Page last updated at 07:58 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

What the papers say


Journalist Fionola Meredith takes a look at what is making the headlines in Tuesday's morning papers.

Peter Robinson takes a break for six weeks, but will he return?

That is the big question in the papers.

The News Letter opts for a "Terminator-style" headline.

"I'll be back", it says, as Mr Robinson defiantly made it clear that he will not stand aside.

The paper describes Mr Robinson's move as "a tiny personal victory" in surviving thus far. But it adds that only time will tell whether the step-down is actually the first move in an internal plot to remove him.

"Is it a case of going, going ... gone?" asks the Irish News, alongside a front-page Ian Knox cartoon, showing Arlene Foster throwing a life-belt to Peter Robinson, who appears to be drowning in the lock at the Lock Keeper's Cottage.

Loss of authority could prove the final undoing of Mr Robinson, according to David Gordon in the Belfast Telegraph. It is hard to be taken seriously when you and your wife are the butt of lurid jokes, he says.

While time has been bought, Mr Gordon adds that few would gamble their homes on Mr Robinson surviving.

'Damaged brand?'

As the paper's editorial elaborates, the question is not so much whether he breached the rules - an allegation he strongly denies - but whether he will be seen as "a damaged brand". As the paper points out, politics is as much about public perception as about bare facts.

The papers react to Arlene Foster's temporary appointment as first minister.

"Good luck Arlene, your country needs you," says the Mirror. The News Letter considers Mrs Foster "a highly articulate and very capable politician" and considers her appointment "an astute move".

It says that Mrs Foster is seen as a Robinson loyalist - loyalty now rewarded with what the Sun calls "six weeks in the hot seat".

"Strong resolve and steely ability" - those are the reasons behind her appointment, according to Dan Keenan in the Irish Times.

The Irish News points out that she is as far removed from the traditional face of the DUP as it is possible to be - she is young, a woman, regarded as a moderate, and with no background in the fundamentalist heartland.

Meanwhile, the Belfast Telegraph has her styled as the "Louboutin-loving female first minister", in a reference to her enthusiasm for expensive footwear.

The Robinson story appears on the London front pages too.

Paying price

But there are other big stories. The Times reports that Labour's support has fallen to its lowest level since September, as the party pays the price for disunity after the third failed attempt to ditch Gordon Brown.

The niece of Quentin Davies, the defence minister, is pictured in handcuffs in the Daily Telegraph - Jessica Davies is shown arriving at a court in Versailles, where she admitted cutting the throat of a man during a drinking session in Paris.

Describing herself as "a monster", she said she remembered the feeling of the knife going in easily. She is accused of voluntary homicide and faces up to 30 years in jail if convicted.

British Airways staff have reportedly taken up a new way of venting their frustration, according to the Telegraph.

Their plans to strike were thwarted by a court injunction. Now they have apparently resorted to pouring vintage wine down the sink on planes to show their anger with the airline's management.

The Telegraph reports that some members of the Unite union have adopted the strategy as a form of "passive resistance". A new strike ballot is planned for later this month.

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