Newspaper review: Tory leadership row and 'goodbye Mrs Merton'

Clueless, hypocrite and psychopath are among the insults thrown at senior Conservatives as the debate over the party's leadership rages in Sunday's papers.

Five candidates are vying for the role, and former hopeful Boris Johnson is still making headlines after falling out of the race.

Home Secretary Theresa May is widely regarded as the favourite, and a cartoon in the Mirror shows her driving a chariot over her rivals in Downing Street.

But the Times says senior Tories have united to stop Mrs May's "coronation", with opponents saying she lacks the authority for the job because she did not support Brexit.

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The Telegraph says Andrea Leadsom is "rapidly winning support from Conservative MPs".

In an interview with the paper, she says she aspires to emulate Baroness Thatcher's leadership qualities of being both "courteous" and "steely".

But the Mail, which supports Mrs May, calls Mrs Leadsom a "hypocrite" over her position on the EU.

She campaigned for Leave, but the paper publishes a quote from three years ago in which it claims she said leaving would be a "disaster for our economy".

'Reverse ferret'

The fiercest row still revolves around leadership candidate Michael Gove and non-runner Mr Johnson - who had expected Mr Gove's backing until a late change of heart.

Writing in the Mail, Rachel Johnson - Boris Johnson's sister - calls Mr Gove a "political psychopath" and says the public will now see him as "a sort of Westminster suicide bomber".

She says Mr Gove stabbed her brother "in the back and in the front, pushed him under a bus, ran over him several times and then declared he was running for the leadership himself".

She calls it the "most egregious reverse ferret and act of treachery in modern political history".

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According to the Sun, Mr Gove's attempts to "patch up" his friendship with Mr Johnson have been met with an "angry wall of silence".

The Observer's front page has harsh words for both men - criticising Mr Johnson for "cluelessness and irresponsibility" and saying his "smirking nemesis" Mr Gove is untrustworthy.

'Week of the long knives'

Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Gove says he had confidence in Mr Johnson but it "evaporated" in the past week.

"That led me to make the difficult decision, at no little cost, to put friendships aside and act in the national interest," he says, adding that he came to the "uncomfortable conclusion" that he was the best person to lead the UK.

Also in the Telegraph is an interview with candidate Liam Fox, who the paper says has a "moral vision for transforming the country with a return to traditional values, global trade and strong defence".

In the Times, Stephen Crabb pledges to tackle "sick note culture" if he becomes PM, and says successive governments have been "let off the hook by the easy supply... of cheap foreign labour".

Largely forgotten in the commentary is David Cameron, whose resignation sparked the process.

In a Times cartoon entitled "Week of the long knives", Mr Cameron is stabbed in the back by Mr Johnson, who in turn is stabbed by Mr Gove - and behind him stands Mrs May, ready to kick him in the backside.


Eye-catching headlines

  • Church bans skimpy clothes and atheist T-shirts at the altar under new rules for clergy: Church of England clergy are to be banned from conducting services in anything overly revealing or not "seemly", the Telegraph reports.
  • It's boom time for psychics: The Daily Star says business is booming for fortune tellers as Britons "flock to them for answers about Brexit".
  • Olympic history as UK athletes born male set to compete as women: The Mail on Sunday says two British athletes born male are on the verge of competing in women's events at the Rio Olympics.
  • Need, grab, do: the key words in bestsellers: Experts have discovered the "formula" for literary success via a detailed computer study of 20,000 novels, the Times reports.
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Labour's leadership also makes headlines, and the Mirror says under-fire leader Jeremy Corbyn has offered an "olive branch" to rebellious MPs.

Writing in the paper, Mr Corbyn says he is "ready to reach out" to Labour MPs who did not accept his election and oppose his leadership.

"But they also need to respect the democracy of our party and the views of Labour's membership," he says.

The Observer says Mr Corbyn's aides are refusing to let deputy leader Tom Watson have a one-to-one meeting with him.

They fear Mr Watson will try to "bully" Mr Corbyn into resigning, it reports.

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But a spokesman for Mr Watson says: "Tom has always had a very good working and personal relationship with Jeremy."

Writing in the Express, Prof John Gaffney says the Labour Party "doesn't know what leadership is".

He says Mr Corbyn won the leadership in 2015 by firing people's imaginations but then "stopped performing at the moment of his victory".

'Cheeky questions'

The papers pay tribute to actress, comedian and writer Caroline Aherne, who has died of cancer at the age of 52.

The Observer says she "won the nation's heart" in a long and glittering career before she "finally succumbed to the last in a long line of health struggles".

The Express calls it a "death in Britain's comedy family".

Writing in the paper, Tony Whitfield says Aherne's gentle interviewing style in the character of Mrs Merton enabled her to ask "cheeky questions that other hosts dared not".

He gives the example of a question she asked Debbie McGhee: "What first, Debbie, attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?"

Writing in the Sun, McGhee says she has happy memories of that interview, and adds: "I often said to people that's what made me famous."

Daily Star TV critic Garry Bushell says Aherne had a "rare wit and a brilliant way with words".

The Mirror says her creations Mrs Merton and the Royle Family became national institutions "not just because they were hilarious, but because they weren't scared to go where others feared to tread".

In the Times, Maurice Chittenden says Aherne was "plagued by depression" and tried to take her own life soon after the Mrs Merton Show was cancelled in 1998.

But she returned to work, where her brilliance with language allowed her to create laughter and tears from "domestic mundanity", Steve Bennett writes in the Mail.

"Just three months after Victoria Wood's death, cancer has robbed us of another comedy great too soon; a tragedy far from the laughs they both brought," he adds.

'Murray from Surrey'

The Express says the entire UK can "look forward to sporting glory" thanks to Wales at Euro 2016 and Andy Murray at Wimbledon.

England football fans feeling down after losing to Iceland got a "major consolation prize" when Wales beat Belgium on Friday, it says.

With more than a hint of sarcasm, the Sun calls it a "magnificent weekend" for English fans.

"First the jaw-dropping win in the Euros for Wales, which is near England," it says.

"Now our very own Andy Murray from Surrey is storming through Wimbo."

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And if that doesn't help, the Mirror has an alternative under the headline: "Find out how Welsh you are."

The article ends: "It seems your gran was born in Wales and her mum was a Jones. Proper Welsh eh? Get your scarf on..."


Making people click

Guardian: May and Leadsom set to contend Tory poll for PM as Gove's bid fades

Telegraph: How Boris Johnson was brought to his knees by the "cuckoo nest plot"

Mail: Goodbye Mrs Merton: Comedian Caroline Aherne the genius behind TV's most acerbic chat show host and the Royle Family dies aged 52 after battle with cancer

Mirror: Heartbreaking Caroline Aherne tribute from her beloved pal Ricky Tomlinson