Newspaper headlines: Share 'bonanza', EU poll fears and 'biased Beeb'

There is a very mixed bag of political stories in Sunday's press.

The story getting the biggest headlines is the Conservative plan to sell off the government's stake in Lloyds Bank after the election.

The Sun on Sunday says the move - which is intended to raise £10bn - will bring a "Maggie-style investment boost for all", with investors able to buy from £250 to £10,000 of shares each.

The money raised will be used to pay off national debts, the paper adds.

Image copyright PA

The Mail on Sunday also highlights the link to the Thatcher years, its headline recalling the "Tell Sid" campaign when British Gas was privatised.

The sale, the paper notes, is the "latest 'retro' Conservative policy to hark back to the 1980s, following Mr Cameron's revival in the manifesto of the Thatcherite 'Right to Buy' offer for housing association tenants".

George Osborne chooses to outline the policy in an article in the Sunday Telegraph.

"Not only are we getting taxpayers their money back, we are going to do it in a way that gives many more people a stake in our economy and encourages a culture of long-term share ownership at the same time," the chancellor writes.

"This is another example of our long-term plan in action - cleaning up the mess we inherited, dealing with our debts, rewarding hard-working taxpayers and rebalancing the economy towards investment and saving," he adds.

Elsewhere, the "retro policy" of extending the Right To Buy policy to housing association tenants comes in for criticism.

The Observer says a letter sent by a Conservative minister to a Lib Dem colleague in 2013 shows the government at that time thought such a policy was not "reasonable".

Tory Kris Hopkins wrote: "Unlike local authorities, housing associations are independent, not-for-profit voluntary bodies and if they are obliged to consistently sell off their stock at less than market value they might find it difficult to borrow which could impact adversely on their repair and maintenance programmes and affect the future provision of affordable housing".

Image copyright Conservative Party
Image caption Kris Hopkins

Columnist Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times is also deeply critical of the plan.

"It is deeply un-Conservative to compel private ventures to dispose of assets," he writes.

The Independent's lead is an attack on David Cameron's pledge to hold a referendum in 2017 on Britain's membership of the European Union.

John Allan, chairman of Tesco, says the "uncertainty" as to the UK's future in the run-up to the vote would be a "problem" and a "heavy pebble" on the scales of the British economy.

"London has more regional and global headquarters than any city in the world and some of those headquarters could actually be moved relatively painlessly to places within the EU. You can't move factories easily, but you can move head offices," he adds.

In the Observer, Labour leader Ed Miliband gives an interview where he says he wants to "reach out" to "moderate Conservative voters", including those worried about the possibility that Britain would leave the EU.

He says he wants to appeal to those concerned at the Tories' "rightward drift".

"Who is going to stand up to tax avoidance? Who is going to stand up to energy companies? Who is going to stand up to banks? That is absolutely something I think will appeal to Tory voters," he tells the paper.


'Orthodox techniques'

"UKIP sets lawyers on biased BBC" is the Sunday Express's banner headline.

Inside the paper, the story reveals that UKIP's treasurer and lawyer Andrew Reid has written to the corporation requesting details of how the company selecting the audience for Thursday's televised opposition debate was selected and what methods it undertook.

The paper explains that the row has broken out after Mr Farage was booed after he suggested the studio audience was biased.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Farage felt isolated among party leaders espousing broadly left-wing policies, during Thursday's televised debate

The Express explains that figures released by the BBC show that "of the 200-strong audience, about 58 were Conservative or UKIP supporters, while about 102 backed Labour, the Lib Dems, SNP or Plaid Cymru... The remaining 40 described themselves as undecided."

Mr Farage is quoted as saying the studio's composition was "remarkable, even by the left-wing standards of the BBC".

He tells the paper: "I would like to see a BBC stripped to the bones. It clearly needs absolutely radical root and branch reform."

ICM, the organisation that was responsible for providing an audience for the debate, has said it used "orthodox random location selection techniques" to find people to take part.

The Sunday People features a story saying that one-in-six of UKIP's 602 parliamentary candidates was either a former Conservative Party councillor or party activist.

The paper adds that the party receives £5m in funding from former Conservative donors.

But if analysis in the Sun on Sunday is correct, the funding boost may not have done it much good.

The paper says analysis on an election forecast website run by "expert academics" suggests that UKIP may come out of the election holding only one seat, and Mr Farage will fail in his bid to win the Thanet South constituency.


Claims to power

Not all the politics coverage on Sunday is strictly party political though: the Observer writes about the missing millions of potential voters.

Its story says that the Electoral Commission last year estimated that some 7.5m Britons were not registered to vote.

"Labour leader Ed Miliband claimed that changes to the electoral system - the switch from household to individual-voter registration - meant that almost 1 million people had fallen off the register in just a year, many of them young people and students," the paper reports.

It visits a student union fair where one poster tells young people: "Do politics, or politics will do you".

Image caption These people are voting, but 7.5m Britons could have denied themselves the right to take part in our democracy, officials figures suggest

The Independent on Sunday reports on the phenomenon of vote swapping, where people pair up via websites and register their votes in each other's constituencies.

The paper's example shows a Labour supporter from Tory stronghold Chipping Barnet who will vote in Hornsey and Wood Green (a party target) while his Green Party supporting friend will place his symbolic vote in the other direction.

The paper notes both men expressed their frustration with the First Past the Post system used in UK elections.

Party funding is the subject of a story in the Sunday Times.

The paper reveals that just 25 people have provided a quarter of all political donations since 2010.

The list is topped by EuroMillions lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir, who have given £6,505,000 to the SNP.

On the paper's front page, the story concerns the political neutrality of the monarch.

The paper says Buckingham Palace officials have urged the parties to "back off" and not to expect the Queen to solve an election stalemate.

"Courtiers are concerned that either leader could ambush the Queen with an attempt to rule as a minority government and 'borrow her support' to cement their claims to power," it explains.


Bereft fans

Let's move away from all this election talk to delve into the inner pages of the Sundays and find what is known in the trade as some "soft news".

There's a musical theme to much of this today, with the Sunday Mirror being among the papers to report that Oasis could be set to reform, six years after their split left "bereft fans in a trackless desert".

The paper says the band's "feuding brothers" Noel and Liam Gallagher have been spotted together and are "taking the first steps" towards a formal reformation next year.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Noel (l) and Liam Gallagher indulge in some brotherly bonding back in 2001

Liam, whose solo projects have been less successful than Noel's, is said to be keener on a reformation than his guitarist brother, the paper adds.

The paper quotes a recent Noel interview in Rolling Stone magazine where he says he'd not do a charity concert with Oasis.

"If I was ever going to do it, it would only be for the money. Would I do it for charity? No way. We're not that kind of people".

One veteran band that could be heading for an Oasis style "trackless desert" could be Status Quo, the Sunday People reckons.

Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt say they could be calling time on their musical partnership after 50 years as they "don't speak to each other unless they have to".

The pair, who insisted on giving separate interviews to the paper, admit that rather than money or friendship the desire to make money is what holds the band together.

Rossi tells the People that he lost a "huge amount" on a property deal and his various pensions have "crumbled".

Time may soon be called on a shorter lived pop phenomenon, if the Daily Star Sunday is correct.

The paper says boy band One Direction are holding crunch talks over their future, following the departure of Zayn Malik.

The remaining quartet have been offered a £50m deal to undertake another world tour, the paper adds.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Napoleon: possibly pictured wondering what his horse is called

"Issues are still mounting," for the record-breaking band, an "insider" tells the Star, with Harry Styles and Niall Horan receiving offers to work with other musical projects.

From what may be flogging a dead horse, to a literally dead horse, with the shock news on a potential fake inside the National Army Museum.

Generations of pub quiz goers have been able to confidently state that Napoleon rode a light grey stallion called Marengo, at the Battle of Waterloo.

However the Sunday Times says researchers have challenged the very existence of Marengo, whose bones - or those of another horse - are preserved at the NAM in Chelsea, London.

They point out that not only is it extremely unlikely that a battle horse would have lived from 1792 to 1832, when the museum's horse died, but there is no record of a horse named Marengo in French military stable rolls of the time.

Historian Gareth Glover says, "All in all it would seem that Marengo is probably a fake, produced to fleece a credulous public with a manufactured name and history."

The museum says it is doing more research into the provenance of its equine skeleton.

Unlike Marengo, this story might run and run.

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