Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website

There are a multitude of differences in the approaches taken by Tony Blair and Jeremy Corbyn towards their leadership of the Labour Party, but by far the most significant in terms of today's political campaigning has been Corbyn's total disregard for the bullying of the Tory tabloid press.

Blair, on becoming party leader, was so fearful of the political impact of newspapers such as the Sun, News of the World, The Times and Sunday Times that he went to Australia to seek a fair hearing from Rupert Murdoch.

Two decades after the New Labour landslide of 1997, egged on by the all-embracing support of Murdoch's newspapers, Corbyn has exposed the waning political influence -- if not impotence -- of the once mighty press barons.

Rapidly declining newspaper sales, an ageing print readership, and the inexorable rise of a younger generation of voters largely out-with the reach of mainstream media, are combining to finally put paid to the effectiveness of the scares and smears that for so long have been the daily fare of a Labour-hating mind set nurtured in the Fleet Street of old.

Having worked for fifty years alongside journalists and columnists writing to agendas set by newspapers such as the Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Telegraph, I can sense their all-too sudden loss of authority; gone are the days when the line taken by their newspapers could swing voter sentiment or put the Labour leadership on the defensive.

If Jeremy Corbyn was the unintended beneficiary of the vilest general election reporting of my lifetime, then Theresa May was the true casualty of the bile spewed out by Conservative-supporting newspapers.

She was so cocooned by the deadly embrace of the anti-Corbyn hate of Paul Dacre’s Daily Mail and Rupert Murdoch’s Sun that she was duped into thinking that having been crowned a popular hero by the UK’s two biggest selling tabloids, voters were bound to agree.

Press adulation is seductive for any Prime Minister. May was lauded from the moment she stood for the party leadership and then promised to deliver a hard Brexit.

The 52-48 Leave vote was seen by the Brextremist press – Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Telegraph – as their crowning achievement, an outcome that would not have been delivered if it had not been for their relentless 30-year demonisation of the European Union.

The fatal mistake of May and her team was a failure to realise the extent to which young people who felt their future had been stolen by Brexit were becoming highly politicised, and that unlike their parents, they relied on social media rather than the press.

Where Britain’s Conservative-supporting newspapers differ from the free press in so much of the western world is in their well-honed role as rabid propagandists.

As polling day approaches in the 2017 general election, the name of the game is to play down the flow of bad news that will become a tsunami with the looming prospect of a hard Brexit.

Any mention of the downside of the Leave vote in the 2016 EU Referendum is being quietly side lined by the Tory tabloids in the final weeks of the general election campaign.

In a calculated display of support, Theresa May’s staunchest cheerleaders are ignoring the impact of the transfer of bank and finance jobs to Frankfurt, Dublin, Paris and the like; the loss of academic and research funding; the falling off in industrial investment; or the steady drift away in skilled EU workers.

Instead the Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Telegraph trumpet the positive message that a government under the “strong and stable leadership” of Prime Minister May will get the best deal for the UK from the Brexit negotiations.

When debating the role of broadcasters during the EU Referendum and its aftermath, my prediction has been that Brexit press cheerleaders like the Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Daily Express will become ever more strident once Theresa May has triggered Article 50.

Little did I know that within days, ultra-Brexiteers such as Iain Duncan Smith, John Redwood and Theresa Villiers would be adding their names to a parliamentary broadside about the anti-Brexit bias of the BBC’s coverage.

Timing was significant because it coincided with the final confirmation that the Prime Minister intended to trigger Article 50 on March 29, 2017;

The Brexiteers’ reasoning in putting the frighteners on the BBC could not have been clearer: they are determined to do all they can to undermine, if not curtail, any attempts by broadcasters to explain the full economic impact of the UK leaving the European single market and customs union.

Files released by the Home Office have so far failed to reveal the operational secrets behind the Battle of Orgreave.

But they do show that officers of the South Yorkshire Police remained entirely confident that they believed their tactics were justified and effective in dealing with the largest confrontation during the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

If the operational order for the day is ever released for public inspection, it might show whether the police set a trap for the pickets, luring them into a confrontation, as the National Union of Mineworkers has always suspected.

More documents are to be delivered to the National Archives, and 65 South Yorkshire files are also in the process of being examined, as the hunt continues for answers to the many questions raised by the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.

In view of the refusal of the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to authorise a public inquiry into the events that day, the Orgreave campaigners are determined to discover who was responsible for a “military” style assault on the pickets by 6,000 or more police officers that resulted in countless men being “seriously injured, falsely arrested and wrongly prosecuted”.