Newspaper headlines: Dallas shootings and Tory rivals speak

Armed police in Dallas (l) and gunman Micah Johnson Image copyright AP

There is comprehensive coverage in Saturday's papers of the shootings in Dallas, Texas, in which five police officers were killed.

The Times reports the suspect, Micah Xavier Johnson, told police during "drawn out negotiations" that he was "'upset at white people' after the many fatal police shootings of African-Americans that have stoked racial tensions and provoked protests across the country". The paper goes on to say that the "racially motivated mass shooting" of police officers in Dallas has "dragged America into its worst race crisis in a generation".

The Sun tells of Johnson's "creeping radicalisation" and his "growing fury with the US authorities and their treatment of black Americans". It says he posted pictures on Facebook "with his fist raised in a distinctive Black Power salute, with another showing the Black Liberation flag".

The shootings happened as around 800 people marched through downtown Dallas on Thursday evening to protest against the "succession of police shootings of black men", reports the Guardian. "They didn't know they were marching towards what would be the largest taking of police life since 9/11," writes the paper's Ed Pilkington.

According to the Daily Mail, Johnson killed four officers while shooting from a high point overlooking the march, before returning to ground level to shoot another policeman at "point-blank range". The paper reports how police used "a bomb carried by a robot to blow him up".

The Daily Telegraph sent one of its reporters to Johnson's home town of Mesquite, Texas, where Israel Cooper, a friend of the gunman, tells of a "pretty cool dude" who loved basketball. A neighbour, according to the paper, said Johnson was laid-back, but kept "a number of guns" in his house. But Mr Cooper adds Johnson "became upset" a week before the Dallas shootings, telling him "white cops are just slaying black people".

"It is already clear," writes Andrew Buncombe in the i, "that America has reached another milestone in its long, frustrating struggle with gun violence." But he argues that Thursday night's violence "must not distract the US, a country seemingly unable to advance the issue of gun reform, from the very pressing need to overhaul a criminal justice system that is deeply flawed and discriminates against people of colour".


The big interviews

With the choice of the next leader of the Conservatives and prime minister now in the hands of around 150,000 party members, the papers set to the task of finding out what the candidates - Home Secretary Theresa May and Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom - stand for.

The issue of children is brought to the fore.

The Times carries an interview with Mrs Leadsom by Rachel Sylvester, in which she is quoted as saying: "I am sure Theresa will be really sad she doesn't have children, so I don't want this to be 'Andrea has children, Theresa hasn't' because I think that would be really horrible, but genuinely I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake".

Mrs Leadsom reacted to the Times' report, after the paper went to press, tweeting that it had misrepresented her comments. The Times is standing by its story.

Image copyright AFP

The voice of the other candidate, Mrs May, is heard in the Daily Telegraph. The question of children is asked, despite interviewer Judith Woods being "loathe" to raise it. "We couldn't have children, we dealt with it and moved on", Mrs May says, adding: "I hope nobody would think that mattered. I can still empathise, understand people and care about fairness and opportunity."

Elsewhere, the Sun reports that Theresa May "challenged Brexit champion Andrea Leadsom to reject help from UKIP as she demanded a 'clean campaign'". The paper says Mrs May has signed a pledge "vowing not to co-operate with other political parties, their donors, members or active backers". According to the Sun, Mrs Leadsom's spokesman said "there will be absolutely no relationship with UKIP, Leave.EU or other groups".

The Daily Express notes that Mrs Leadsom has had endorsements from pro-Brexit figures including outgoing UKIP leader Nigel Farage and wealthy Leave.EU co-founder Arron Banks.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail says there is mounting pressure for the Tory leadership contest to be shortened. It quotes Conservative peer Lord Cormack as saying: "I hope we don't have to wait nine weeks... this country desperately needs a prime minister who is not a lame duck and needs that prime minister soon."

The length of the contest is also picked up in the Guardian and the Sun, with the former saying Prime Minister David Cameron - who is at the Nato summit in Warsaw - was "open to a shorter contest" while denying suggestions he was "clinging on".

The Sun says "some former MPs" believe Mr Cameron wanted to delay the leadership election result so he could "grandstand on the world stage one last time" at September's G20 summit. The notion was dismissed by a Downing Street spokesman, who tells the paper "it's not easy for the PM to have to walk around before he can go either".


Eye-catching headlines

  • Kebab shop gets heritage grant - your initial reaction may be "I doner believe it", but according to the Sun, a "run-down" takeaway in Bedford has been given a £49,000 Lottery-funded makeover because it is housed in a Grade 2-listed building in the town's historic high street. Owner Ali Hashemi tells the paper he has seen a 10% surge in business as a result of the restoration of the shop front.
  • Council torn over gender-neutral Mx - the Daily Telegraph discusses a move by Oxford City Council to replace the gender-specific honorifics Mr and Mrs with Mx, as some lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff were reluctant to reveal their sexuality in surveys. But the option to remove titles altogether - as has been done by some government departments and the DVLA - meets with resistance from the chairman of Oxford Pride, who says such a move would take away choice.
  • I'm the Daddy Womble - the Daily Mirror mocks up a photo of "tough guy" Ray Winstone as Uncle Bulgaria from 70s children's TV classic The Wombles to illustrate its story that the actor famous for playing East End gangsters has signed up to voice a character in a computer-animated remake of the show. Winstone is set to play Tobermory. Purists will be glad to know Bernard Cribbins - who voiced all of the original Wombles - will reprise the role of litter-picking patriarch Uncle Bulgaria.
  • Shoppers freeze in supermarkets - the Daily Mail carries the chilling story that temperatures in some high street food shops can be "colder than parts of the Arctic" as supermarkets whack up the air conditioning to cope with what it calls "July heat". The coldest supermarkets were in Newcastle, where shoppers "endured a low of 0.8C", it says. One "Tesco regular" tells the paper: "I usually wear a big coat and hat with a scarf."

Front-line females

Several papers report on Prime Minister David Cameron's announcement that women will be able to take on some close combat roles in the UK armed forces.

The Daily Express reports that the decision - which comes after a recommendation by the Ministry of Defence - "could see women storming enemy trenches and machine gun posts, and facing hand-to-hand combat alongside male comrades". It adds that the Royal Armoured Corps will be the first to open up to women, as there is "less likelihood of injury than in other combat roles".

Image copyright MOD

The Daily Telegraph notes the announcement is "a change to hundreds of years of British military tradition", and follows a two-year study into whether women are "fit for the rigours of combat and whether they would undermine the armed forces' fighting power". Sources confirmed to the paper that all roles would be opened up, "including all posts in the SAS".

According to the Times, the armed forces have "agonised for years over whether to allow women to take up a role that expects individuals to 'close with and kill the enemy'". It carries a letter from Lt Gen Sir Hew Pike, who commanded 3 Para during the Falklands War. He writes that while having seen women "operate with immense skill and courage on special duties" in Northern Ireland, "to my mind the imperative of maximising operational effectiveness trumps the human rights of the 5%". The Times notes that Army research found 4.5% of female soldiers met the required fitness level for an infantry or armoured unit.

But the Daily Mirror says Army sources believe the nature of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan meant "women in non-combat roles had served on the front line and gained the respect of male comrades".

The Daily Mail quotes Judith Webb - the first woman to command an all-male field force squadron - as saying the decision was "motivated by 'political correctness' and doubts many women will take advantage of it". The paper notes Norway was the first Nato member to allow women into all combat positions in 1985.


What the commentators say

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionJoe Watts, political correspondent of the London Evening Standard, and the broadcaster Lynn Faulds-Wood review the papers.

Andy to have around

The papers invest heavily in the potential feel-good factor that comes from Britain's number one tennis player Andy Murray getting to his third Wimbledon final, with his latest achievement making the news pages as well as the Saturday sport supplements.

"No pressure, Andy... but cheer us up" is the headline in the Times, noting that for a fortnight the Scot "has rebuffed suggestions that the hopes of a nation torn asunder by politics rest with him". The paper reports that his response to being asked if he was the "nation's last hope" was to reply "there are a lot more hopes left than me".

Image copyright AFP

Where there is Andy Murray, a comparison with the legendary British tennis player Fred Perry is never far away, and the Daily Mail duly obliges. "The nation is on tenterhooks" to see whether he can become the first British man to win multiple Wimbledon titles since Perry, "who won three in a row from 1934 to 1936", the paper states.

The i, while also believing Murray can add to his 2012 title, brings a note of caution, saying his opponent on Sunday Milos Raonic "will be no pushover; he worked Murray all the way at the Australian Open and was a set and a break up at Queen's last month".

The Sun declares the Scot is playing "the best tennis of his career" and is in "pole position on the day tennis has to share with the British GP".

The Daily Mirror agrees. "Everything seems set for Murray to add to his 2012 US Open title and his historic first Wimbledon win," the paper says. "Fully fit and reunited with [coach Ivan] Lendl, he has been the best player of the tournament in dropping only two sets to get to the final," it adds.

The Guardian reports that Murray will not be the only Scot looking for victory on the grass of SW19. It notes that Gordon Reid, 24, from West Dunbartonshire, will contest both the singles and doubles finals in the men's wheelchair competition.


Air today...

And finally - the papers give their verdicts on the inaugural flight of the prime minister's new plane, dubbed Cam Force One by the wags of the fourth estate.

Image copyright PA

"More prudent than presidential" is the Daily Telegraph's comment on the converted RAF Airbus Voyager jet's maiden sortie to the Nato summit in Warsaw, noting that David Cameron may have been disappointed that the luxury didn't quite match up with the comfort enjoyed by his US counterpart.

An RAF source tells the Times it was a bit more "British Airways than Air Force One", and if Mr Cameron hoped it would "give him a taste of the jetset grandeur to match that of Mr Obama, he was doomed to disappointment."

"The sleek £10m plane looks the part," says the Sun, "but it's spartan on trimmings - with no TV screens or fancy food." The paper also ponders whether Cam Force One might become "Theresair" if Home Secretary Theresa May wins the Tory leadership election. Although, as a BBC paper reviewer, I should point out that "Andreair" is also a possibility.