Nowhere was the problem of newspaper lead times - and the iron law of following a pre-set agenda - more clearly demonstrated than by today’s edition of the Murdoch Sun. After Theresa May had poured cold water on all the bellicose talk of going down Ye Olde Brussels Tavern and offering the dastardly Spanish outside over Gibraltar, that should have been that. But at the Baby Shard bunker, orders are orders.
So while the only other paper to put Gibraltar on the front page - the Guardian - correctly tells “May seeks to ease tensions over Gibraltar … Britain ‘would match conciliatory approach with goodwill on security’”, the Murdoch goons throw care - and journalistic standards - to the wind and howl “Sun Gibraltar Campaign … Our message to meddling leaders of Spain and the EU … UP YOURS SENORS”.
This is a copy of the 1990 “UP YOURS DELORS” front page. That was typical of the time in the editor’s chair of the deeply unpleasant Kelvin McFilth, who personally approved the smearing of the Hillsborough victims and who is still so well regarded by the Murdochs that he has his own office on the 13th floor. But to any sensible hack it is an embarrassment.
And the name on the byline this time, to his eternal shame, is the paper’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn (Marlborough and Edinburgh), giving us a prime example of the Sun’s posh hacks having to pretend to be Men Of The People (like heck).
So why the problem with the PM’s “conciliatory approach”? “THE Sun today demands Spain and the EU take their hands off Our Rock … Our call comes as Theresa May fuelled concern by refusing to rule out talks with Madrid over Gibraltar’s future”. The British Overseas Territory’s First Minister backed the campaign. Those who wanted to join in with the Murdoch goons were lauded as “patriotic”. Tourists were equally defiant.
One holidaymaker said “I like sitting here eating fish and chips”. You can eat fish and intercoursing chips in Spain. And Portugal. And Greece. Or not bother leaving the UK because of how wonderful it is here (allegedly). But, yes, there’s more.
There’s always the deluded Kool-Aid drinker to claim “Spain needs us more than they need Gibraltar … We turn our backs on Spain and they’ll soon shut up”. Yeah, they’ll have to get all their holidaymakers from Germany and Scandinavia. How will they manage without all those Brits behaving like morons after a couple of scoops?
There are few original ideas on show at the Sun
It gets worse: those looking in on the Sun’s website right now are exhorted to carry on the ranting by tuning in to Talk Radio later this morning, when they will be able to hear the wisdom of, er, Julia Hartley Dooda. There’s the voice of moderation for you.
The reality is that Gibraltar is a disputed territory, whatever it says in the Treaty of Utrecht. Being in the EU meant that part was smoothed over (see also under Northern Ireland) as we were in the Single Market and Customs Union. Leaving both will have consequences.
Worse, Sun readers might stop and think about how Gibraltar makes its money: as a pseudo-offshore insurance and gambling centre which bends the Single Market rules to the limits of elasticity. How does the Sun expect it to survive outside that Single Market? Might it need the EU more than they need it? What you will not read in the Sun.