Warsi's Tory 'war' over Gaza, Scotland's independence debate and northern revival

"War", "mutiny" and "rebellion" are words used on Wednesday's front pages to describe how Baroness Warsi left her ministerial post at the Foreign Office.

The Sun calls the situation "Civil Warsi".

The peer's comments that Britain's stance on the Gaza conflict is "morally indefensible" and "not in British interests" made for what the Guardian called an "astonishing charge sheet". This also included her concerns over the style of the government, the recent sacking of moderate ministers Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve and her perceived criticism of new Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, the paper says.

The Daily Mail "decodes" the baroness's resignation letter to tell readers "what she really meant". However, the paper is unimpressed by her conduct, describing her as "flouncing out" and speculating as to whether her anger was fuelled by a perceived "snub" during the recent cabinet reshuffle. In any case, argues the Mail's Andrew Pierce, "her ability didn't match her ambition".

Being Muslim, working class and northern, she "was the manifestation of the idea that the Tories were no longer the party of privilege", he writes, before adding that she became known as the "Blundering Baroness" and "was rarely allowed near a TV or radio microphone because of fears she would commit gaffes".

James Delingpole argues in the Daily Express that the peer is "ill-informed", adding: "If anything is 'morally indefensible' about the government's 'approach and language' on Gaza it is that it has taken the side of the aggressors rather than the victims. Hamas started the war." Meanwhile, Daily Telegraph cartoonist Adams entitles his effort "principled stand" and imagines the peer climbing a pedestal in the shape of the word "me".

David Cameron, meanwhile, has defended government policy on Gaza, saying he has been "consistently clear" in calls for peace, and agreeing the crisis in the region was "intolerable".

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However, the Sun suggests such reports may be the result of "snide briefings" issued the minute she resigned, with people arguing she was "addicted to grandstanding, she was over-promoted, she was in a non-job, she was a token appointment". It adds: "None of that is remotely important... What matters is that she resigned from the government because of her principles. That's something that's all too rare. And praiseworthy."

The Daily Mirror says the resignation highlights that Mr Cameron "dangerously misjudged the reaction of the public and his party to Israel's actions in Gaza", adding: "His rash support for Israeli belligerence and his refusal to condemn the slaughter of Palestinian civilians placed him on the wrong side of domestic and international opinion."

Oliver Wright, in the Independent, suggests Baroness Warsi's appointment to cabinet in 2010 sent a message that the Conservatives were an inclusive party but argues that the "sentiment... has not survived". He adds: "Ministers have too often appeared tone deaf to the concerns of Muslim communities in Britain".

However, the Times reports that the party's election strategist Lynton Crosby believes Mr Cameron has "little to gain from adopting a tougher stance against Israel". It quotes a "senior Tory" saying: "Lynton says there are hardly any of our marginal seats where the Muslim vote will be a decisive factor."

Peter Brookes, in the Times, shows the peer delivering a swift kick to Mr Cameron's groin, with the PM complaining: "That was entirely disproportionate!"

In the Telegraph, Christopher Hope suggests that some in the Tory ranks may be on the end of different form of punishment, noting that the baroness's note-taking - which earned her the nickname "the stenographer" - has made some colleagues uneasy at the thought she might publish her memoirs.

'Two-hour blether'

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The first televised head-to-head debate ahead of the referendum on Scottish independence pitted First Minister Alex Salmond, speaking for the "Yes" campaign, against former UK chancellor Alistair Darling, who heads the pro-Union Better Together campaign. And, taking their lead from snap opinion polls, the headlines are almost unanimous as to who "won".

  • "Darling wins debate as crowd turns on Salmond" - Daily Mail
  • "First blood to Darling in televised Yes/No debate" - Independent
  • "Scotcha! Darling pounds Salmond" - The Sun
  • "Darling lands barrage of blows on Salmond in TV debate" - Guardian

Scotland's press called it in similar vein, with the Daily Record's front page using the headline "Alex takes a pounding" and Glasgow's Herald declaring: "Darling draws first blood." The Edinburgh-based Scotsman acknowledges a fiery debate but says there was "no clear winner".

For the Telegraph, there was a clear loser - the rest of the UK, where viewers trying to watch broadcaster STV's live streaming of the event were left frustrated when it crashed. Many vented their frustration on Twitter, while Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg raged: "This could be symbolic of the darkness that will come on England if Scotland go down the route of independence."

However, the Financial Times's Kiran Stacey reckons other broadcasters might be forgiven for not showing too much interest, given "even David Cameron was not sure he would watch the whole event". Meanwhile, the Telegraph's Michael Deacon viewed it as a Commonwealth Games "bonus event: the Two-Hour Blether".

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The Times rates each politician's performance in six categories such as screen appeal, worst blunder and funniest joke, scoring Mr Salmond higher in just one. Meanwhile, the paper's sketchwriter Magnus Linklater marvels at Mr Darling - "once voted the most boring man in Britain" - turning "Mr Angry" to put his opponent on the back foot.

For Anne Perkins, in the Guardian, it left "nimble, aggressive, witty" Mr Salmond in a "strange land - under pressure".

Janan Ganesh, for the FT, judges: "Mr Darling was forensic in exposing the technical knottiness of ending the union. This came at the cost of a hectoring tone. Mr Salmond radiated wonder at the quasi­ Scandinavian miracle that an independent Scotland would become and portrayed his opponent as a visionless bore. But his shallow streak was hard to ignore."

Still, for the Scotsman's Tom Peterkin: "Neither man managed to deliver a devastating knock-out as they exchanged blows, and it remains to be seen whether Mr Salmond's performance was convincing enough to sway enough undecideds to Yes."

Max Hastings, in the Mail, argues that the debate "ignored the hard questions" because Mr Darling "did not dare to say frankly to his audience: an independent Scotland will be Iceland without the fish, a dependency culture without visible means of support".

Not so grim?

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While Scotland debates the merits of independence, five cities in northern England - Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle - have been setting out their vision for revival. And as the Guardian points out "a trans-Pennine rail tunnel that could take 125mph trains through some of England's most beautiful countryside" is at its heart.

The Sun reckons it's a vision of a northern "megacity" and recruits five people to argue that each area is "just as good as London". They include legendary Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall, who sings the praises of Liverpool folk, TV host Dan Walker explaining how Sheffield gave the world stainless steel and Liquorice Allsorts, and singer Michelle Heaton raving about Newcastle's kebabs.

For the Times, it's the Tories "building bridges with northern voters", although the Daily Star notes complaints from critics that it's all about "buying northern votes".

The Independent argues that "if it is a piece of crude electioneering we shouldn't mind so much; after all, politics is about listening to the needs of all the people". But it adds: "Even more deprived parts of the UK, such as the north-east and south Wales, should not be neglected." Likewise, the Mirror accepts "it would be churlish not to welcome Mr Osborne's recognition that the north could again be an economic powerhouse," but adds: "He now needs to show this was not a gimmick."

But for the Financial Times, doubts over funding "cast shadow" over the scheme. Despite the plan winning Chancellor George Osborne's backing, it points out that the Treasury later clarified that it would "inform our thinking... it should not be read as a commitment to fund £15bn". The FT sets out in graphical format the current levels of spending on infrastructure, including 39% on London and south-east England and just 4% on north-eastern England, current average rail speeds between the cities and their output measured against Dutch and German rivals.

The Times's editorial praises the city leaders for avoiding the temptation to try to "cut London down to size". Of the proposed "relatively modest £15bn, 20-year programme" of infrastructure investments, it says: "It amounts to a prudent investment rather than charity."

And Allan Massie, in the Telegraph, reckons: "The overcrowding and cost of living, especially the cost of housing, in London and the South East may be reaching a tipping point. If so, then the markets may see opportunities for investment and development in the northern cities of England, and in Glasgow and the west in Scotland."

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