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The Mail’s Gerald Ratner moment


If a recent Twitter post by the Daily Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson is correct, Daily Mail executives have been ‘busy deleting underline comments rubbishing [November 16th’s] splash.’ Pearson – a Mail columnist until 2010 – added with some relish: ‘Interesting to see the next circulation figures.’

The splash in question, the latest in a fairly long line of anti-Brexit lead stories, made clear the paper’s anger at Tory MPs seeking to depose Theresa May as party leader. Its headline raged: ‘Have they lost the plot?’

In an editorial comment on the front page, the paper called May’s critics ‘peacocking saboteurs’, ‘low-grade assassins’ and ‘preening Tory saboteurs’ who will ‘undermine the PM, their party, Brexit and Britain’s future’, who have ‘not a grand plan’ but an ‘economic suicide note’.

The Mail has attracted a lot of attention since Geordie Greig took over as editor in September, but not because of anything he has done. (He hasn’t really done anything yet). Chiefly, his arrival has coincided with the paper’s new stance on Brexit.

Over the summer I warned that the Mail under Greig is likely to fail for several reasons, among them its new-found opposition to Brexit. I am now prepared to upgrade that assessment: I think its sudden love for the EU is going to be the Mail’s Gerald Ratner moment.

It is truly astonishing to think that Mail would perform such a ridiculously contrived about-turn on so fundamental an issue as the EU anyway. It is equally bizarre to picture executives so lacking in certainty of their own paper’s position – and so troubled by their readers’ opposition to its own splash – that they would actively erase comments from the comments section.

Yet Pearson seems to think this is what they’ve done. Given that she worked on the paper for several years under Dacre, it is reasonable to assume she still has friends there who might have tipped her off.

Pearson’s tweet attracted thousands of comments, retweets and likes.

Judging by the ones I have read, there are some very unhappy ex-Mail readers around the country who feel so betrayed by the paper they have bought and enjoyed for years that they have dumped it.

This should worry the Mail tremendously. But can you blame the audience if they don’t like the product – indeed, if they are being mocked by their own paper for their own politics?

Pearson is right: it will be fascinating to read the circulation figures when they come. However, I would sound one note of caution. The Mail put its weekday cover price up by 5p to 70p as soon as Greig became editor in September. This was to buy him some time, the thinking being that any fall in circulation could be attributed to this price rise rather than to Greig. But the Mail’s owner, Lord Rothermere, and his powerful wife Claudia (who is said to have played a decisive role in the plot to get rid of Dacre) can’t hide behind a 5p price rise for long.

As for what is going on at the Mail itself, one of its star writers, Quentin Letts, has begun to write semi-regularly for the Daily Telegraph. As a freelance journalist he is perfectly entitled to do this, but he would not have dreamt of doing so when Dacre was in charge.

I have also heard stories of Greig spiking material that he considers might upset certain people. Anything which conflicts with his own politically correct world view has been cast aside as well.

I said it over the summer and I will say it again: I think appointing Greig as editor of the Daily Mail was a mistake. Judging by the number of readers who have already stopped buying the paper, I am sure I’m not alone.

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John Smith
John Smith
John Smith is a journalist.

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