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Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 04:51 GMT
'Westminster farce' dominates papers

For a process which appeared so incomprehensible, many of the papers manage to sum up the election of the new Speaker of the House of Commons with ease.

The Sun views it as "a bizarre contest like a game of conkers", while The Guardian sees it as like a version of musical chairs, "in which one player was allowed to sit down through the game".

Writing in The Times, Peter Riddell says it was "an absurd and demeaning shambles", and concludes that "all in all it was a bad day for the Commons, just when it can ill afford one".

Billing it as a "Westminster Farce", The Independent places much of the blame on Sir Edward Heath, who as Father of the House, chaired the proceedings.

According to the paper, he "certainly lived up to his reputation as a man of unbending stubbornness".

However it concludes that it was not the first time "he has angered MPs on all sides".

'Dying trees'

The long, drawn-out election may have been a frustration to many MPs, but to others it may have served to take their minds off the problems with their new office accommodation.

The Daily Telegraph reports how the new 230m block opened for business on Monday "amid complaints about dying trees and an absence of clocks".

It says the dozen ornamental fig trees, which were grown in Florida and rented at a cost of 150,000, appeared to be dying.

More seriously, The Mirror reveals that strategically placed buckets are catching rainwater from a leaky roof.

Catholic king

While Mr Martin has become the first Roman Catholic to hold the post of speaker, becoming King is a position not open to Catholics.

But The Times reveals how the Prince of Wales suggested in a private conversation with Tony Blair and the former Liberal Democrat leader, Paddy Ashdown, that a Roman Catholic should be allowed to ascend to the throne.

The call is recounted in the diaries of Mr Ashdown, which are being serialised by the paper.

It says the remark is fully in line with the prince's belief that Britain "should embrace all faiths and cultures".

According to the paper the disclosure will provide a huge boost to those calling for the disestablishment of the Church.

Rural motorists

The Independent raises the prospect of the government offering concessions to rural drivers to counter protests from motorists and the countryside.

It says rebates on fuel duty could be extended to rural motorists.

The plans may also extend to setting up a fund to allow country residents without their own transport to buy vehicles for car pools.

'Path of violence'

The Guardian considers the decision of the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, to invite the Likud leader Ariel Sharon, to join a national emergency government.

According to the paper Mr Barak would rather "save his own skin than pursue the peace of the brave" to which he committed himself after his election last year.

It believes the price of such a deal, especially on land transfers, would be too high.

The paper says that if Mr Barak cannot gain the support of the Knesset, he should call a general election and force the public to confront the question of whether Israel is at last prepared to pay the high price of peace.

The Daily Telegraph focuses on the position of the Palestinians.

In its view "the path of violence is leading them ever further from the independence which they crave".

It believes the Palestinians threw away a historic opportunity for peace, by not striking a deal with "a boldly doveish" Israeli Prime Minister at the Camp David summit in the summer.

Sued for bullying

The Daily Express reports that a teenager, who claims she was left psychologically scarred by years of bullying at school, is suing an education authority for 75,000.

It says that Leah Bradford-Smart's action against West Sussex County Council is being carefully watched by other local authorities, who fear it could "open the floodgates to hundreds of similar cases".

It its editorial, the paper expresses hope that the case will prompt schools "to act to stamp out bullying as it happens, not pay for it later".

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