Independent on Sunday, 20 January 2013
Gosh, how would things look if we didn’t have a shamelessly partisan right-wing press in this country? The coalition is fractious, the Prime Minister is irritable, the polls are dreadful, and that was before David Cameron had to postpone his big speech on Europe because of the hostage crisis in Algeria. It’s time for the Tory papers to swing into action, in other words, and look how well they performed last week.
No, cried The Daily Telegraph, the 2015 election is not yet lost! David Cameron “could be a transformative leader” if he had more confidence. The Daily Mail revealed that he’s a romantic at heart, gushing in The House magazine over his “date nights” with Sam Cam. The couple aren’t fans of the Danish political drama Borgen but they can’t get enough of The Killing, which they watched “back to back” over Christmas. They’re just like the rest of us, you see!
Not me, as it happens. I’ve never seen The Killing, I’m not as wealthy as the Camerons and I think his politics are horrible. But we have a vibrant free press and naturally the Daily Mail’s article about the couple was balanced by a – how shall I phrase this? – somewhat less flattering piece about the Labour leader. Don’t be fooled: Miliband is a “waffling Left-wing weirdo” and “son of a Marxist professor”. There were no cosy vignettes of family life with Justine, just a stern warning from columnist Richard Littlejohn that “Red Ed” shouldn’t be allowed “within 100 miles of No 10 Downing Street”.
Oh, so that’s what they’re all afraid of. In 2010, a hubristic assumption that Ed Miliband would never be prime minister became common currency; it just couldn’t happen while confident, charming David Cameron was at the helm of the Conservative party. Now, after three years in government, the shine has come off Cameron and no mistake. When did you last see the Prime Minister appear relaxed and purposeful? These days he’s weak and indecisive, peering nervously over his shoulder at UKIP and his own backbenchers. Meanwhile, Miliband is doing well, making jokes at Cameron’s expense at PMQs and prompting him into displays of what now looks like habitual bad temper.
When I met the three party leaders in November, just before Lord Justice Leveson published his report, the contrast between a tense, wary Cameron and the other two was striking. Indeed, it’s hard not to see a connection between Cameron’s craven response to the Leveson report and the way the right-wing press has swung behind him this month. The Prime Minister set up the inquiry and committed himself to implementing its recommendations as long as they weren’t “bonkers”. They aren’t and he hasn’t, while Miliband and Nick Clegg have been principled in supporting the victims of press intrusion.
Bear that in mind next time a right-wing paper trashes Miliband or urges Cameron to be bolder. Can it be that simple? Yes It Can.
All material on this site (c) Joan Smith 2010-2013