Newspaper headlines: PM's pay call, Sam Smith's Grammys and HSBC tax claims

David Cameron's call for firms to give employees a pay rise are given an airing by many papers.

It's front page news for the Daily Telegraph and Times, which quote the prime minister urging businesses to ensure that voters feel the economic recovery in their "pay packets and bank accounts and lifestyles".

The Sun, on the other hand, boils down the PM's speech - to be made to the British Chambers of Commerce - to a single phrase: "We say, you pay." It gives Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne a makeover as daytime TV stalwarts Richard and Judy in a twist on the "You Say, We Pay" quiz from the couple's former Channel 4 show. The paper backs the pay rise call, saying it would be the final nail in the coffin of the "cost of living crisis".

The Daily Mirror finds in Mr Cameron's speech an echo of predecessor Harold Macmillan's line "you've never had it so good". However, it quotes the Trades Union Congress arguing the average wage is "worth £2,500 less a year" since the last election.

In the Telegraph's view, the pay call is a "Miliband-lite" style of interventionism that "risks convincing voters that the Labour leader has a point". And the Daily Mail argues: "It's all very well for Mr Cameron to plead with prospering firms to be more generous with employees. But how about a passionate commitment to give every worker a pay rise - by cutting taxes."


'Ghastly Grammys'

British singer Sam Smith's four awards at the Grammys prompt some wordplay, being declared "Sam's Gram slam" by the Daily Star. The Mirror renames the soul star Grammy Smith, while the Sun gives the entire ceremony a new moniker: "The Sammys."

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The Daily Express reports how, in his acceptance speech, Smith thanked his ex-boyfriend for the heartbreak that inspired his success. "America is mad about the boy," says the Times. In its profile of the singer, it says he attributes much of his success to his mother's commitment and father's willingness to drive him around.

Other papers are more focused on Madonna's rear, much of which was revealed when she flicked up what little dress she was wearing while walking up the red carpet. "Got a new album out, Madonna?" wonders the Mirror.

It was the sort of dress and behaviour that made for what the Mail labelled the "ghastly Grammys". Among the stars highlighted are Rihanna - dressed "as a loo roll holder" - and "aspiring singer" Joy Villa wearing "a dress made out of the sort of orange net fencing you find on a building site". As the Telegraph's fashion director Lisa Armstrong puts it: "The clothes... did a heroic job of undermining any attempts by The Artists to inject some dignity into proceedings".

Her Telegraph colleague Neil McCormick highlights the success of "plump, gay" Smith in combination with that in the Baftas of "geeky, weedy, freckle-faced" Eddie Redmayne. "Both are representatives of some distinctly British entertainment values in which talent supersedes glamour, a capacity for making a virtue of ordinary humanity that may be Britain's greatest export strength in an over-polished, Americanised entertainment market."

Still, it seems Labour's shadow arts minister Chris Bryant isn't happy. He's quoted in the Independent complaining at the "disturbing" lack of diversity at the Baftas, saying he counted "barely a dozen" non-white faces in the crowd.


Eye-catching headlines

  • "Feeling peckish, petal? Tray a dahlia, darling" - the Daily Mail on the development of six varieties of the flowering plant with edible tubers
  • "Spurs bosses go batty over lodge" - the discovery of newts and bats could scupper Tottenham Hotspur's plan for a 45-room lodge to let players "doze" at their training ground, reports the Daily Star
  • "Prayer-o-plane" - 11 UK passenger jets flew so low on fuel last year they had to make Mayday calls to land, says the Sun
  • "Not just anyone for tennis at Wimbledon" - middle-ranking British tennis players will find it harder to get wild cards for the grand-slam event, says the Daily Telegraph

Fat chance

Suggestions from some scientists that guidelines warning people away from high-fat foods such as cream and cheese "should never have been written" make front-page news for some papers. "Butter isn't bad for you after all," says the Daily Mail, as it charts the decline in consumption of whole milk and butter against the rise of semi-skimmed milk and reduced-fat spreads since people were warned about the link between saturated fat and heart disease.

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The Daily Express goes further, suggesting a diet of "real food" containing plenty of natural fat "could be the key to living a long and healthy life". It quotes some health specialists suggesting that families should avoid low-fat foods which are often "packed with sugar" and so contributing to obesity rates.

However, the Mail quotes Prof Tom Sanders, of King's College London, pointing out that, in the decade to 2008, cardiovascular disease mortality under the age of 75 fell by 55%.

In her analysis, Times health correspondent Kay Lay reckons: "Most people have a good idea of what a healthy diet looks like. Eating plenty of fruit and veg and avoiding processed foods is probably a much better option than becoming fixated on what percentage of your diet is made up of which type of fat."


Taxing situation

The Guardian has more revelations about the bank HSBC's efforts to help wealthy clients evade hundreds of millions of pounds worth of tax. Among them is the fact that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) "knew of wrongdoing" when the prime minister appointed the bank's executive director a trade minister but had taken no action to prosecute the bank.

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The Financial Times notes that HMRC's response was pragmatic in offering a 30-day window to confess in return for reduced penalties, as it aimed to maximise the sum recouped. But the FT argues: "The value of a successful prosecution lies as much in the chill it casts over other would-be offenders, and may be much greater than the money directly raised. No-one who commits a crime should be able to bargain for a pardon."

As the Sun complains: "The HSBC scandal is more evidence that our justice system is quick to punish the little guy while giving the rich a free pass." Likewise, Mirror business editor Graham Hiscott says we shouldn't bank on the government taking HSBC to task. "Two-faced ministers talk tough in public but are also busy looking after their banking buddies," he says. "The government is stuffed with ex-bankers, and the banks with former Whitehall pen-pushers."

The Daily Mail says leaked files show that a "virtual celebrity Who's Who of thousands of wealthy customers" including Hollywood stars, musicians and businessmen held secret Swiss bank accounts with HSBC, although there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by the celebrities.

Is it a "global scandal or a storm in a Swiss tea-cup", wonders the Independent's Ben Chu, before pointing out: "The secret bank accounts... support the claims of researchers that the true wealth of the very rich is not reflected in the official statistical surveys. Wealth inequality in Western countries could be more extreme than it appears in the official data."

In his analysis, the Times's Alexi Mostrous says that despite modern "information exchange agreements" with countries like the US and UK, Switzerland topped the Financial Secrecy Index list of most secret countries in 2013. The sum flowing into the country had risen from $668m to $739m (£439m to £486m) the previous year, he says, adding: "Even with this week's leaks, many of the world's wealthiest will continue to bank in the grandfather of tax havens."


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