The Daily Telegraph Looks to Be Losing Its Battle with the Daily Mail for the Readers of Middle England, and Not Just Because the Mail Has Stolen Its Journalists and Its Gossip Column. (Watching Brief)

By Platell, Amanda | New Statesman (1996), March 17, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Daily Telegraph Looks to Be Losing Its Battle with the Daily Mail for the Readers of Middle England, and Not Just Because the Mail Has Stolen Its Journalists and Its Gossip Column. (Watching Brief)


Platell, Amanda, New Statesman (1996)


It was a brilliant and brutal preemptive hit. The Daily Mail struck, under cover of darkness, and captured the Peterborough column, then paraded it on its front page. Not since the Tornado pilots John Nichol and John Peters has there been such a prized prisoner of war.

One can only imagine the look of horror on the face of the Daily Telegraph editor, Charles Moore, when he opened his Mailless than two weeks after the column went missing, a casualty of his redesign: "Want to know where Peterborough is?" the Mail taunted. "It's in the Mail's new column about Middle England (what else)."

In its attempt to appeal to younger middle-class readers, the Telegraph had dropped the column in favour of one called London Spy. One wonders how such a title will play with the rest of the country.

Anyway, war has broken out between the two newspapers and the prize is Middle England. As the Mail pointed out with glee, the Telegraph now sells only 541,221 copies at full price (the Express just 564,362), way behind the Mail's 2,141,452 full-price sale total.

And it cannot have escaped anyone's attention that part of the Mail's success is due to journalists who formerly graced the Telegraph -- Veronica Wadley (until she took over at the London Evening Standard), Simon Heffer, Quentin Letts and Robert Hardman (both former Telegraph Peterborough editors), Eric Bailey and Mark Edmonds, to name but a few.

The Telegraph has yet to find the pulse of Middle England, relying instead, it seems, upon the Mail for inspiration. Simon Heffer's "Why Britain's middle classes have had enough" in Wednesday's Mail appeared hastily copied in Tom Utley's "The middle classes can easily teach the universities a lesson" column in Thursday's Telegraph.

Is the Telegraph's youthful relaunch in danger of alienating its traditional older readership? Somehow I can't quite see Telegraph woman in the combat trousers, micro-minis and silver stilettos that the paper's feature pages insist are this season's "must have" items.

And while we're on the gentle art of seducing Middle England mums, let's revisit Ligger's Corner-Anne Robinson's column in the Telegraph. As part of the paper's strategy to connect with the kind of women who enjoy two package holidays a year with their families, Robinson writes about the joys of first-class travel. …

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