Media Watch 24/3/15

By Rowan Williams

Senior Conservatives have rallied to the defence of Prime Minister David Cameron, after Cameron caught fellow Conservatives off-guard by stating that he would not seek a third term as Prime Minister. In the interview, Cameron also named three potential successors for Conservative Party leadership: Theresa May, George Osborne and Boris Johnson. Observers have now claimed that the comments could distract the public and media from the Conservatives’ general election campaign, with attention diverted to the potential leadership battle in the party instead. In addition, Cameron has encouraged the public to consider a time when he will no longer be serving as Prime Minister.  Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Mayor of London Boris Johnson both defended the Prime Minister’s comments as a straightforward and honest answer, while Labour and the Liberal Democrats were quick to attack the Prime Minister’s comments, with some criticising the comments as arrogant.

UK inflation fell to zero in February, official figures show – the lowest since records began in 1988. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell from 0.3 percent in January due to price movements in food, and transport costs. The fall was greater than the predicted 0.1 percent fall by economists. The Retail Price Index (RPI) fell to 1 percent from 1.1 percent. The news has led economists to estimate that Britain will face a period of deflation in the coming months as lower oil prices continue to lead to lower prices in general. The Prime Minister has heralded the figures as “good news for family budgets”. Inflation had generally held above 2 percent in Britain over the past seven years. It is likely that UK interest rates will remain low following the development.

Three men have been executed in China for their involvement in a Kunming knife attack that left 31 people dead. Iskandar Ehet, Turgun Tohtunyaz and Hasayn Muhammad had all been convicted in September of charges of murder and terrorism. None of the three men had been present during the attack at Kunming train station in March 2014 that also left 140 injured, but the men are understood to have trained others for terrorist activities. All three men had been arrested attempting to leave China two days before the attack was carried out. The attackers were blamed on Uighur separatists from Xinjiang. Four attackers were shot dead by police at the scene, while one woman pregnant at the time of her arrest has been jailed for life.

The Papers

Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement that he will not serve a third term as Prime Minister makes headlines in most papers today. The Daily Telegraph leads with the Prime Minister’s desire not to “go on and on”. The surprise announcement could cause instability in the Conservative Party, the paper writes, as thoughts turn to the party leadership race. The Guardian writes of “Dismay that remarks will distract party” after the Prime Minister named Theresa May, George Osborne and Boris Johnson as potential successors. The paper writes that while all three have been suspected of desiring Party leadership, Cameron had not “publicly acknowledged their ambitions” until now. The Times writes that Cameron has fired a “start gun” on the leadership race, creating “Turmoil” in the party through his “off-the-cuff remarks”. Cameron “risked blowing the Tories’ election campaign off-course” through his comments, the paper claims. The Financial Times writes that a spokesman for Cameron has stressed that his listing of three potential successors was not meant to be definitive. In other news, The Independent leads with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Union Party (DUP), and what the “price for electoral deal” with the party would be in a coalition government. DUP politician Ian Paisley has said his Party could side with either Labour or the Conservatives should they agree grant Northern Ireland £1 billion extra in funding.

British Media on China

On China’s execution of three men involved in the Kunming train station attacks: the execution of Iskandar Ehet, Turgun Tohtunyaz and Hasayn Muhammad received coverage from the BBC and The Guardian. The BBC writes that the attack “caused shock across China”. Both outlets include a focus on the Uighur minority in their coverage, with the BBC echoing Uighur rights’ groups argument that suppression of Uighur freedoms “is fuelling unrest in the region”. The Guardian’s agency piece writes that separatist attacks “have grown in scale and sophistication” and spread beyond Xinjiang, with the Kunming attack the biggest outside Xinjiang.

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