Newspaper headlines: 'Scandal mayor', deficit plans questioned, Top Gear trio 'reunion'

A ruling at the High Court which saw an east London mayor found guilty of electoral fraud and removed from office sparks much debate.

The Tower Hamlets vote will be re-held but Lutfur Rahman, who denied any wrongdoing, has been banned from standing again by Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey.

Britain's first elected Muslim mayor was "ousted in disgrace" after the court heard he used religious intimidation to force voters to back him, says the Times.

Image copyright AFP

The evidence exposed a "deeply troubling" situation, the Times says in its leader column, noting that Mr Rahman was the first person since the 19th Century to be found guilty of the Victorian-era misdeed of unlawful religious influence.

The case was brought by four voters but the Daily Telegraph also claims "victory" because it had been calling for greater scrutiny of Mr Rahman, elected as the representative of the Tower Hamlets First party last year.

In an editorial, the Telegraph says the "mayoral election was a scandal - a damning indictment of one man's ambition". It also questions the decision by Scotland Yard, who found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing when it investigated him, not to take action.

Mr Rahman was said to have played "race" and "religious" cards to secure re-election, and the Sun believes fears of being accused of Islamophobia allowed him to operate as the court found he had.

The Daily Mail sees the ruling as a "victory for democracy" but says the refusal of police to prosecute has "chilling echoes" of the child abuse scandals in Rotherham and Rochdale.

Local government has long been the weakest link in the country's democratic infrastructure, says the Independent. It suggests introducing proportional representation in council elections would see local politicians work better together, and says except for the mayor of London, there is no need for directly-elected mayors.

Guardian reporters sent out to gauge the feelings of residents in Tower Hamlets found the news of the court ruling "like Rahman himself" divided opinion.


'Total overhaul'

The sighting of former Top Gear colleagues Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond in London sparks speculation of an on-screen reunion.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Top Gear team in 2011

The Daily Star says the trio - spotted together for the first time since Clarkson was sacked from the programme following a "fracas" with a producer - appeared to be planning a new motoring show.

The Daily Telegraph is among the papers to note they were seen with Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman, who confirmed he had left the BBC show. "Reunited... but what were they plotting?" it asks.

On Thursday, May said he would not return to Top Gear without Clarkson as a co-host, although his agent later told the media he was still in talks with the BBC. Hammond has not confirmed his plans.

The Daily Mirror says there was industry speculation that Clarkson, May and Hammond could sign a deal with online broadcaster Netflix.

The Sun says BBC bosses are now looking at a "total programme overhaul", while reporting that any new project by the former presenters would be hampered by a contract clause that prevents them launching a rival show for 12 months.


'Tell the truth'

Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies on how the political parties plan to cut the deficit attracts a variety of interpretation.

While the Daily Mirror chooses to highlight a "£47bn black hole" in Tory manifesto promises and the suggestion vital services would be at risk, the Times picks out figures suggesting that under a Labour government, national debt would increase by £90bn.

The Daily Mirror sees the IFS verdict as "withering" and a "hammer-blow" to David Cameron's credibility, while the Times says the PM would be "delighted" if the finding that every working family would be saddled with extra taxes equivalent to more than £1,000 under Labour, helps the election focus moves back to Ed Miliband's plans.

The Daily Telegraph sees the IFS conclusion that there would be a significantly larger reduction in borrowing and debt under the Tories as "a good ambition".

While acknowledging IFS concerns about Labour's borrowing plans, the Guardian angles its report on the fact that the Conservatives were challenged to explain how they will achieve £30bn in fresh cuts to Whitehall spending, and a £10bn reduction in the welfare bill if they are returned to power.

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Guardian economics editor Larry Elliott suggests the Tory plans look "undeliverable".

SNP spending plans attract the Financial Times' eye. It says the IFS implied the party's anti-austerity rhetoric was not borne out by its policies.

The Daily Mail suggest Mr Miliband's "absurd fantasy" that voters can "have it all" without the pain of major cuts was demolished by the IFS. The Mail says the report made the choice for voters at the election "brutally simple".

And the Daily Express believes the chaos in Greece serves as a reminder why getting national finances under control should still be a central issue at the election, and says Labour would be a "disaster".

In its front page headline, the i says all the political parties should "tell the truth" about their plans for spending cuts and tax rises, highlighting the IFS suggestion that voters were being kept in the dark by the Conservatives, Labour, the Lib Dems and SNP.

Its sister paper the Independent notes that the parties "moved to quickly put their best gloss on the findings".

Staying with economic proposals, the Daily Telegraph reports that former CBI chief Lord Digby Jones, a trade minister in the last Labour government, has expressed concern at the effect the party would have on business if in power, accusing Ed Miliband of "sneering" at wealth creators.

But the Financial Times says Labour's Chukka Umunna, the likely business secretary in an Ed Miliband government, is seeking to distance himself from some of his party leader's more critical remarks on business, saying he personally did not want to see a "seismic shift" in policy.


'Not left out'

The launch of the Conservative Party's English manifesto is portrayed as a "gamble" by the Guardian.

The paper says the proposals, which include commitments on income tax, health, education and transport, will see David Cameron target UKIP votes.

But it says the prime minister will ignore Labour warnings that he is stoking division in the UK.

In its report on the manifesto launch, the Times highlights former Prime Minister Gordon Brown's contention that Mr Cameron is "whipping up English nationalism". The Times sees the unveiling as a continuation of the Tory drive to warn English voters about a future Labour government propped up by the SNP.

But the outgoing Leader of the Commons William Hague, who will will help launch the document, tells the Daily Telegraph the plans are aimed at ensuring that Scottish Labour and SNP MPs are never able to "dictate" what happens in England.

The manifesto will be issued alongside traditional pledges for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Sun quotes Chancellor George Osborne as saying its aim was to make sure England "would not be unfairly treated or left out".


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