Newspaper review: Papers ponder AAA rating fall-out

Sunday newspapers

The loss of the UK's AAA credit rating - for the first time since the 1970s - is reported prominently in Sunday's papers.

Chancellor George Osborne, writing in the Sun, says the loss of the top rating redoubles the government's resolve to deliver its economic recovery plan.

He says Britain has to deal with its debt problem, or interest rates will soar, homes will be repossessed and businesses will go bust.

But he says next month's Budget will show that more can be done to make the economy more competitive.

The Independent on Sunday believes the downgrading is a mark of "failure".

Laid bare

While the Sunday Mirror says that rarely have the shortcomings of a chancellor been laid bare so brutally.

The Sunday Times says members of Mr Osborne's own party are now questioning whether he is the right person to run the economy.

The paper speaks of a wave of criticism among back-benchers, with a number suggesting privately that he should be replaced.

It also says there are fears of a major slide in Sterling, with the pound heading to parity with the Euro.

Such a move, the paper says, would push up inflation, hitting families who are already suffering an unprecedented squeeze on their incomes.

It says both coalition and opposition MPs have expressed deep concern.

'Political disaster'

The Sunday Express says the downgrade is not expected to spook the markets, though it is seen as a political disaster for a chancellor who staked his reputation on maintaining the gold-plated status.

The paper calls for a renewed focus on significant public sector savings.

But the Independent urges the chancellor to accelerate capital spending in the public sector, as part of a package to crank up growth.

The Times, meanwhile, says that Lord Ashcroft, who has donated £10m of his personal fortune to the Conservatives, has declared that he will withhold funding for the next general election campaign.

The paper says his finances played a crucial role in Tory efforts to win marginal seats in 2010.

But Lord Ashcroft has apparently told friends he is unwilling to devote further resources to securing an overall majority in 2015.

Invisible women

The Sunday Telegraph says the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is largely owned by the taxpayer, is to reduce the size of its investment bank by as much as £30bn and cut hundreds more jobs.

The paper says the move is designed to head off growing government pressure for the complete closure of the bank's investment division.

The Observer says an explosive report, to be published on Monday, will show that British women are being squeezed out of power at an alarming rate.

It says the report - from a coalition of organisations called Counting Women In - will demonstrate that female participation in politics and public life is plummeting, and compares poorly with many other European countries.

Under the front-page headline "Blackout Britain", the Express claims the freezing weather is putting the country in danger of devastating power cuts.

It says a million homes narrowly escaped a cut last month - but a gas-fired power station, due to close next winter, came to the rescue.

Assisted suicide

According to the Mail on Sunday, campaigners fear that assisted suicide is being legalised by the back door, as record numbers of people from Britain end their lives at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.

The paper says the clinic helped 33 British people to die last year.

But police passed only a handful of files to prosecutors over the assistance provided by loved ones, and no-one was charged.

The paper says police inquiries can be tough, because of the difficulty in obtaining evidence from abroad.

But it says there have been claims that police are failing to uphold the law and protect vulnerable or disabled people, who could be pressurised to commit suicide.

BBC 'In-fighting'

The Times says there is a suggestion from government sources that the chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, might consider resigning once the new corporation's new director general, Tony Hall, is established in his post.

Sources describe Lord Patten's handling of the Jimmy Savile scandal as "underpowered".

Finally, the Observer says the loss of people with talent and skills, who are taking jobs overseas, also extends to trapeze artists, acrobats and high-wire walkers.

Britain, the paper says, has lost a generation of trained performers to circus troupes based abroad.

Now, an organisation which offers a degree in circus skills is launching a competition, designed to find the best new acts and keep them working in British big tops.

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