The papers: Referendum pacts, and NHS failings

A large picture of Nigel Farage adorns the front of the Daily Mirror alongside the banner headline: "I'll keep Tories in power to get EU poll next year".

The paper explains the UKIP leader told a BBC interview that he would consider a coalition with the Conservatives in the event of a hung parliament in 2015, and the price would be an immediate referendum on EU membership.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Nigel Farage backing his man in the forthcoming Rochester by-election

The Mirror notes "opinion polls suggest another hung parliament is likely next year."

The paper quotes shadow cabinet minister Michael Dugher, who called Mr Farage's stance a U-turn, as saying: "UKIP is a party joined at the hip to the Conservatives by Tory policy, Tory politicians and Tory money. They are more Tory than the Tories."

UKIP's challenge to the Conservative vote is at the heart of Boris Johnson's article in the Daily Telegraph.

The London mayor says quotas must be brought in for European immigrants to the UK in order to end the "madness" of the current immigration system.

"It is only reasonable for us to have some kind of further protections - involving points or even quotas, agreed with business - so we can manage that pressure," he writes.

He adds: "Only David Cameron can conceivably deliver those changes, since he is the only leader who can lead reform of the EU."

Mr Cameron's own position might be precarious however if another Telegraph story is correct.

The paper suggests the PM could face a leadership challenge if the Tories lost a second seat in short succession when they defend Rochester & Strood against UKIP defector Mark Reckless next month.

An unnamed cabinet minister tells the paper: "If Reckless wins Rochester, there'll be 46 names" - a reference to the number of Tory MPs who would be required to force a leadership contest.

The Telegraph points out that the latest opinion polls put UKIP nine points ahead in the Kent seat.

Unintelligible gobbledegook

Health care matters feature in a big way in Monday's papers, with a four-hour NHS strike set to "cause chaos", according to the Daily Mail.

The Mail says the stoppage is backed by "only a fraction" of staff working for the health service. Its figures suggest only 9.5% of Unison members backed the multi-union action.

Image caption In the last NHS strike, in 1982, union members had rejected a 4% pay offer. This year, the offer is a 1% minimum.

"None of the other trade organisations involved managed to get a mandate from more than half of those balloted," the paper claims.

The Independent explains "the dispute involves more than 400,000 NHS staff, who have been hit by pay freezes or below-inflation rises since the coalition came to power in 2010".

It headlines on "robust plans" in place to ensure patient safety is not compromised during the industrial action.

However the Guardian notes that the action, the first NHS strike over pay for 32 years, could "distress and inconvenience patients and cause problems for important NHS services.".

It says that in London, where military personnel will drive ambulances during the dispute, "patients with a broken limb or trouble breathing, or who have been involved in a minor road accident, as well as women in labour, may have to make their own way to hospital".

The Daily Mirror says some nursing staff have been driven to charity "handouts".

It adds: "Official figures show the real terms average national weekly income fell 4.4% between 2010 and 2013. But for NHS staff it plunged 15%."

The strike is not the only health story in the papers. The Times devotes five pages for a health check on the health service, concluding "it's the patients who pay as money runs out".

The paper's main headline is an admission from a "senior cabinet minister" that restructuring the NHS was the coalition's "greatest mistake".

The Times adds: "The prime minister and the chancellor both failed to realise the explosive extent of plans drawn up by Andrew Lansley, when he was the health secretary, which one insider described as 'unintelligible gobbledegook'.

"Health service insiders say that the scale of the reorganisation, which cost an estimated £3bn, wasted two years as managers were distracted from the urgent need to find £20bn in efficiency savings to cope with rising demand from an older, sicker population."

The Times says: "At least £5bn is wasted every year on inefficiencies, such as overpaying for supplies, out-of-date drugs, agency workers and empty buildings."

The Daily Express focuses on one aspect of failing care.

Image caption Andrew Lansley: Guilty of "gobbledygook" according to an anonymous Times' source

A report from the Care Quality Commission suggests 90% of patients with dementia in state-run homes or hospitals face "variable or poor" standards of care.

Jeremy Hughes, of the Alzheimer's Society, tells the paper: "Carers have told us that their loved ones have gone for hours without food or water in hospital or that they were in pain but no one realised."

The Daily Mail calls the situation "a betrayal".

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt tells the paper there is no excuse for poor care and adds "that's why we've trained thousands of NHS staff to recognise the signs of dementia and invested in dementia-friendly care homes and hospital wards".

The Daily Mirror says local authority care homes are closing due to cuts, leaving vulnerable pensioners "struggling to find places to live".

It notes that Doncaster has shut all seven of its care homes in an effort to balance the civic budget, and Devon is proposing closing 20 homes there.

Among the cases of pensioners it quotes as having to move abruptly is 109-year-old Vera Rostron of Cleethorpes, whose care home closed this month.

"I am going to miss all the kindness," she says.

'Upstairs downstairs'

The under-fire banking sector might expect support from "one of their own", but apparently in the case of Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, that support is not forthcoming.

The Daily Telegraph says Mr Carney has warned that the bankers who caused the financial crisis and "got away without sanction" are "still at the best golf courses" and could start another global meltdown at any moment.

Speaking at the IMF's annual meeting, Mr Carney suggested "bosses of the big banks behind the 2008 crash should have paid more for their errors, such as handing back severance packages and spending time in jail", the paper reports.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mark Carney: "Bankers got away without sanction"

The Mail also picks up on the story.

It says Mr Carney's rebuke for the banks came as two senior HSBC executives were poised to quit over the jail threat posed under tough new banking regulations.

"If you are the chairman or the head of the risk committee, you have a responsibility for the activities of that institution. If you don't think you can do it, you shouldn't be on the board," he told the meeting in Washington.

"It does focus the mind of directors and it should. I would like to think that the minds of directors are being focused. Some of them might not like it - that's okay."

In a separate report, the Mail notes that directors of the country's largest firms saw their earnings rise by a fifth last year despite a national pay freeze.

Pay and bonuses of boardroom executives of FTSE 100 firms is now more than 100 times the average Briton's annual salary.

In its comment section, the Independent says "growing inequality" is "undermining political and economic stability".

"We should not be dismayed if voters refuse to accept this new Edwardian-style 'Upstairs, Downstairs' society and protest as they have across the eurozone in recent years and in England in 2011, as well as voting for ever more maverick parties," it adds.

'A lot of beef'

Talking of mavericks, Jeremy Clarkson's tales of being chased out of Argentina by a "baying mob" apparently incensed by the display of a number plate which "accidentally" could be seen as a reference to the Falklands War, comes under the withering scrutiny of Argentina's ambassador to the UK.

Writing in the Independent, Alicia Castro accuses the Top Gear presenter of "fabricating a horror story" which is "designed to portray Argentines as savages".

Mr Clarkson's account of being pursued by a mob who wanted to burn the car "did not actually happen", says Ms Castro.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jeremy Clarkson: Corned beef may be off the menu for the conceivable future

The paper says the ambassador's refutation of the widely reported story will "put pressure on the BBC to open a full investigation into the events".

Ms Castro is particularly annoyed that the presenter made reference to the sinking of the General Belgrano and the Sun's famous (or infamous) "Gotcha!" headline.

To do so, "speaks volumes about his particular sense of humour and his political and cultural frames of reference".

She says Clarkson's assertion that he and his crew were attacked because they were English "overlooks the fact that there are 250,000 British and descendents of British people living happily in Argentina, and enjoying the respect and friendship of Argentine society as a whole".

"He is apparently unaware of the fact that in the very same Argentine Patagonia, just a few miles from where he was, lives a community of 70,000 Welsh people," she adds, noting that another BBC crew in the area had been "very well received".

The presenter said he feared he was about to be "barbecued", but Ms Castro writes: "Argentina has never practised cannibalism. We do, it is true, eat a lot of beef. But we have never eaten a journalist."

The Independent does not approach the BBC star for his take on the ambassador's attack, but this looks like one of those stories with plenty of petrol still in its tank.

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