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Emrys's Journal
Emrys's Journal
May 15, 2017

Is the editor of the Daily Mail the most dangerous man in Britain?

Under Paul Dacre’s 25-year reign, the paper has become the UK’s most fanatical anti-liberal voice. We trace its growing political influence through the past year’s headlines

by Tim Adams


May and June of last year was one of those times when news seemed to take on a narrative life of its own. The only parallel I could think of was in those last febrile weeks of Princess Diana’s life, when the frenzy of the tabloid press seemed to make a shocking ending inevitable and necessary. My colleague Carole Cadwalladr has indefatigably unearthed the ways that social media became a toxic tool of the Leave campaign. That effort only reinforced what was happening in plain sight, however. Rarely has there been a moment in British political life when newspapers – and, in particular, a single powerful newspaper – focused the thinking of its readers so effectively on one question. As Mark Twain observed, “There are laws to protect the freedom of the press’s speech, but none that are worth anything to protect the people from the press.”

As we face another weird polling day that hardens surreality into fact, I’ve been reading through the front pages and editorials of the Daily Mail over the course of the last year, in sequence, as if they were a novel, or a blueprint for the nation we have become. It has not been a joyful experience. I began with the starting pistol to the referendum, and ended with “Crush the saboteurs” and wondered exactly how we had got here, and where we are heading next.

Chapter one of that story takes us back to last February and the critical moment when David Cameron returned from his negotiation with the EU ministers to present his gamble to the public. He came back from Brussels with predictably few new concessions but with a sense, reinforced by his gilded passage through political life, that he could charm both his cabinet and the Tory press on to his side.


May 8, 2017

One of the successes in this field in Scotland

has been the website/blog Wings Over Scotland: https://wingsoverscotland.com/about/

Set up in 2011 by occasionally abrasive ex-video games designer and journalist Stuart Campbell (his Twitter feed can be controversial at times), its main focus is Scottish independence, but its methodology is forensically (and often colourfully) picking apart media misreporting and myths from a leftist viewpoint.

The very well-visited blog (250,000 readers a month is not unusual) is crowdfunded, and its annual appeals regularly raise prodigious amounts of money from individual donations very quickly (Wikipedia estimates it's raised over £540,000 since 2013).

Vuelio rated it second only to Order, Order in its annual blog rankings.

In the run-up to the Scottish referendum, Campbell published "The Wee Blue Book", a compendium of myths and their debunking that was widely distributed online and in hard copy and is credited by many with changing minds on the subject of independence. Its approach has been copied by a number of other campaigns, from the group Scotland In Europe to the more controversial Yes California. WOS also funds independent opinion polling from time to time.

WOS's success depends very largely on the skills and personality of Campbell (who does occasionally host paid contributions from other writers), so its use as a model for other groups may be limited, but it's an under-covered success story among the "alt-left" media.

May 6, 2017

Don't be fooled by election results - Tories still face uphill battle in their bid to crush Labour

Good, but perhaps not quite as good as the party would like. That seems to be the message for the Tories that emerged from the local ballot boxes yesterday.

True, at 38 per cent the BBC’s projection of the English county council results into a national share of the vote was the best tally for the Conservatives since Gordon Brown occupied 10 Downing St. It was enough to put the party as much as 11 points ahead of Labour, whose performance was worse than anything recorded during Ed Miliband’s tenure as leader.

However, this 11-point lead was rather less than the 17-point lead currently to be found on average in the opinion polls. More importantly it is only four points above the lead that David Cameron secured in the 2015 general election.

That performance gave the Tories a majority of just 12, a majority that is now deemed by the Prime Minister to be inadequate. Theresa May wants a landslide, and while an 11-point lead would probably give her a comfortable victory, such an outcome on 8 June might now be deemed something of a disappointment.


I'd call this a contrarian view, but it's by John Curtice, so I tend to listen.

I would quibble with his claim that the Tories' "strong advance in the local elections in Scotland gives the party good reason to anticipate making some gains north of the border next month", though.

Just as the Holyrood elections last year, run on the D'Hondt PR voting system, flattered the Tories in terms of seats (by far the majority were regional list seats rather than directly elected), the single transferable vote system Scotland used for the council elections will also have had its own more unpredictable effects in terms of down-ticket transfer votes (not least because an embarrassing number of the electorate don't seem to have grasped what was expected of them).

They could make some minor inroads beyond the sole Scottish Westminster seat they currently hold (they can barely do worse), but they've quite a hill to climb under the first past the post system, it will be a very different election despite their efforts to turn the local council campaign into an anti-indyref/SNP referendum, and a lot of their enthusiasm at the prospect of taking seats from the likes of the SNP's leader at Westminster Angus Robertson stems from wishful reading of small (hence statistically unreliable) Scottish subsamples of UK national polls.
May 1, 2017

German paper's damning account of Prime Minister's talks with European boss

This account is from Twitter Moments, which gathers together tweets on a certain theme to make them easier to follow.

After Prime Minister Theresa May spoke with Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, an account of the meeting was published in a German newspaper. The Berlin bureau chief at The Economist, Jeremy Cliffe, explained what it said. A UK Government spokesman has since said they did "not recognise this account" of the meeting.

One suspects the government spokesman wouldn't recognize his arse without satnav.



Jeremy Cliffe ✔ @JeremyCliffe

Today's FAZ report on May's disastrous dinner with Juncker - briefed by senior Commission sources - is absolutely damning.

Jeremy Cliffe ✔ @JeremyCliffe

1) May had said she wanted to talk not just Brexit but also world problems; but in practice it fell to Juncker to propose one to discuss.


Jeremy Cliffe ✔ @JeremyCliffe

2) May has made clear to the Commission that she fully expects to be reelected as PM.


Jeremy Cliffe ✔ @JeremyCliffe

3) It is thought {in the Commission} that May wants to frustrate the daily business of the EU27, to improve her own negotiating position.


Jeremy Cliffe ✔ @JeremyCliffe

4) May seemed pissed off at {David} Davis for regaling her dinner guests of his ECJ case against her data retention measures - three times.

Cliffe's full - and predictably disturbing - tweeted summary of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung article is here: https://twitter.com/i/moments/858943560594235393

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