Newspaper review: 'Grief and fear amid the ruin'

The aftermath of the weekend's earthquake in Nepal is still a major story in Monday's papers.

As the Independent puts it: "Nepal, one of the poorest and most inaccessible countries in Asia, is struggling to emerge from a nightmare which has rendered much of its capital, Kathmandu, uninhabitable."

The paper acknowledges that with official death tolls heading towards 2,500, the true scope of the disaster is as yet unknown.

Hundreds of thousands of survivors are sleeping outdoors, it continues, scared of frequent aftershocks, living without power and with a shortage of water.

The paper adds that the quake, which shook the entire region from Tibet to Bangladesh, had the power of 20 atomic bombs.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Quake aftershocks have reduced Kathmandu's electricity supply, but the city's airport is open to allow aid flights in

Jason Burke, the Guardian's man in Kathmandu, says the capital's older buildings built of brick and wood stood no chance when the tremors struck.

"In the former royal city of Bhaktapur, dozens of traditional temples have been reduced to dirt and palaces have lost entire wings," he notes.

In a sidebar, survivors from the avalanche that hit Mount Everest's base camp describe seeing a "shattered ice cliff" sweeping through the tents.

Australian climber George Foulsham says it was like a "50-storey building of white" engulfed the area.

He tells the paper he has abandoned his long-held ambition to climb Everest as he felt the mountain was "saying it's not meant to be climbed for now".

The Daily Telegraph has a first-person witness piece from British expat Arthur Blair.

"My overriding feeling - other than sheer terror, and astonishment at how much a solid building can bend and wobble - was of being hugely disconcerted.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Everest base camp after the avalanche

"When the earth beneath your feet is no longer reliable, what hope is there for anything else?" he recalls.

Many papers focus on Britons missing in the quake zone.

The Daily Express says dozens of UK tourists and expatriates were unaccounted for, with hundreds of mountaineers still feared to be stuck on Everest.

The Times reports that the impending disaster was predicted by experts who were in Nepal to assess its readiness for such an event.

Prof James Jackson tells the paper: "The consequences are very much man-made... it's buildings that kill people, not earthquakes.

"The real problem in Asia is how people have concentrated in dangerous places.

"If you live in the Kathmandu valley you have other priorities, daily threats... but it doesn't mean that the earthquakes go away."


'Election magic'

And now on to politics, and housing seems to have become the new election battleground.

Ed Miliband has followed up plans to impose a rent rise cap in line with inflation with a further policy to scrap stamp duty for first-time homebuyers.

The move, which will apply to all properties worth under £300,000, is intended to help young people get a foothold in the housing market, the Daily Mirror says.

Image copyright PA

"With the average price in England and Wales about £270,000, scrapping the tax would help 90% of buyers," the paper continues.

It says the policy will be a piece of "well-timed election magic" which will be funded by "a crackdown on tax avoidance by landlords, cut tax relief for those who fail to improve shoddy properties and hike tax on holding companies which snap up UK homes for foreign investors".

Non-EU buyers of UK homes would also face a 3% tax levy, and rules would ensure that at least 50% of all new builds would be offered to local people first, the Mirror adds.

The Times says Labour will face "intense scrutiny" over its claims that it has fully funded a scheme which it says will cost the Treasury £675m over three years.

Elsewhere, the paper's analysis attacks Labour's rent control plans.

Columnist Oliver Kamm argues that private landlords would simply take their properties off the market, adding to the housing shortage.

The Financial Times reports that the leader of a landlord body thinks the proposal could even push up rental prices.

Richard Lambert of the National Landlords Association is quoted as saying: "Capping annual rises to inflation sounds like great consumer protection initiative, but wherever these formulas have been introduced, it's proved to be counterproductive because it leads to a culture and expectation regular increases by whatever is allowed."

The Daily Mail says fair rent campaigners have condemned the Labour plan because it restricts rent controls to three years and it allows "loopholes" which will allow landlords to evict tenants more easily.

Alex Hilton, of the Generation Rent campaign says: "These loopholes are scary when you think they're attached to a big financial incentive to use them - because that's the only way they will be able to put rent up in the first three years."

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Getting young people to vote could be crucial for Labour's chances

The paper says George Osborne has dismissed the plans as a "totally economically-illiterate statement that grabs headlines, but is dismissed by every expert who looks at it".

The Independent's editorial says Labour's plans contrast with the Tories' determination to let "the market" sort out the housing crisis.

With a soaring number of young renters unhappy and in financial trouble, the paper adds Mr Miliband's plan "could make all the difference to his chances" if he gets sufficient numbers of them out to vote on 7 May.

The Times has an article that shows why this "young, unhappy" constituency may not spell electoral success for Labour.

It notes that in a YouGov poll taken last month, Mr Miliband's party held a lead over the Tories in every age group from 18 up to 60. However in voters aged over 60, the Conservatives were favoured by 36% to 26%.

With the average age of the person casting their vote in the last election being 49, such statistics leave this election balanced on a knife's edge.


'A premonition'

The other big politics story obsessing the media is Ed Miliband's on air "spat" with Boris Johnson during the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show.

The Daily Telegraph says the "bitter confrontation" culminated with the London mayor saying Mr Miliband would do "more damage to the country than he did to his brother".

The jibe came after the Labour leader had accused Mr Johnson of being in favour of "state-sponsored tax avoidance" by refusing to disown non-dom status.

The paper says the clash continued with Mr Miliband telling Mr Johnson that "he was better than that", and saying Tory election guru Lynton Crosby had told the London mayor to bring David Miliband up.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBoris makes his point to Ed on The Andrew Marr Show

Sketch-writer Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail said Mr Johnson "just out of his morning sheepdip, by the look of that hairdo" provided by far the best moment of the show in his sofa exchanges with Mr Miliband.

"Ping - a light lit over Boris's bean and he remembered that Mil' had been in the Treasury for yonks and had never done anything about non-doms.

"'Are you the same creature?' he asked. 'Is there some sort of doppelganger?'

"Mil adopted a superior, smoothie manner, pulling atrocious faces. They were talking over one another.

"Marr (no friend of Cameron, remember) said: 'I have a premonition this is [a taste of] things to come'," Letts adds.

The Guardian sees things rather differently.

Image caption Andrew Marr: "waving his right arm like a conductor's baton" according to Quentin Letts

It says a "relaxed" Mr Miliband "joked about Johnson's ambitions to be prime minister" but gave the mayor "an awkward time" over non-dom policy and the "negative influence" of Mr Crosby on the campaign's tone.

Matthew Norman says that much of the Tory media is already anointing Mr Johnson as David Cameron's post-election successor.

Noting that the Sun seems especially keen - with yesterday's editorial declaring "BoJo has got mojo"- Norman jokes that its praise must surely be unconnected with two dinners that Mr Johnson took recently with Sun owner Rupert Murdoch.

"Equally irrelevant is any memory Rupert may have of Boris dismissing News of the World phone-hacking allegations as politically motivated codswallop.

"The suggestion that he would instruct his titles to insert a leader with whom he knows he can do business is probably absurd and frankly offensive," Norman archly observes.


'Athletics' wonder woman'

Many papers salute the efforts of those who took part in the London Marathon.

The Daily Express notes that 750,000 spectators lined the capital's streets to cheer on the record 38,020 runners.

Celebrities taking part, the paper continues, included DJ Chris Evans, TV presenter Jenni Falconer, F1 driver Jenson Button, Olympic rower James Cracknell and US model Christy Turlington.

Button tells the paper the 26.2 mile run was "a lot more painful" than a Grand Prix.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Paula Radcliffe won the London Marathon in 2002, 2003 and 2005

The Daily Star records a Beckham family day out, as football star David, wife Victoria and sons Brooklyn and Cruz all wore Team Beckham T-shirts and waved banners to support 12-year-old middle son Romeo who was running in the three-mile childrens' race, before the main marathon.

The Star pictures numerous of the "fun runners" who joined the professionals on the course, including a bobsled team (with sledge), a couple who married at the 13-mile mark, "David Cameron and Nigel Farage", a "Tyrannosaurus Rex" and a man dressed as Jesus, complete with substantial cross on his back.

The Times says an injury-hit Paula Radcliffe relied on "the magic" of the marathon to get her around the course.

The 41-year-old world record holder was running for the final time in the race she has won on three occasions.

"Down the last mile, I thought, 'I don't care about the time' I just wanted to thank as many people as I could," she said.

The Guardian says Radcliffe completed the course with continual applause ringing in her ears but "nearly lost it" with emotion when she saw a big sign saying "We're going to miss you", hanging by the Embankment.

It was her "slowest ever marathon" the paper notes, but Radcliffe was determined to complete it, not even stopping for Denise Lewis, who attempted a TV interview during the race.

"The curtain had come down on her career; now it was time for photographs with her husband, Gary, and her children, Isla and Raphael.

"It was at this point that Radcliffe found out she had been beaten by Spider-Man - the athlete Paul Martelletti, who broke the world record for the fastest marathon dressed as a superhero. "

The athletics great joked her son would be "thrilled" that "Spider-Man had beaten mummy".

"Everyone else, though, was just grateful for a final glimpse of athletics's wonder woman running into the sunset," the paper concludes.

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