Newspaper headlines: Budget 2015 reaction and DNA research
As usual, the post-Budget papers use graphs, tables, case studies and - in some cases - special pullouts to explain how the chancellor's announcements will affect readers.
Opinion is divided - largely according to each paper's political outlook - on whether Britain is "walking tall again", as George Osborne asserted to the Commons. However, most agree with the assessment of the Guardian's Patrick Wintour that by "stealing" the opposition's fund-raising ideas - in the form of increasing the levy on banks and cutting tax relief on pensions - he shot "so many Labour foxes... it looked as if David Cameron's Heythrop Hunt had galloped through the chamber".
While foxes are referenced in most of this morning's papers, sketchwriters found rabbits conspicuous by their absence from the chancellor's speech. "As the speech reached its peroration, one waited to see what he would produce from his hat as the coup de grace," writes Matthew Engel in the Financial Times. "Nothing came. A few hamsters and other miscellaneous rodents crawled out (and once or twice there was a rat smell) but I'm hanged if I can see anything to settle the election."
"Instead George gave us an intricate connect-the-numbers exercise that was aimed to make austerity look less austere," writes the Times's Ann Treneman. However, Brian Reade complains in the Daily Mirror: "He was firing out statistics like a junkie high on calculus, painting a picture of a country most of us don't recognise. One where inequality doesn't exist, the rich make the biggest sacrifices and Northerners give him credit for stealing millions from their council budgets."
Away from the Budget
- "The return of public human dissections" - Edinburgh University is to offer six one-day workshops, costing £100 per ticket, to "get under the skin to the real flesh and bones of anatomy", reports the Telegraph
- "Would you eat a steak that's 180 days old?" - the Mail's Tom Rawstorne does, finding a "Stilton-like taste" in a mould-streaked £65 cut of "blackened hue" that's a sample of the latest foodie fad
- "Gypsy kings" - the Sun reports criticism of a council that set up a £1.6m traveller camp that's home to just eight families
- "Is this puss too big for his boots?" - the Daily Express's Dominic Midgley explores complaints that Wells Cathedral's resident cat, Louis - a tourist favourite - has become a menace to other pets
Some writers were impressed by Mr Osborne's performance. "The chancellor showed his ruthless streak with a financial statement to MPs calculated to harass and harry the Opposition," writes Daily Express political editor Macer Hall.
Quentin Letts, in the Daily Mail, had never seen the chancellor so composed. "Five years ago he looked a prancing, callow youth, unequal to changing a nappy let alone salvaging an economy wrecked by Labour. Yesterday it was a different figure who stood there: sleeker, more mature. The turnaround of our economy has been a remarkable achievement and he has that, whatever happens on polling day."
The Daily Telegraph's Michael Deacon also marvels at Mr Osborne's transformation but found the chancellor's declaration that "the sun is starting to shine" delivered with a "sadistically sardonic twang". He writes: "[It] made it sound less like a celebration than a warning, but maybe that's the point... Because he had to make us feel that we couldn't take this emergent sunshine for granted - and that a Labour government, whether by accident or unhinged design, would extinguish it."
Describing "lots of rabbiting, but no feelgood rabbit", the Guardian's John Crace writes: "Even by the egotistical standards of political life, 25 minutes of self-congratulation is pushing it a bit and the only person now lapping up every word was George Osborne's mother. His biggest, and perhaps only, truly loyal fan. Much earlier, his wife, Frances, looked like she had lost the will to live."
It's Mr Osborne's jokes that Donald MacIntyre takes exception to in his Independent column. The paper says the chancellor "used announcements of £41m in spending to poke fun at the Labour leader". Highlighting the review of "deeds of variation" - the device Mr Miliband's family have been accused of using to avoid inheritance tax - the sketchwriter says: "All those civil servants tied up to embarrass Mr Miliband!"
The Sun does its best to liven up its Budget coverage with references to popular culture. When Mr Osborne's visage isn't superimposed onto the twerking figure of "Dave" from the Money Super Market advert, it's overlaid on the body of a goalkeeper to illustrate the government's measure to help savers. The paper also depicts the chancellor in a Miley Cyrus pose to accompany its "at-a-glace" round-up of the "Wrecking Balls Budget", a reference to the shadow chancellor Ed.
Mr Osborne's choice of suit troubles the Mail. It asks: "Cuts hit your trousers, George?" as it points out that Mr Osborne's "half-mast turn-ups" attracted almost as much attention on social media as did his policies.
Sun political editor Tom Newton Dunn highlights the chancellor's "sober dress choice" of a grey tie as a symbol of his approach to the economy, while Guardian's Steve Bell pictures Mr Osborne stripped of all but the mask of a gimp suit the cartoonist habitually pictures him wearing. The tie is preserving his modesty and his Budget box reads: "Fifty shades of giveaway."
The Times's Peter Brookes also pictures the chancellor in racy pose. Entitled Poldark and Handsome, after the BBC drama series, the cartoon shows a bare-chested chancellor wielding a huge scythe, while asking: "Fancy a bit of this?" A more conventional version of Mr Osborne is used by the Telegraph's Adams, who draws the chancellor "walking tall" up a mountain of debt.
Under a "cheers for our beers" headline celebrating the cut in beer duty, the Daily Star's cartoon captures the political nature of the Budget by picturing a blue rosette falling from the Budget box. "Oops! How did that get in there?" asks the chancellor. However, the Daily Mail's Pugh imagines two MPs walking over Westminster Bridge, commenting: "Now the Budget's out of the way we can focus on serious issues like who's going to host Top Gear."
"True Brits?" wonders the Mail. "Our DNA is 45% French." Like many papers, it's reporting the results of research into the genetic make-up of 2,000 white Britons with grandparents born in the same locality. And it points out: "We like to think of ourselves being different to our European neighbours. But the English owe a lot to the French and a fair amount to the Germans - at least as far as our genes are concerned."The paper also highlights the "Celtic myth", saying the research shows that: "Despite their claim to a cultural kinship, the Celtic peoples do not form a single group."
The Telegraph says Oxford University data shows Britons "are still living in the same 'tribes' as they did in the 7th Century", as it prints maps showing the similarities between modern groupings and those of Britain in 600 AD. The Independent says: "It also reveals much older movements and separations of people, such as the ancient ancestry of the Celtic people of North Wales... and the clear genetic division between the people of Cornwall and Devon that still persists along the county boundary of the river Tamar."
Furthermore, the paper says: "Geneticists and historians... have been astonished to find that patterns in the DNA of Britons living today reflect historical events going back centuries." It cites the fifth-century collapse of the Romano-British culture, the subsequent Anglo-Saxon rise and the Norse Viking invasion of the Orkneys.
Despite their "momentous historical effects", reports the Guardian: "None of these events did much to alter the basic biological make-up of people living in Britain. The findings support records suggesting that few high-ranking Roman officials settled in Britain, remaining largely segregated from the local Celts."
The Times draws one conclusion from this that overturns common stereotype: "Vikings were keen on pillaging but they drew the line at rape."
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