for Mr Farage, and undermines his claim yesterday that support for UKIP has 'rallied' after a lacklustre few weeks".

The Financial Times concentrates on how the campaign's closeness is affecting the markets.

The paper notes investors have been buying insurance to protect against "sharp swings" in the value of the pound in recent weeks.

It adds that the "pronounced rise in volatility" is a sign that dealers "are preparing for a period of elevated political uncertainty".


"There's oil in them thar hills!", as probably no one would ever say in the Sussex-Surrey borders.

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Image caption Horses grazing at Horse Hill oblivious to the riches lying beneath their hooves

Nonetheless the announcement that "nationally significant" oil reserves may lie under a 55-square-mile slab of sandstone and clay centred on Gatwick Airport has got the copywriters of Fleet street reaching for their banner headlined clichés.

The announcement from exploration firm UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) that there could be as much as 100bn barrels worth of "black gold" beneath the Weald leads the Daily Mirror to headline "roll out the barrels".

The paper says that if all the oil could be extracted it would make Britain the world's seventh largest producer, ahead of the UAE, Libya and the United States.

In case householders in the area think they can become the "JR Ewings" of the Home Counties, the Daily Mail has some sobering news: they won't see a penny.

The paper points out that the government owns the land under all of our houses meaning the only way a householder would profit would be if an oil firm wanted to base a drill in their garden.

Perhaps, with this in mind, the residents of Horse Hill, the site the initial findings have been made, seem a bit lukewarm about living in "the new Texas".

The Guardian, noting that a Green MEP has called for the oil to be left in the ground, visits the area.

One resident tells the paper: "When this cottage was built 200 years ago it would have been very peaceful round here. But things are different. It's the south-east. We're three miles from Gatwick. If you want peace go to the Highlands."

Some of the analysis looks at UKOG chief David Lenigas, who was previously the head of business conglomerate Lonrho.

The Sun says "the world colourful" doesn't do the Australian entrepreneur justice.

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Image caption A scene not captured at Horse Hill, Horley, Surrey

"Not all his predictions come true, but that is partly the nature of energy exploration. It is a risky business," says the paper's city editor Simon English.

"If he is even partly right this time, we must look at what he thinks he has found," English adds.

Business commentator Alistair Osborne in the Times is less charitable, suggesting the 100bn barrels may have been found with the aid of "the multiplication key on a calculator".

The Independent is also sceptical of the claims of Mr Lenigas, who it points out at one time was on the board of 147 different companies.

It points out that UKOG's report says "Appraisal drilling and well testing will be required to prove its commerciality.

"So if the oil is indeed there, we don't yet know if it is going to be worth extracting it," it concludes.


No sooner do you go outdoors and enjoy the balmy weather the UK has been enjoying when the newspapers all tell us to watch out for "blood rain".

The Daily Star explains that the phenomena can result when the dust-laden hot air (currently making the country "as hot as Magaluf") encounters shower clouds.

Cars could be stained brown, red and yellow by said rain on Friday night as the Saharan sand swirling over Britain comes to rest. Which is only good news if your car is already red, yellow and brown.

Image caption Hastings: likely to be a tad hazy, according to the Times

Unfortunately the Times points out that the Met Office says it is not clear where this dust will fall.

The temperatures, which will hit 22C in southern England, has encouraged a pall of pollution over much of southern England, the paper notes, with would-be oil towns Brighton and Hastings seeing particularly high levels.

"Summertime, and the living is wheezy" as a musically inspired sub-editor in the Independent puts it.

But it's not all bad news. The mini-heatwave has helped supermarket chain Morrisons "offload" 1.4m burgers and a million sausages, the Times adds.

There has also been a 24% weekly rise in the amount of rosé wine sold at Waitrose, the paper reports.

The Daily Mirror says that Britain is "braced" for the smog and blood rain and that the government has warned that people susceptible to associated health problems should avoid physical activity for the time being.

Sounds like a perfect cue to barbecue some of those burgers and sausages with a glass of rosé or three!

Making people click

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