Newspaper headlines: Inequality, North-South divide and 'colder than Everest'

As some of the world's wealthiest and most powerful people prepare to meet at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting, the spotlight falls on inequality.

An Oxfam report suggesting that by next year the richest 1% of the world's population will own more wealth than the remaining 99% provides the Guardian with its lead story. The paper quotes the charity's international executive director saying she will warn delegates that inequality is "bad for growth and it's bad for governance".

"We see a concentration of wealth capturing power and leaving ordinary people voiceless and their interests uncared for," she adds. According to the Financial Times, the finding "will add spice to a gathering that is already under pressure to explain the divergent economic outlook for different nations, and among different groups within them".

Whether the message gets through is up for debate, with Iain Martin wondering in the Daily Telegraph: "Is anything concrete achieved amid all the glitzy networking and corporate backslapping?" He hears from both WEF supporters who point out the non-profit organisation's aim is to "improve the state of the world" and others "who worry about the spectacle of business leaders, central bankers and politicians schmoozing" at the expense of shareholders or taxpayers.


Eye-catching headlines

  • "Magna Carta blunder on £2 coin rewrites history" - historians tell the Daily Mail of a "schoolboy error" in the design showing King John signing the document with a quill. He'd have used a wax seal, they say
  • "You can't boot me out... I've got piles" - the Sun reports Home Office denials that a Cameroonian criminal avoided deportation by arguing his haemorrhoids left him unfit to fly
  • "Spooky surprise for the Clooneys at £10m home" - the Daily Express hears from spoon-bender Uri Geller that "a ghost of a little girl" regularly crosses a bridge near George Clooney's new Berkshire pad
  • "Dairy cows, once a pet food staple, head for dinner plate" - customers at upmarket restaurants are loving the marbled meat of "milkers", according to the Times

Income gap

Inequality in Britain is also under the microscope, thanks to two other reports. The Daily Mirror highlights Equality Trust research suggesting the UK's 100 richest people increased their wealth by some £40bn in the past year.

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Meanwhile, a report from anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggests almost two in every five families with children - some 8.1 million people - are struggling on incomes below the sum judged necessary for a socially acceptable standard of living, says the Independent.

That rises to 51% in families with only one wage-earner, says the Daily Mail, arguing that "traditional families... are vulnerable to financial difficulties". As the Guardian points out, the measure used by the survey "reflects both the increasing cost of living relative to earnings and benefit cuts for households in and out of work".

However, the Times forecasts better news in terms of living costs, reporting that falling fuel prices mean inflation is "on course to average zero". An increase in disposable income, the paper says, could almost double from 1.8% to 3.7%. Chancellor George Osborne is "seeking political credit for the boost to the economy", it adds. However, former Bank of England monetary policy committee member David Blanchflower warns in the Independent that "we should fear deflation, not welcome it," as he points to evidence suggesting it usually leads to "recession, rising unemployment and financial stress".


Grim up north?

Another form of inequality - that known as the North-South divide - and a report suggesting it is growing, is highlighted by several papers. The Independent plucks the headline figure from a Centre for Cities think tank report suggesting that "for every 12 jobs created in the South, one is lost in the North". The paper's graphic indicates the geography is not so straightforward, with Aberdeen and Newcastle among the top 10 towns for private sector job creation between 2003 and 2013, and Newport, Swindon and Gloucester among those suffering the heaviest losses.

However, as the Times points out, London, Cambridge, Brighton and Bournemouth lead the way in job creation, bettered only by Milton Keynes which has enjoyed a "roundabout route to success". While the new town has risen above jokes about its perceived lack of culture to create 24,400 jobs - an increase of 18.2% - in a decade, the Times names Hull, Blackpool and Rochdale among the places suffering the heaviest job losses.

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The Financial Times highlights Coventry - a Midlands city - as a success story, saying it created 7,800 net private sector jobs in 2013. The paper points to both the number of start-ups (7,000 business launches last year) and one of the best records in attracting foreign investment as factors in its performance.

Larry Elliott, in the Guardian, says the North-South divide is growing despite the efforts of politicians of all parties and urges the state to trust people to run more of their own affairs locally. "The free market approach has failed... The centralised, target-driven approach has failed... For more than half a century, regional policy has been based on the idea that the man in Whitehall knows best. That idea has been tested to destruction."

The Independent's editorial suggests more home working could help matters. It says: "Twenty-first Century workers can be based just as easily in Grimsby as Guildford. Millions of ex-commuters would win an immediate gain in time spent with family, and savings on exorbitant rail fares. Companies would share in the increase in productivity and the taxpayer would no longer have to subsidise southern rail and Tube networks."


A bit parky...

If readers aren't feeling a chill when they open their morning paper, they might well be once they've finished reading, with the Daily Express reporting a "killer freeze fear". Weather reporter Nathan Rao says forecasters were predicting temperatures as low as -15C (5F) in parts of Scotland, along with snow and wind in places.

That would make it the coldest UK morning for three years, calculates the Metro. Meanwhile, the Sun says temperatures will be colder than at Mount Everest and advises: "Better put more Himalayas on."

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"Thousands of OAPs could die in super-freeze," is the Daily Star's grim warning, while it also predicts "widespread commuter chaos". Alongside spectacular photographs of already snow-covered hillsides, the Daily Telegraph reports official requests for people to check on elderly and ill relatives, friends or neighbours.

However, the Guardian's Martin Kettle chides journalistic colleagues for their hyperbole. He writes: "The Met Office acts increasingly as though Britain is facing an invasion. Almost all the time, these apocalyptic deluges and bombarding winds are a total exaggeration... High on weather porn - journalism's habit of warning that Britain will be blown away by a 'weather bomb', frozen solid or fried to a crisp in a few weeks' time - they increasingly prioritise more exciting weather that may - or, more likely, may not - be coming our way in a few days' time."


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