The Best and Worst of the British Press

Prime Minister Tony Blair is calling time on last orders, the Daily Express reveals today, as Britain heads towards allowing pubs, bars and restaurants to stay open 24 hours a day.

As a likely sign of the upcoming general election, the ruling Labour party yesterday promised an overhaul of Britain's arcane licensing laws, if re-elected to a second term in government.

Pub landlords have been forced to close as early as 11 p.m. since measures to increase industrial productivity were introduced during World War I. The long-promised changes to the law have been welcomed by the police, who blame the early closing time for binge drinking and street violence as drinkers spill out of pubs at closing time.

The latest crisis to hit Britain's beleaguered Conservative Party is deepening as party leader William Hague pushes to expel rebel parliamentarian John Townend for his views on race, The Times writes.

The Tories' most prominent black peer, Lord Taylor of Warwick, is threatening to defect to the Labour Party if Townend is not thrown out of the party.

Townend, who is due to quit the House of Commons after the election, has expressed fears that Britain is becoming a "mongrel race" and has repeatedly refused to tone down his language on race and immigration issues.

Mandela Rock

Nelson Mandela and a crowd of 25,000 gathered in London's Trafalgar Square last night for a celebratory concert on the seventh anniversary of the end of racial segregation in South Africa, The Independent reports.

Mandela rocked to the sounds of R.E.M. and other international artists in front of South Africa House — once the scene of massive anti-Apartheid demonstrations.

Martin McGuinness, the current minister for education in Northern Ireland's cross-community government, is to admit that he was an IRA commander in Londonderry when British paratroops killed 14 people during a civil rights march in the city in 1972, The Independent reports.

The Bloody Sunday inquiry is expected to hear that McGuinness was the IRA's second-in-command in the city, but he will strenuously deny nationalist gunmen opened fire that day.

Allegations have been made that he fired the first shot on Bloody Sunday, one of the most controversial events in recent Irish history.

German measles, the Ebola virus and Lassa fever may soon be a thing of the past, but we are not looking at miracle cures, The Times writes.

Doctors from 70 countries meeting in France this week at the World Medical Association will hear a Finnish proposal to end the practice of naming diseases after people, communities or regions.

They point out that diseases are "very seldom restricted to a certain area" and that linking a disease to a community or region can have a "negative impact" on the people concerned.

Record rainfall is dampening the spirits of the nation, the Daily Mail moans. A leading British psychologist now fears the spring that still hasn't arrived is making people depressed. Rain over southern England has been the heaviest since records began in 1727, with only a few days of dry weather over the last year. As a result the "winter blues," which is normally at its worst between December and February, show few signs of letting go.