Nigel Farage's 'by-election bid', Harry and Cressida 'split' and Ann Maguire tributes

Nigel Farage "could win a seat at Westminster within weeks", reckons the Daily Telegraph as it looks ahead to the by-election prompted by the resignation of former Conservative Patrick Mercer.

It quotes the UKIP leader saying he will give "very serious consideration" to standing as a candidate for Newark, Nottinghamshire.

One Tory MP tells the Times it's a "nightmare scenario" for Downing Street, given the by-election will take place after May's European and local elections, by which time UKIP is expected to have built support.

Reviewing the papers for the BBC News Channel, Daily Mail contributing editor Ian Birrell said: "Even if they (UKIP) don't win, it doesn't actually matter because they are going to dominate that debate and that gives them a little bit more momentum going into the next general election."

However, broadcaster Daisy McAndrew said: "If a UKIP person does win this by-election... they will only have this seat for a year [before the general election]. If that's the leader of the party, that could be a bit problematic."

For the Daily Mail, a cross-party campaign to brand UKIP as racist just alienates voters. "When the political class clubs together to insult them, no wonder they are tempted to take their votes elsewhere."

Meanwhile, in the Guardian's G2 section, Hugh Muir writes that while many voters dismiss UKIP as a joke, the prospect of them gaining power is "no laughing matter". In the Mirror, Labour leader Ed Miliband writes: "A vote for UKIP would be a vote for Thatcherism."

  • Mr Farage announced later on Wednesday that he would not stand, saying he did not want to look like an "opportunist" when he did not "have any links with the East Midlands".

Briefs encounter

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Many papers report claims that Prince Harry has ended a two-year relationship with Cressida Bonas.

"News of their split ends talk of an engagement, with sources saying that the repeated speculation about a wedding was the final straw for the couple's relationship," suggests the Telegraph.

"Harry dumps Cressie," is the Daily Mirror's take, as it repeats claims from a US magazine that it "just wasn't working out". However, the Daily Mail quotes one source "close to the couple" as saying: "[The] suggestion that the prince supposedly 'dumped' Cressida because she was 'too needy' is so wide of the mark."

Still, the Sun reckons Miss Bonas is "Cressfallen" after pulling out of a planned trip to the US, where the prince is to attend a friend's wedding.

The Daily Star is just as interested in the prince's choice of smalls. Picturing him at a Help for Heroes rehabilitation centre where trials were under way for the Invictus Games - the sporting festival for injured service personnel - it zooms in on Harry's designer briefs.

The unscheduled appearance of the prince's underpants even warrant a mention in the Daily Express's editorial column, which declares: "With his usual ease and humour he made a joke of it. No danger of Harry getting his knickers in a twist over a smalls wardrobe malfunction."

'Forest of bouquets'

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Tributes to fatally stabbed teacher Ann Maguire once again feature prominently, with the Daily Express describing a "forest of more than 1,000 bouquets" at the gates of the school where she taught, Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds.

"Behind every bouquet, candle and card," writes the Daily Mail's Paul Bracchi, are "stories of so many pupils she inspired". He quotes from personal messages crediting the teacher with "turning my life around", making "such a difference to countless students" and helping to "shape the woman I've become".

The Daily Telegraph dedicates a page to a personal account from the novelist Anthony McGowan, who had Mrs Maguire - then Miss Connors - as a form tutor in 1976 and remembers her face "always on the verge of a smile".

"What I remember most about her was her determination to get the best from us, to put into our heads what we needed to get through, to get by," he writes.

The Sun reports that Monday should have been Mrs Maguire's day off but that she had gone to the school specially to help Year 11 pupils prepare for GCSE exams. Meanwhile, the Times says she had brought up her sister's two young sons after their mother died of cancer.

Mrs Maguire's head teacher, Steve Mort, is quoted by the Guardian saying that she would have "opposed metal detectors" at the school as a security measure against students carrying knives. The paper quotes one union leader calling for calm among parents and policymakers, arguing: "We must ensure we don't turn schools into fortresses."

In its editorial column, the Independent agrees: "To head too far in the direction of bolstering security would seem an inappropriate tribute."

Commons car crash

"Robust" growth in the first three months of the year has raised hopes that the economy will overtake its pre-crisis peak in expansion by the summer, according to the Financial Times.

And the sketchwriters view the chancellor enjoying the upper hand over his shadow Ed Balls in the Commons. "A rise in the GDP figures on the same day as Treasury questions is as rare as an unclaimed parliamentary expense," observes John Crace, in the Guardian. "And George Osborne was determined to make the most of his hour in the sun."

"What rotten timing for Labour's doom and disaster man," agrees the Mail's Quentin Letts, who describes Conservative backbenchers passing slips of paper to ministers so they could "tell Labour MPs about job rises in their constituencies".

"As usual," the pair "swapped insults", says the Telegraph's Michael Deacon, noting that Mr Osborne "likened Mr Balls's handling of the economy to his recent car crash".

Meanwhile, away from the Commons, the Guardian reports that there is "no recovery for the lowest paid". It quotes a think tank's figures suggesting that almost three in every 10 people on zero-hours contracts are unable to work as much as they would like.

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