Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website

Ready to “die in a ditch” with Boris Johnson the closer it gets to polling day are his blood brothers, a taxi rank of highly-paid wordsmiths able to twist and turn the daily news agenda as they strive to deliver a Conservative victory and get Brexit over the line.

Johnson has always been their hero, the Brexiteer-in-chief for much of the media class, a journalist admired for his wizardry in delivering an endless stream of anti-European Union exclusives about the mad machinations of the Brussels bureaucracy – the fake news of his day.

In his hour of need, columnists and feature writers employed by hard line Brexit-supporting newspapers – Daily Mail, Daily Express, Sun and Daily Telegraph – are only too happy to follow in his footsteps, able within a matter of hours to pull together an election story line into a hard-hitting column or feature.

Any pre-election threat of industrial action presents an immediate target for Conservative politicians and their media allies.

Add to the mix a pledge by the Labour Party to row back on ever-tightening legal restrictions on trade union activity, and within an instant Conservative-supporting newspapers are warning of an imminent repeat of the 1979 Winter of Discontent – the year that 29.4 million days were lost due to strikes.

An image of Jeremy Corbyn’s face superimposed on a 1979 photograph of heaps of rotting garbage piled up in Leicester Square appeared in the Sun at the time of his election as Labour leader in the summer of 2015.

Once the go ahead was given for the 12 December poll, feature writers for the dominant Tory press began dusting down their vast library of horror stories about life under a future Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Dire predictions have been the stock in trade for highly paid columnists whose anti-Corbyn tirades have been afforded regular full-page treatment ever since he was elected Labour leader in August 2015.

Their rants started re-appearing with a vengeance from the very first day of the 2019 election campaign:

“Corbyn and his cronies who’d turn the UK into Venezuela (Leo McKinstry, Daily Mail, 30.10.2019) harked back to a catalogue of scare stories from the summer of 2017 that linked Corbyn to rioting in Caracas.

Margaret Thatcher’s interventions to strengthen police tactics during the 1984-85 miners’ strike have been well documented, but her official papers reveal she put pressure on police forces in Scotland as well as in England and Wales.

Revisiting her cabinet papers is timely given the imminent publication of John Scott’s review into the impact of policing on community relations in the Scottish coalfield.

Scott’s review was established by the Scottish government in June 2018 to re-assess the “unprecedented strain” placed on policing and community relationships and the “extremely challenging situations” faced by individual officers.

My own re-examination of the Thatcher cabinet records underlined yet again how the government’s public stance – that “no instructions” were issued to chief constables during the strike – is contradicted by the content of secret and confidential documents.

Two months into the strike, at the height of picketing in Scotland, and after violent scenes outside the Ravenscraig steel works, the Prime Minister wanted some immediate answers.

Throughout the political chaos of Theresa May’s repeated failure to gain approval for her agreement to leave the European Union, Brexit-supporting newspapers never wavered in their underlying support for Boris Johnson’s hard-line approach.

He was the ever-present cheerleader, a backstop for the pro-Brexit press, waiting in the side-lines, ready to step into the breach to lead the final assault on Brussels to deliver the freedoms promised in the EU Referendum.

At least in the opinion of most Conservative Party members, Johnson became – like Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair before him – an all-powerful Prime Minister, safe in the knowledge that he and his closest aides were starting out with every chance of being able to command the news agenda and manipulate friendly media outlets.