Being gracious in victory is a virtue that Polly Toynbee can’t know about. Perhaps she’d forgotten to take her happy pills before going on the BBC’s Today programme to mark the departure of her bête noire, Paul Dacre, the Daily Mail’s resolutely socially conservative editor for 26 years.
She didn’t even allow herself a gloat. Instead she spat venom and poured bile on ‘the poisoner-in-chief’ of British politics, the man who so terrorised Theresa May that ‘she might as well abandon her Cabinet and just ring him up and see what he’ll accept’.
Dacre’s magic readership formula, she told us, citing the founding editor Lord Northcliffe, dead for a century, was to give his readers their ‘daily hate’. It’s not the first time she’s used this quote to ascribe malignancy to the Mail. Searching for its source, however, remarkably brings you back to – er – Ms Toynbee herself.
But let’s not let facts get in the way of a good story when it comes to smearing the Mail.
Which is perhaps why Polly so conveniently forgot that other adage about the pot calling the kettle black. Potty Polly (or perhaps it should be ‘hating Polly’) was on a roll. You see, putting aside the Mail’s campaign to bring Stephen Lawrence’s killers to justice, Dacre is, she hyperventilated, totally racist.
That’s a libel, gasped her co-guest, Britain’s most distinguished living female journalist, Ann Leslie. ‘No,’ Toynbee screamed on, with the amiable Mr Humphrys making absolutely no attempt to interrupt, let alone remonstrate, ‘look at the front pages in the run-up to the referendum – day after day, horror stories about immigrants, criminals, pictures! He used race and immigration . . . it was loathsome, it was racist, every bit of it!’
Was it? Find me a front page where the Mail said that either colour or ethnicity should be a bar to entry.
Of course the Mail’s mistake was to use the word immigration without applying a prefix – good, wonderful, great or necessary.
Our worry at The Conservative Woman is not, you may guess, about Paul Dacre’s supposed racism but about potty Polly’s bullying. We hope that Geordie Greig, the current Mail on Sunday editor who is to be Mr Dacre’s successor, won’t succumb to it and will see smears for what they are.
Casting dastardly Dacre as a hater of liberal Britain smears the Mail’s Middle England readership too.
If that’s their intent their psychology is transparent. Whenever Polly, Owen Jones or other such characters cast their hate and division accusations, isn’t it their own unconscious impulses that they are attributing to others? Aren’t they the habitually intolerant and illiberal ones, as they constantly accuse those who don’t agree with them of intolerance?
The haters and the intolerant don’t inhabit Middle England. They do, though I fear, already control the country’s commanding heights and won’t be happy now until social conservatism is dead and buried. This is what ‘detoxification’ is about. Theresa May fell for it. We hope Geordie Greig won’t.
Unfortunately this is exactly what the Guardian hopefully reports that Geordie Greig, a ‘staunch remainer’, has been put in to do by the Rothermeres and their Wiltshire set. That, Greig’s former boss Nicholas Coleridge told yesterday’s World This Weekend, is pretty much what we can expect – although he’d go slowly. Certainly a more ‘nuanced’ approach to Brexit is something that the Mail’s readers can expect, and he suggested, would benefit from.
Which leaves the question of who’s going to be there to stand up for Middle England? It is not as though Dacre’s words on Desert Island Discs in 2004 are any the less apposite today:
I do believe that a politically correct consensus dominates so much in British life. It says that Britain is a shameful nation, with a shameful history, with a culture and a people who are inherently racist, sexist and anti-European; that says that the nuclear family is outmoded and that in education liberal progressive values must prevail. Well, the fact is that most Britons don’t believe this – they simply don’t. We represent the views of those readers and this is one of the factors why our readership is going up.
If the Daily Mail does cease in its battle against these modern orthodoxies, its readers may think that they have nowhere to go. Fear not. The Conservative Woman is ready to welcome you here with open arms.