Newspaper headlines: Islamist concerns, Wolf Hall and election predictions

The threat from Islamist extremists is once again the focus of some front pages.

While the Sunday Times reports that pupils in some UK state schools are at risk of radicalisation, the Observer claims British women are being encouraged to carry out terror attacks on home soil by others who have left the country to join Islamic State fighters in Syria.

The Sunday Telegraph's focus is on convicted al-Qaeda fundraiser Baghdad Meziane who, it says, is using the human rights act to prevent ministers from deporting him. The paper describes him being an associate of another convicted terrorist, who mentored two of the gunmen who carried out the recent attacks in Paris.

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Inside, the broadsheets offer analysis of Britain's handling of the extremist threat. Camilla Cavendish, of the Sunday Times, writes that problems remain in Birmingham schools said to have been targeted by a "Trojan Horse" plot to Islamicise teaching, while universities have been reluctant to confront potential radicalisation. "When fanatics infiltrate the system, it is moderate Muslims who suffer most. Successive governments' attempts to get a grip on radicalisation have been thwarted by a combination of fudge, ignorance and complacency... We urgently need a more coordinated and determined approach if we are to deter rootless young men from a destructive, desperate, deadly path."

John Ware describes in the Independent on Sunday how four British Muslims have "put their heads above the parapet" to counter the "non-violent extremism" that exists in Britain and confront their "extremist co-religionists who claim their interpretation of Islam is mainstream". They all agree, he says, that "ultimately the only way to counter this kind of bigotry and intolerance is to forge a new and recognisably British interpretation of Islam".

Meanwhile, in the Telegraph, former MI5 director-general Lord Evans argues that the legal powers of police and security agencies to intercept and monitor communications must be extended. "It would be bizarre if we were to reach a position where the benefits of new technology were available to criminals and terrorists, but were forbidden to the security agencies and police," he argues. "Sticking with the status quo will bring us to that point."

Eye-catching headlines

  • "Prezza: Who has bugged my jag?" - Sunday Mirror columnist and ex-Labour deputy PM John Prescott complains a hidden tracker and listening device has been draining his car battery
  • "The return of low-tech living" - Book sales are eclipsing digital alternatives, while vinyl records and Polaroid cameras are making comebacks, says the Sunday Telegraph
  • "Top snacks put chew in danger" - the Sun on Sunday names 10 foods - including gammon steaks, pasties and some smoothies - that can blow your daily sugar, fat or salt limit in one go
  • "'BBC locked poet Dylan in library'" - A radio producer locked up Dylan Thomas "for several nights" with a bucket for a toilet to ensure he finished his play Under Milk Wood, reports the Daily Express

Man Who Would Be King

Next Wednesday's opening of the BBC's dramatisation of Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel's Booker winning novel chronicling the rise of Thomas Cromwell to the position of Henry VIII's chief minister, attracts more than a few headlines.

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Much of the attention focuses on Homeland star Damian Lewis, who plays the king in the six-part adaptation. He's quoted by the Sunday Express suggesting that the public school atmosphere of Eton was perfect training for the role: "The structures of a boarding school and its regimented and hierarchical nature, seemed to me not dissimilar to the Tudor court." His "svelte" Henry might be at odds with popular portrayals of the king but Lewis is quoted saying: "It's a little-known fact but a good piece of pub quiz trivia, that he had a 34in waist long into his late 30s."

Meanwhile, the Independent on Sunday ponders how Lewis will measure up to previous Henrys by profiling "the top eight" to have taken on the part. Alongside "acclaimed method actor" Charles Laughton's portrayal of the king in 1933 film The Private Life of Henry VIII, it mentions Syd James's 1971 role in Carry on Henry and Homer Simpson's cartoon version in the 2004 episode Margical Mystery Tour.

And if readers thought Lewis's smile a little too perfect for the era, they are set right by the Sunday Telegraph. It reports that programme-makers' efforts to ensure historical accuracy included "an unexpected insistence on straight, white teeth". Mantel is quoted saying that few people in Tudor times had bad teeth "because they ate so little sugar".

Despite the attention to detail, the Mail on Sunday says the drama could never have made it to screen without "one surprisingly low-tech" and modern accessory. It says tennis balls were cut and placed as "feet" on lighting stands to prevent equipment scratching the floors of stately homes where filming took place.

Poll positions

Political analysts are gazing into their crystal balls in a bid to predict the winner of May's general election. But the results appear clouded by fog.

Conservative blogger Iain Dale who, the Independent on Sunday reminds readers, "accurately predicted the European election results" foresees a "three-way coalition". Having looked at all 650 UK constituencies, he predicts 44 Labour gains, 28 Conservative losses and 33 for their Liberal Democrat coalition partners. Meanwhile, he reckons UKIP will end up with five seats and the SNP 18.

The same paper reports a ComRes poll declaring the Conservatives viewed "more favourably" by respondents than Labour but still one percentage point behind in terms of voting intention.

The Sun on Sunday publishes the results of a survey suggesting the "coalition's economic strategy is working", with the number of respondents reporting they have more to spend than a year ago rising by a third in the past two months. However, it also has Labour ahead on current voting intentions - this time by two points.

In spite of all that, the Observer reports the results of yet another poll - conducted by ICM - suggesting that 54% of the voting-age population believe the Tories will win the election. Peter Kellner, of pollster YouGov, agrees in the Sunday Times that David Cameron's party are on course to win the most seats. However, he says the PM could still lose his job if the Liberal Democrats backed a Labour coalition.

And if readers get the impression that the pundits aren't really sure what'll happen in May then - according to the Sunday Mirror - most of the public isn't much better. "One in three voters could still change their minds about how to vote," it says, citing ComRes figures.

Some 39% are, however, sure of one thing: that they are "already bored with news about the general election".

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