Newspaper headlines: Gatwick drone probe and Lord Ashdown death

By BBC News

  • Published
Paddy Ashdown
Image caption,
Lord Ashdown was diagnosed with bladder cancer in October

There are many tributes to Lord Paddy Ashdown after the former Liberal Democrat leader died aged 77 on Saturday.

For the Sunday Express, he was a true statesman. The Sunday Times describes how he made the Liberal Democrats a formidable force - taking them from obscurity and beginning a revival that led them to the coalition government in 2010.

The Observer reflects on how he styled himself as the "Action Man of politics" and suggests much of the party's success was down to his "energetic, highly-focused campaigning" in by-elections and in local politics.

His success, argues the paper, was "no mean achievement for a man who was regarded as uncollegiate by many of his colleagues and was a moderate speaker".

But with "ruthless ambition", he turned the party into a national movement that earnestly believed it could win a measure of power.

Meanwhile, the Mail on Sunday feels that after stepping down from the leadership, he evolved into a grandee figure for the party, commanding a level of respect which his successors could never match.

He was a special forces soldier, an intelligence officer, a diplomat - and a "giant of British politics", the newspaper says.

In short, it concludes, "they don't make 'em like Paddy any more".

Brexit outlook

With fewer than 100 days before Britain leaves the EU, the Observer feels both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are playing alternate versions of brinkmanship.

All anyone can agree, suggests the paper's political editor Toby Helm, is that nobody agrees on anything.

A report in the Sunday Times claims Theresa May's allies are plotting so she can hang onto power until the autumn of 2021 when she would hand over power to a new Conservative leader.

But the Sun on Sunday predicts the plan will cause uproar among Eurosceptics, who want her out shortly after the UK leaves the EU at the end of March.

Without any climbdown from the EU, the Telegraph thinks it's likely her plan will be rejected by the Commons. And in such circumstances, it concludes that no deal is the least bad option.

Meanwhile, the Observer reports Jeremy Corbyn is facing a storm of criticism from Labour activists and MPs after suggesting he would press ahead with Brexit if the party won a snap general election.

The paper says he has also been accused of betraying the party membership by appearing reluctant to back the idea of supporting Remain in another referendum.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Thousands of people were stranded at the airport as police hunted for those flying the drones

The Mail on Sunday - among other newspapers - features photographs of a couple who it says have been questioned by police about the illegal use of drones that have caused massive disruption at Gatwick Airport.

The paper claims that the "three day fiasco" could have been averted in minutes but offers of help from the RAF and Army electronics experts were rejected.

The Observer asks whether the disruption can be prevented elsewhere. The paper suggests the belated military response is a troubling reminder that drones can present a more sinister threat.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, ministers are scrambling to protect Britain against potential "copycat" drone attacks at other transport hubs.

The Mail on Sunday feels last week's events exposed depressing levels of incompetence within the government, security services and airports - and claimed that our leaders aren't fit to run a parish council.

According to the paper, a team of military electronic warfare specialists were prevented from bringing the crisis to an end because ministers refused to sanction their deployment.

The Sunday Mirror blames the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, saying his complacent approach has been nothing short of staggering.

Meanwhile, the Sunday People says that the incident begs the question: what other vulnerabilities are out there?

Attempting to provide an answer to a similar question, the Sunday Times carries a warning from the Security Minister Ben Wallace that al-Qaeda is resurgent and seeking to carry out new terrorist atrocities against airliners and airports.

Elsewhere, the ramifications of President Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria are examined by the Observer.

The newspaper believes it offers Islamic State militants the chance to regroup and regain the initiative to threaten the west again.

Christina Lamb in the Times wonders what kind of message Mr Trump's decision sends to Syrian Kurds who have fought the Islamic State group and now find themselves left to the mercy of Turkish troops waiting on the border.

Finally, the Sunday People features the panto star Berwick Kaler, who is retiring after 41 years of being dame at the Theatre Royal in York.

His final performance will be in February after a career which has seen him work alongside stars such as Pierce Brosnan and Gary Oldman. He recalls that when Mr Oldman was Dick Whittington's cat in 1979 he fainted three times while wearing the cat suit on stage.

And what started as a polite chat on yesterday's BBC Radio 4 Today programme quickly turned into a quintessentially British row about the pecking order of the social elite, the Observer says.

The Telegraph reports John Humphrys became involved in a squabble with the programme's guest editor, David Dimbleby, when he suggested he was "quite posh".