British newspaper front pages review at midnight: Thursday 28 October 2010

Tonight’s papers are relatively poor, all falling back onto familiar territory in the absence of a real story. The Guardian picks up a story from a few weeks ago, the Telegraph goes with the weakness of the legal system and The Times rants about the cost of Europe. A slow night by all accounts.

The Guardian – ‘Chaos over restraint rules for deportees” – picks up a story that it splashed with a few weeks ago. It concerns the death of an Angolan refuge while being deported under the control of private security forces.  The story goes that the government had banned the use of private security firms in the exportation of failed asylum seekers but brought them back after only ten days. While the story is relatively interesting, it is not particularly well-sourced, with a quote from Keith Vaz, head of the home affairs select committee, providing the bulk of the argument. Ed Balls also pipes in with some diatribe but the interesting angle, the government’s reaction, is noticeable by its absence. Nevertheless the journalists involved have worked well to give the story some bulk, and interviews with the strategic director of the UK Border Agency helps keep the pace flowing.

The Telegraph – “Watched, but free to rape and kill” – has a very weak story whose inclusion as the splash seems to be almost entirely political. It concerns new figures from the Ministry of Justice that show that 196 serious crimes were committed by criminals under the supervision of the authorities. These 196, it later reveals, come from a total of 48,388 offenders who were under similar schemes last year. This makes it just over 0.4% of criminals under supervision reoffended. Not really a story. But what’s worse, the article does not mention once what the comparable figures were last year – presumably because they don’t exist or, more likely, because they don’t fit the article’s argument. It is only in the fourth paragraphs that the piece’s poorly veiled political cause becomes clear– “The figures are likely to undermine the argument of Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, who is seeking major reforms to sentencing policy…” The Telegraph is often a quality paper, but this is gutter journalism.

The Times – “New budget storm erupts over Brussels profligacy” – is a story about a row over the €12 million cost of the headquarters of the EU’s new foreign service. The Prime Minister is to urge a freeze in the budget for Brussels, but Britain’s EU commissioner Baroness Ashton has provoked his wrath by announcing the new building will go ahead. Nothing more to be said about this really.

The FT – “Merkel demands rewrite of EU treaties” – is about German chancellor Angela Merkel’s demands that the EU rewrite its constitution to ensure stability of the Euro. Whilst the single currency doesn’t affect the UK directly, it is still fascinating to see the internal wrangling between the various parties and the article provides a great summary of the current state of the Eurozone.

The Independent – “Power failure, UK’s wind farm plans in disarray” – has compiled an interesting report on the number of approvals for wind farms in England, claiming that only one-in-three applications is getting approved. This is a worrying trend for those who believe in renewable wind energy, and suggests that NIMBYism is a real threat.

The I-Paper – “Loophole that saves top footballers millions in tax” – is an interesting headline, and much better than last night’s stag rubbish. Inside the story is on page four and is quite interesting, particularly for the demographic they are aiming at. It basically shows that footballers sacrifice up to 50 per cent of their wages in a trust for their retirement. This keeps their taxes low. It’s actually not as exciting as I thought.

If you only read one: The FT is probably just about the pick of a bad bunch.

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