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Sunday 10 May 2009

The Axes of the Graph

As Expensegate (or Flipgate, Johnlewislistgate, or Tudorbeamgate) rumbles on, the question returns: what is the motivation of the Telegraph? When the top story was Smeargate (or whichever alternative style of gate is preferred), there was much speculation that the papers formerly known as the Torygraph were leaning towards Labour. Now that Labour is on the end of the first round of expense allegations, that seems unlikely. So who are they supporting?

Put directly, they aren’t. At least, not any particular party. As is so often the case, the rationale behind the Telegraph titles has been correctly identified by Private Eye, where the exodus from what Alastair Campbell calls “The Dacre Lie Machine” in favour of the Torygraph has earned it the moniker of the Maily Telegraph.

And the whole expense story bears the hallmarks of a typical Daily Mail exposé. Most significant is the suggestion that a significant sum of money was paid over in exchange for the information – the Mail is always first to get out its chequebook. Then, the story has been pursued, not from the angle of public interest (although that would seem an obvious and easily justifiable approach) but with the kind of mean spirited righteousness that the Mail has made its trademark. Proof, if any were needed, of the pedigree is that the Mail has been in such blowhard form over the story: they didn’t get this one, but they certainly wish they had – and they’re going to make sure they sit in judgment on the whole affair.

So those in and around the Tory and Lib Dem parties should not think that they are going to get away without being splashed all over the pages of the Telegraph. The only saving grace for them is that both parties have less MPs than Labour, so the potential for bad publicity is proportionally less.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail is reduced to the more mundane business – which it does with some vigour – of sneering at the famous: the paper is being taken to court by leading actor Kate Winslet for yet another piece of nasty, mean spirited character assassination. Ms Winslet is discovering what many in the public eye already know about the Mail: they won’t stop the lying and other unpleasantness unless and until they are forced to do so. For pedalling this kind of drivel, the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre enjoys a remuneration package worth around a million and a half pounds a year.

With that kind of money available to routinely trouser, who needs to haggle over the odd bathplug?

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