The papers are dominated by the defection of the three Conservative MPs to the Independent Group.
“Let’s get this party started” is the headline in City AM, which pictures the self-styled “three amigos” alongside the eight Labour MPs they have joined forces with.
Some of the other papers come up with less charitable nicknames. The Daily Express calls them “Tory turncoats”.
The Sun labels them “the three disagrees”, and says their actions have pushed Theresa May’s government “close to breaking point”.
The Daily Mail suggests they wish to go further than that and destroy the Conservative party entirely.
It highlights Heidi Allen’s comment that there won’t be a Tory party to go back to if they do their jobs properly.
The Daily Telegraph says the timing of their departure – just before Prime Minister’s Questions – was calculated to cause “maximum embarrassment” to Mrs May.
They may have been emboldened, the Guardian suggests, by the failure of the leadership to get in touch with them.
It reports the phones of the three MPs were “melting” with calls in the 24 hours before their departure – but two calls never came: from Downing Street or the Tory Whips’ office.
The same was not true of Mrs May’s predecessor though, according to the Times. It reports David Cameron made a late – and unusual – intervention to ask the MPs: “Is it too late to persuade you to stay?”
It was too late – and the question has now become: how many more will join them? The Daily Mirror says Mrs May is “braced for a further exodus” with her party in “meltdown.”
The i says the same is true of Labour. It has been told by an unnamed backbencher that “lots of MPs” – potentially dozens – are on the point of walking out over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
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The drone attack that brought Gatwick to a standstill before Christmas is believed to have been an “inside job”, according to Whitehall sources who have spoken to the Times.
After collecting 130 witness statements and completing 1,100 door-to-door inquiries, the police think the drone must have been operated by someone who knew the layout of the airport – leading them to conclude the pilot was a current or former Gatwick employee.
Most senior woman in military
The Daily Telegraph has interviewed Sue Gray, who has just been appointed Air Marshall in the RAF.
It makes her the its first ever female “three star” general, and the most senior woman in British military history.
She tells the paper she felt she had to try harder because she was a woman, but then “got over herself”, saying she’s now confident she’s got where she has because of her ability, not her gender.
She now wants to encourage “all women in all services to go for it.”
Finally, the mystery of why zebras have stripes may been solved, the Guardian reports.
Academics at Bristol University have concluded the pattern appears to deter biting insects – a hypothesis they tested by dressing up some horses in Somerset in zebra outfits.
It debunks a previous theory – that the markings act as camouflage. As one of the researchers points out: zebras are “preferential prey” for lots of animals, including lions, so clearly the stripes “are not really stopping them.”
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