Thursday, 7 June 2018

General Trust

To be called "a malign influence" by Alastair Campbell is high praise, indeed. At least Paul Dacre's Daily Mail always provided some kind of platform for certain opponents of Tony Blair's wars and of the attendant assaults on civil liberties. That tradition remains alive there, in the starkest possible contrast to the MI6 ciphers that are The Times, the Daily Telegraph and, these days, The Guardian.

Newspapers have a different constitutional role from that of politicians, and they do need to keep that in mind. But there is a sense in which their readers elect them to hold politicians to account. That was splendidly apparent in the recent collective action of the regional papers in the North of England over the appalling state of their readers' railways. Those papers are generally pro-Conservative, or at least almost all of them are certainly not pro-Labour. Yet here we are.

Of course, newspapers are also businesses. There were no Lib Dem columnists that I can recall even when that party had won nearly seven million votes and had been given six seats in the Cabinet. I never understood why not. And the absence of critical but nevertheless committed supporters of Jeremy Corbyn strikes me as making no commercial sense whatever.

Corbyn himself is a member of the NUJ, which you cannot just join. A weekly column by him would add on that day anything up to the 313,209 additional readers who voted to re-elect him as Labour Leader in 2016, if not even more than that. In fact, certainly rather more than that. But a feature of the Corbyn Leadership has always been an apparent failure to understand that if you don't ask, then you don't get.

The major local and regional newspaper groups need to be offered a weekly column at a rate of £1000 per participating paper per year. And should an approach be made to the new Editor of the Daily Mail? Don't ask, don't get.

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