Tory papers print the unprintable

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The Independent Online
TODAY'S Tory papers hold little comfort for John Major. The newspapers on which the Government can normally rely are united in condemning its handling of pit closures and the economy.

The Sunday Telegraph says defeat of the Government may be the only way to get Britain out of the crisis. Its leading article says that Mr Major has lost all credibility after leaving the exchange rate mechanism and signing the Maastricht Treaty. 'The British people now resemble the British troops in the First World War. They are lions led by donkeys.'

In the first leading article under its new editor, Charles Moore, it says of Mr Major: 'His definition of honour is more like what the rest of us call saving one's face. He should be trying to save the country.' The paper concludes: 'We must not return to the ERM. We must not ratify the Maastricht Treaty. If the defeat of the Government over the miners is the readiest way to advance that cause, so be it.'

According to The Mail on Sunday Mr Major is 'fortunate' to still be Prime Minister. It argues: 'There are now more zig-zags in Government policy than on a ski slalom.' And adds: ' . . . it is getting harder to believe the Government as every week passes.'

It hopes Mr Major will 'eat his words' during the Parliamentary debate on Wednesday and that the Government does a U- turn on the pit closures.

The Sunday Times believes that 'disaster and defeat' are staring Mr Major and his government in the face. Referring to the Government's handling of the economy, the leader states: 'It is not quite accurate to say this is a do- nothing government; the problem is that when it does something it invariably makes matters worse.' It adds: 'The scale of the Government's incompetence is breathtaking.'

The Government should reverse the decision to close the 31 pits in the next six months and 'at the very least' the redundancies should be phased in. Asserting that Mr Major has lost his way, the Sunday Times concludes: 'He needs to tear up the script and start again, casting himself as the Franklin Roosevelt of the decade. At present he is destined to be the Ramsay MacDonald.'

Its Murdoch stablemate, the News of the World, attacks Michael Heseltine as an 'unprincipled hypocrite' but is also critical of the Prime Minister. 'Only the absence of an outstanding alternative keeps John Major at No 10. But unless he finds a compromise over the Great British Mining Disaster, he may well be on his way out anyway.'

In a postscript, the paper says: 'The PM was publicly fighting to save one job while secretly planning to axe 30,000 in July. That of his adulterous Cabinet crony David Mellor. Who said the Old Pals Act was dead?'

Sacking 30,000 miners is described by the Sunday Express as 'the most maladroit piece of government this country has seen for many years'. It adds: 'We are saddened, angry and frustrated and have an overwhelming sense of hurt.' The paper hoped millions would attend the TUC's day of protest.