Newspaper headlines: Focus on election mud-slinging

The election campaign coverage turns personal on Thursday's front pages.

Under the headline, "Cam's bribes will cost every family £1,439 a year", the Daily Mirror accuses the Tories of a "systematic deception", saying the party has not fully explained how it will fund £25bn in election pledges.

It reports that shadow chancellor Ed Balls is to say in a speech that the prime minister's "desperate bid to woo voters with a massive spending spree will be paid for by yet another assault on the poor". The Mirror says the Conservative pledge to spend more on the NHS, childcare and tax cuts will be funded partly by slashing benefits for working families.

The Sun opts to return to the second kitchen in Ed Miliband's north London home. Noting that the room is in the basement and used by the family nanny, the paper says cooking arrangements in the Labour leader's home have a "hint of Downton Abbey". It goes on to accuses Mr Miliband of "hypocrisy" for portraying the Tories as "out of touch" with working people. A spokesman for Mr Miliband is quoted as saying the second kitchen was already in the property when he bought it.

The same accusation of "hypocrisy" is levelled at former shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry in Daily Mail. It highlights comments by the Conservative election candidate for Crawley, Henry Smith, who has criticised Ms Thornberry for saying the Tory pledge to extend the right to buy policy to people in housing association properties was wrong. It reports her husband bought a housing association property at auction in 2007, which is now rented out.

Meanwhile, the Independent sees comments by a former Tory Home Office minister on an initiative to force tax transparency on Britain's overseas territories as a "gaffe" which will "embarrass the Conservatives".

Lord Blencathra is reported to have described the anti-tax avoidance initiative as a "purely political gesture" designed to head off European attempts to curb the City of London. The Conservatives are standing by their crackdown but the Guardian points out that the story came as David Cameron told BBC Newsnight the charge that the Tories are the party of the rich makes him angrier than anything else.


Punching above weight?

Nick Clegg's contention that the Liberal Democrat manifesto is an "insurance policy" against a government "lurching off" to extremes is examined widely.

The Times saw the manifesto launch as an attempt to maximise party leader Mr Clegg's chances of staying in government, with a document that opens the door to sharing power with either Labour or the Conservatives.

The Independent says the manifesto "appears designed for a second round of coalition with the Conservatives".

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"As the only party around capable of working with either of its two main bigger rivals, the Lib Dems may be in power, and punching above their weight, for far longer than many imagine," the Independent says in an editorial.

The Guardian reports that Mr Clegg's refusal to veto an in-out referendum on European Union membership, while insisting that the Tories backtrack on their plans for £12bn of welfare cuts, has removed one of the barriers to a second coalition deal with the Conservatives.

But the Daily Mirror's political editor Kevin Maguire believes that Mr Clegg published a "bargaining chit rather than a manifesto".

And the Daily Mail sees Mr Clegg's speech as evidence of "breathtaking arrogance". In appointing himself the "ultimate arbiter" of the best interests of Britain, the "shameless manifesto, bereft of any glimmer of principle... simply splits the difference between the Tories and Labour", it says.

The Sun would appear to agree, suggesting Mr Clegg must have taken inspiration from Groucho Marx, who once said, "Those are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others."


Farage successor?

The launch of UKIP's manifesto at a hotel in Thurrock, Essex, also attracts plenty of coverage.

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The Daily Express says party leader Nigel Farage gave a "barnstorming performance", while the Times reports on UKIP's "rising star", Suzanne Evans, saying the deputy chairwoman's "widely lionised performance" at the event saw her hailed as a frontrunner to become the party's next leader.

According to the Sun, UKIP unveiled a host of populist policies including an £18bn low-tax "revolution" funded by quitting the EU. It says many of its policies seem "palatable" but the party's problem is that it is still a "magnet for weirdos".

The Guardian describes UKIP's promise of more hospitals, extra spending on defence and social care as eye-catching, saying it was "like a compilation album of the greatest hits from the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems". But its economic editor Larry Elliott says the estimations of how the party would fund £32bn in spending need to be treated with some caution.

The Daily Mirror contends the manifesto shows UKIP was "just another Tory party".

Writing in the Daily Mail, Stephen Glover says most Tory and many Labour voters would agree with UKIP's "pretty common-sensical document", even though he cannot take the party seriously and give it his vote.

In its leader column, the Daily Telegraph says UKIP should be given credit for encouraging debate on immigration and the EU. But it suggests voters should "think very carefully" as too many of its policies remain "little more than incoherent ambitions". And it warns "every vote cast for UKIP makes it more likely... Mr Miliband will take power, possibly in cahoots with the SNP. Britain cannot afford that."


'Europe's conscience'

The deaths of as many as 400 people in the Mediterranean when their boat capsized after leaving Libya attracts the attention of the leader writers.

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As an increasing number of migrants from Africa try to make their way to Europe, the Guardian says ministers cannot evade their "humanitarian obligations".

"No EU member would surrender control over non-EU immigration to a new European commission body today. But this is a crisis where the bureaucratic pragmatism of Brussels demands that Europe's politicians find a common approach motivated not only by pragmatism but by humanity and compassion too," it says.

The Daily Telegraph says the "appropriate maritime response that European nations should make is agonising unclear".

But it suggests the "tide of misery" is at least partly because of a lack of Western support for Libyan democrats and political institutions after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, and questions why the debate about UK global responsibilities is "largely silent" in the election campaign.

The Financial Times sees the flow of migrants as "one of the biggest challenges confronting the EU".

The events should "provoke a crisis of conscience and of memory" and encourage EU nations to abandon their "grudging approach to refugee numbers", it adds. "Europeans cannot call themselves civilised if they fail to respond generously to people seeking salvation on their own continent."


The new old

Sixty is the new 40 if a study is to be believed.

The research by the Vienna-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis found people across Europe were currently viewed as "old" when they hit 65 but predicts that by 2050 people in their 60s will be considered "middle-aged"

Longer, healthier lives mean people now hit middle-age later, says the Daily Mirror.

The Daily Telegraph suggests collecting the state pension and bus pass at 65 has traditionally been seen as a watershed moment where middle age ends. But the research suggests that old age now starts at 74, with middle age lasting at least nine years longer than current estimates.

Retirement may be beckoning and your knees may be creaking but the scientists say that as we live longer we need to rethink what we classify as being old, explains the Daily Mail.


Making people click

Times: We're all capable of committing genocide

Daily Mirror: Revealed: The codes and symbols burglars are using to mark homes before raids

Guardian: Agency signs up the first size-24 model: 'I was never tempted to lose weight'

Daily Mail: The strangers who are so alike they could be identical twins