Newspaper headlines: Tax law pledge, Brand interview and Keith Harris death

The papers weigh up the Conservatives' pledge to introduce a law to guarantee no rises in income tax, national insurance or VAT in the next parliament - a move described by Labour as a "desperate last-minute gimmick".

The Financial Times describes it as a highly unusual move that would severely restrict the Treasury's room to manoeuvre if David Cameron wins the election.

The FT says the prime minister hopes the promise will inject momentum into his campaign, by highlighting the Tories' commitment to low taxes.

"The prime minister will deliver the latest in a string of offers by both leading parties in the closely fought campaign," says the paper.

The Daily Express says "radical legislation" will ban the tax rises under a new Tory government.

For the Times, the main parties are going head-to-head over which poses the greatest threat to family budgets, with Ed Miliband claiming Tory welfare cuts will require deep reductions to tax credits.

In an editorial, the Daily Telegraph says it is the first time in the campaign that tax cuts, rather than spending pledges, have taken centre stage.

The Daily Mail says the "read my lips" announcement, the biggest so far in the Conservatives' campaign, is designed to increase pressure on Labour over tax.

An analysis piece by Larry Elliott in the Guardian warns voters not to "believe the hype" about the parties' tax plans.

"Be afraid. Be very afraid," he writes. "That was the message from the Institute for Fiscal Studies as it dissected the tax and benefit plans of what are for now the three main Westminster parties.

"The IFS said the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats were as one in trying to hoodwink voters.

"Despite what is said on the campaign trail, there is no magic money tree for the politicians to shake. Promises now will be followed by hard choices later."


'Gloop alert'

Mr Miliband is pictured on several front pages being interviewed by comedian and political campaigner Russell Brand, who has previously urged young people not to vote.

The Labour leader said he agreed to the interview to liven up the election race - Mr Cameron described the meeting as a "joke".

The Guardian says Mr Miliband's surprise conversation with Brand will be broadcast "at the same time as a bread and butter warning to voters about the threat to living standards posed by Conservative spending cuts".

The Labour leader immediately faced ridicule for adopting an estuary accent and streetwise hand gestures in an apparent attempt to mimic Brand's outward nonchalance, says the Times.

But the Mirror says Mr Miliband took Brand to task over the comedian's claims that it is pointless voting in the general election.

Quentin Letts in the Mail writes about the interview and Labour's party election broadcast.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Russell Brand has previously urged young people not to vote

"Gloop alert, Britain. Just when the election was in danger of getting serious with talk of the economy and immigration, Ed Miliband went on an amazing telly offensive last night - amazingly saccharine and yankeedoodle, that is.

"It was so sugary, I felt a little diabetic high coming on."

Michael Deacon's sketch in the Telegraph imagines how some of the conversation might have gone...

Brand: "Forsooth, corluvaduck! Who crosseth o'er the threshold of me 'umble abode? Why! 'Tis Ed Miliband, aspirant perpetuator of patriarchal corporate hegemony! Ed Miliband! Bread Killer Banned, Spread Filly Gland, Red Willy Hand, Dead Silly Brand!"

Miliband: "Now, look. Let me be clear about this, Russell, because I want to be clear about it. Hello, I'm pleased to meet you."

Andrew Smith in the Independent reckons Mr Miliband handled the heat in Brand's kitchen: "It all went so well that Brand might even be persuaded to vote."

Owen Jones writing in the Guardian believes Mr Miliband should be praised for having an interview with someone who has resonated with a lot of young disaffected people.


Nappy-wearing duck

The papers mark the passing of Keith Harris who reached the height of fame in the 1980s with his ventriloquist acts Cuddles the monkey and especially Orville the duck.

An obituary in the Times says Harris was Britain's most famous ventriloquist at that time when his green, nappy-wearing duck Orville became a favourite with the nation's children, even if many of their parents secretly agreed with Orville's jealous sidekick Cuddles the monkey that the irritating bird should be converted into a Chinese takeaway.

The Telegraph says Harris was an entertainer and ventriloquist who performed a long-running double act with a falsetto-voiced incontinent green waterfowl called Orville.

"Harris became nationally famous with his Saturday night programme The Keith Harris Show (BBC One, 1982-90), which introduced viewers to the simpering nappy-wearing duck and his bright orange simian friend Cuddles.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Keith Harris and Orville were one of the biggest acts of the 80s

"In 1982 Harris and Orville scored a Top 10 hit with the plaintive Orville's Song (written by Bobby Crush), featuring Orville's catchphrase 'I wish I could fly, way up to the sky, but I can't', which sold more than 400,000 copies and was later voted the worst song ever recorded."

The Guardian says: "Harris designed and made more than 100 dummies during his career, but was most famous for creating Orville, the green duck who spoke in a high-pitched voice and wore a nappy held on by a gigantic safety pin."

As the Independent puts it: "His smiling gaze forever darting from the stuffed duck in his arms to the audience, Keith Harris always looked delighted, if slightly surprised, at being a celebrity.

"He was a peddler of saccharine innocence, his routine usually involving a song, a story and the lightest of jokes. His fame came in the final days of variety, an age before Xboxes and X Factor."

The Express calls him a childhood favourite: "The death of ventriloquist Keith Harris will sadden many adults who look back with great affection to the family entertainment he provided (along with Orville and Cuddles) in the 1980s on Saturday night TV.

"We mourn him as we mourn a more innocent age."


Tunnel vision

The Times reports that London's disused Tube stations could be turned into bars, restaurants, galleries and exhibition spaces.

At least seven stations and deep-level shelters could be transformed as part of plans to generate £3.4bn to improve the capital's transport network, it says.

Down Street station in Mayfair, which opened in 1907 and closed in 1932, will become the first station to open to possible business ventures.

Transport for London's Graeme Craig tells the Times: "This is a fantastic building. It is in the heart of Mayfair, it's got great heritage, it's been an important station.

"But it has not been used for 80 years. The challenge we have is in a complex difficult space, what uses can we bring to this station? How can we bring it back to life?"

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Rugby World Cup will be held in England later this year

Other stations being considered for reuse include York Road (closed 1932) and St Mary's Whitechapel Road (1938).

The Guardian says Down Street station was used by Churchill and his War Cabinet after the creation of wood-decked meeting rooms and underground living accommodation for up to 40 people.

And finally, the Telegraph reports on its front page that those with tickets for this year's Rugby World Cup who are unfamiliar with the game are to be given a helping hand in understanding the sport's arcane laws.

Ideas thought to be under consideration, says the paper, include providing pamphlets explaining some of the rules when the tickets are sent out, as well as graphics and video clips shown on big screens before and during matches and at fan zones.


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