Newspaper review: Papers question Syria arms move


There are sharp divisions over the wisdom of lifting the EU arms embargo on the Syrian opposition.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Con Coughlin takes EU foreign ministers to task for failing to reach consensus on the issue in Brussels.

The EU is, of course, no stranger to fudging life and death issues, he writes, but while it dithers the Assad regime is driving back the rebels.

If Britain and France are serious about arming the opposition, they had better start doing so soon, he says.

But according to the Sun, William Hague's desire to arm "moderate" rebel fighters has also faced fierce criticism at home, from many senior MPs on all sides of the House.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Max Hastings questions the foreign secretary's assertion that guns could be supplied under "carefully controlled conditions".

This is a notably silly statement from an intelligent man, he says. We would have no way of monitoring the ultimate fate of arms shipments unless we put troops on the ground.

Court plans

"Hostage to a maniac" runs a headline in the Daily Mirror, in its coverage of an attack on warders by a group of inmates at Full Sutton Prison, near York.

A prison source tells the Sun that the incident bore the hallmark of "a pre-planned attack", inspired by the killing of an off-duty soldier in south-east London.

The Independent focuses on reports that 10 mosques have been attacked since the killing in Woolwich.

Fiyaz Mughal, who heads the community cohesion group Faith Matters, tells the paper that the backlash is being fuelled by far-right groups.

The Times reveals details of plans to privatise courts in England and Wales.

Under the proposals, due to be considered by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, funding would be generated by private sector investment and bigger fees from wealthy litigants, such as the Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich.

The Times says the plans to put court buildings and thousands of staff into the hands of private companies could save the Treasury £1bn a year.

But the chairman of the Bar Council describes the plans as "extraordinary" - while former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer says control of court buildings by private providers is not compatible with independent justice.

Cream tea

On its front page, the Financial Times reports that a long-awaited Whitehall review of the UK's nuclear deterrent will conclude that Britain should continue with its submarine-launched Trident weapons system.

Other, more radical options have been judged to be either more expensive or less practical.

The paper says the findings, to be published next month, could provoke a showdown in the cabinet because the Liberal Democrats have long proposed a cheaper alternative to Trident.

Finally, a mathematician from the University of Sheffield has entered a debate which has been raging for years - how to create the perfect cream tea.

Dr Eugenia Cheng has come up with a mathematical formula for the perfect combination of jam, cream and scones, which specifies the best weight ratio and the ideal thickness of the layers.

According to the Daily Telegraph, her findings represent a victory for the Cornish who, unlike their neighbours in Devon, prepare their scones with jam first.

Dr Cheng tells the Daily Mail that making a good scone is like building a good sandcastle - the structure needs a wider base before it gets narrower "so it doesn't collapse or drip".

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