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EDITIONS
Monday, 9 December, 2002, 09:46 GMT
Papers target 'Cheriegate' spin doctors
Ruminations on the evils of spin doctors fill the newspapers once again.

But it is not the "spin" coming out of Downing Street that has upset Barbara Amiel of the Daily Telegraph - it's the "doctor" part of the phrase, the claim to special expertise.

Looking askance at how Labour's team has dealt with the present crisis surrounding Cherie Blair, she comments: "If they were doctors, they'd be struck off the register."

Others, too, talk up - or play down - the notion that all the stories swirling round the prime minister's wife have opened cracks between the Blairs and their media advisers.

The Daily Mail and the Mirror find themselves for once in the same corner, demanding a personal statement from Mr Blair to stop the rot.

'Wacky friend'

The Mirror talks of "the lies that could topple Labour"; the Mail of "a scandal that speaks to New Labour's culture of mendacity, which is corroding trust in public life and government".

The Sun sees Mr Blair trying to "put his foot down" about his wife's "wacky friend" - "the first time in ten years that he has over-ruled Cherie" on something to do with her "lifestyle guru".

The Guardian alone thinks "Cheriegate" has got out of hand, admitting it was "a good story" but insisting the "grand conspiracy theory" being built upon it is too much.

It's the details of Mrs Blair's lifestyle advice that many of the papers just can't resist.

That Mrs Blair is a top lawyer adds to the fun.

The Daily Star comments: "She might be a good judge - but she has been a bad judge of character."

Rebirthing ceremony

The incredulous tone is caught by Tony Parsons of the Mirror.

"At a rebirthing ceremony in Mexico," he writes, "Mr and Mrs Blair entered a brick-built pyramid in their swimming costumes, prayed to the four winds, smeared their bodies with mud, papaya and watermelon and were encouraged to cry out loud.

"And then the prime minister came home to talk to the firefighters."

Terror measures

There are reminders of other realities too.

The Financial Times highlights government plans to shake up the organisation of emergency planning, in response to fears of a terrorist attack.

The headline in the Daily Express is "Britain put on terror stand-by".

The Star says the government will buy 5,000 body bags and 220,000 decontamination suits.

Stuff and nonsense, muttered through gritted teeth, is the general reaction to last night's Turner prize competition.

'Real art'

A big photograph on the front of the Times celebrates the fact that one of the pictures which helped Keith Tyson to victory featured "a fantasy front page of the newspaper".

The Guardian accepts that Tyson's work made people "laugh and scratch their heads".

But its critic finds the images and objects "incomprehensible".

"Emotionally thin," says the Independent, "the tricksy, adroit antics of some brainbox."

Sharing the mood of bafflement at modern art, the Mail has decided to set up an art competition of its own.

The paper is offering a 20,000 prize for the best figurative painting - what it calls "real art".

And, in the meantime, it prints a gallery of images for its readers to enjoy - half are genuine artworks, while the others are just silly pictures.

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