Newspaper headlines: Mortgage rate rise 'catastrophe' and food bank debate

By Andy McFarlane
BBC News


The papers have different interpretations of the Bank of England's latest research on household finances.

According to the Financial Times, the Bank adopts a "more optimistic tone" than in previous years by saying that most mortgage borrowers could handle interest rate rises of up to 2%.

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Provided incomes were rising, just 1.3% of households would have to reduce spending or work more hours in response to a rate increase, the paper says. It suggests "the Bank might be thinking of raising rates before next autumn - earlier than markets expect".

However, the Daily Mail's analysis is that an extra 300,000 families would struggle to pay their home loans if rates rose to 2.5% overnight. Such a leap would "divide the country between a hard-up younger generation and wealthier homeowners", it says.

Should that sort of rise be combined with stagnation in wages, the Daily Telegraph reports, the Bank research suggests nearly 60% of people would cut back on spending. One in 10 would be forced to seek financial help, while a quarter would have to work more hours or look for a second job, the broadsheet says, concluding that it "could derail the economy".

And the Times reports that it would spell bad news for the "squeezed middle". It quotes Labour MP John Mann saying that the middle classes would likely be "hit hugely" if they had taken advantage of cheap loans to buy cars and other expensive assets. "They are likely to have over-extended themselves without being able to finance their way out of debt problems," he says.

Getting fed

As a cross-party report blames the income squeeze, benefit delays and excessive utility bills for a rise in the use of food banks, the Guardian hears from some of those who've collected handouts. An ex-army nurse with bipolar disorder sometimes "manages all day on cereal", while a struggling mum-of-three is grateful that "people at the food bank don't judge you".

The Daily Mirror says the situation is "deeply shaming", and blames ministers for making "so many go to bed hungry in one of the world's richest nations". It argues: "Ultimately what we need are jobs paying decent wages and a welfare state that protects the unemployed, disabled, vulnerable and elderly."

Meanwhile, the Sun welcomes calls for a clampdown on "rip-off merchants" who peddle high-interest emergency loans, and measures to force energy and phone firms to "tell customers of the best deals". Poorer households use 40% of their income to pay for housing, energy and food, it adds.

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According to the Independent, Britons spend 15% of their budgets on food, as opposed to 60% or more in the late 1900s. This, it says, shows "food poverty exists because getting fed is no longer the primary life goal". Given that fatty, starchy, sugary foods... are now relatively cheap, it notes: "Food poverty is also more disguised than it used to be because people who eat poorly in the West are now rarely thin."

The case for state funding of food banks is rejected by some. The Daily Telegraph notes the report's suggestion that some families are driven to food banks because they spend up to a quarter of their income on cigarettes. Daily Express columnist Leo McKinstry highlights abuse of the system by "benefit fiddlers and drug addicts who trade the food as a form of street currency" and quotes one organiser questioning people's priorities when they collect food in cars and taxis.

Robin Aitken, who set up a food bank which only distributes food that would otherwise have been thrown away, argues in the Daily Mail that "chucking public money at them will not make them better - it will merely engulf them in an already over-extended welfare state". He asks: "In what way would our food bank in Oxford have been improved by state funding and a smart new office in Whitehall?"

Likewise, the Times suggests that "welfare spending is not the only answer to poverty", saying individual citizens, faith communities and supermarkets all have vital roles to play.

Power bid

Cartoonists offer their take on former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond's announcement that he will stand for election as a Westminster MP in Aberdeenshire's Gordon seat. Paul Thomas, in the Express, pictures two men outside Parliament noting that the SNP grandee has "thrown his hat into the ring" as they look up at a giant tartan bonnet atop Big Ben's tower.

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Meanwhile, Brian Adock - in the Independent - portrays the tower's clock faces as startled eyes, looking at Mr Salmond lifting a kilt to expose his bare behind tattooed with: "I'm on my way!"

Noting his declaration that his party could hold the balance of power after May's general election, the Sun describes the former SNP leader "bringing along his heavy guns". Given UKIP's Nigel Farage already announced he was "parking his tanks" on Labour leader Ed Miliband's lawn, the paper suggests: "As the Scots might say, Ed's No 10 hopes are handing on a shoogly peg."

"If Labour and the Tories emerge evenly matched, the decision then facing the SNP could be momentous," acknowledges the Independent. "No wonder Mr Salmond hankers to be part of them." However, the Guardian argues: "The SNP has the wind in its sails. But there is a long way to go until May." Likewise, the Daily Telegraph's Alan Cochrane recalls Mr Salmond predicting a "Commons hung by Scottish rope" in 2010, only for the SNP to end up with one seat fewer. "Wee Eck is not sitting pretty just yet," he says.

Out of here

As I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! ends for another series, the Daily Star has an exclusive interview with "king of the jungle" Carl Fogarty.

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And the retired Superbikes world champion says he will be "mates for life" with ex-footballer Jimmy Bullard after they bonded on the Australian set. The Star even reckons they could earn £1m, with TV producers lining them up to present a sports chat show.

But the big reality TV story was the shock exit of singer Pixie Lott from Strictly Come Dancing. Under the headline "That's your Lott, Pixie", the Daily Mirror explains that head judge Len Goodman voted off the star after her head-to-head with Blue singe Simon Webbe.

The Express points out she'd been hotly tipped to win, having frequently topped the leaderboard with professional partner Trent Whiddon. "It was a result to knock the glitterball off its axis and cause head-scratching on sofas nationwide," says Telegraph reviewer Michael Hogan. "The 70-year-old veteran [Goodman] struck a blow for traditional ballroom values," he adds, noting the judge had previously penalised Lott for illegal lifts and "inconsistent" cha-cha legs.

Despite the failure, the Sun says she won't stop dancing - and is planning a reunion with Whiddon for her next music video.

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