Magazine article The Spectator

Why Poor Mr Howard Can't Get a Good Press, Even from Tory Newspapers

Magazine article The Spectator

Why Poor Mr Howard Can't Get a Good Press, Even from Tory Newspapers

Article excerpt

The Tory party conference began on Monday, and Radio 4's Today programme gave it the kind of send-off reserved for truly hopeless causes. Item after item emphasised the Tories' unfitness to govern, their uniformly low spirits and their enduring unpopularity. One excited reporter even suggested that the party might slide off the political map as the Liberals did, an event which he chose to place in the 19th century. The reason for all this wailing and gnashing of teeth was the Conservatives' abysmal performance in the Hartlepool by-election - which we had known about for three days - and a Populus poll which appeared in that morning's Times showing the party's support at 28 per cent. The story covered almost the whole of the front page of the tabloid version of the paper, and was about as unfriendly to the Tories as it was possible to be in the circumstances, and as supportive of Tony Blair. It read: 'Poll trouble for Tories as Blair bounces back'.

Many people will argue that the media's almost universal depiction of the Conservatives as a bunch of no-hopers is no less than the truth. Maybe so. But this dire version of events should be viewed in the context of the government's own tribulations. Tony Blair's personal ratings have plummeted, and most people believe that he lied to them over the Iraq war. Blairites and Brownites are at one another's throats. The Labour party did not have a particularly successful conference. Of course, the press has given full vent to the Prime Minister's difficulties, but the effect has not been to encourage it to take another and more sympathetic look at the Tories. Far from it. The anti-Tory papers - the Guardian, Independent and Daily Mirror - do not bother to conceal their contempt. The Murdoch press - the Sun and the Times - remain staunchly Blairite, and are inclined to minimise or ignore his lies and inconsistencies over Iraq. Most interesting of all, what remains of the Tory press is not as stalwart as it was.

It was not for nothing that the Daily Telegraph was called the Daily Torygraph by Private Eye. Its traditional role has been to support the Conservatives through thick and thin. True, it grew a little exasperated with Ted Heath, though it still could not bring itself to support Margaret Thatcher in the second and final poll for the leadership in 1975. Even during the appalling Major years the paper remained constructively loyal. Of course, there is no suggestion that it is turning against Michael Howard, but after the honeymoon that followed his unopposed election - shared by much of the media - a note of reserve has crept in. This partly reflects the political beliefs of the new editor, Martin Newland, which are less fiercely right-wing than those of his predecessor, Charles Moore. The paper's changed relationship to the party was revealed in an interview with Mr Newland last weekend in the Independent on Sunday. He said that the Daily Telegraph's editorial policy is now less 'ideological' than it was during Mr Moore's editorship, and that it was 'probably a mistake' for the paper to have supported lain Duncan Smith. Mr Moore, of course, was IDS's most passionate cheerleader. Mr Newland's remarks indicate a significant change in outlook.

Because it fervently supported the war against Iraq - a policy conceived during Mr Moore's reign - the Daily Telegraph has found itself unwilling, or unable, to attack Tony Blair at his weakest point. No such considerations impede the Daily Mail. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.