There are still those – hello Peter Hitchens – who pretend that the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday are totally different papers, but the number of hares set running by the Sunday title and picked up on by the daily one show that this is not a credible stance. Nor is the presence of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and editor-in-chief of both titles. So one story today is significant.
As I pointed out recently, as part of the shadow cabinet reshuffle prompted by the resignation of Emily Thornberry, Chris Bryant was made shadow Culture, Media and Sport minister. This was largely ignored by the press, and there were good reasons for them to do so. Bryant is a trenchant critic of the way the press behaves itself. He is a signatory to the Hacked Off “Leveson Declaration”.
So his appointment by Mil The Younger, which, if anything, signalled that Labour would take press regulation seriously if returned to power next May, was to be portrayed, if at all, negatively. And so it has come to pass, with the MoS claiming erroneously “'Weak' Miliband blasted for giving immigration rebel plum job after he threatened to walk out of Shadow Cabinet”.
“Ed Miliband’s leadership came under fire again after details of a row with outspoken Labour frontbencher Chris Bryant were revealed ... Mr Bryant protested at decision to crack down on benefits rights of EU immigrants ... When Mr Miliband refused to back down, Mr Bryant threatened to walk out” claims the paper, but all readers get to back this up is “One veteran Labour MP”.
Been chatting to Austin Mitchell again, have they? Do go on: “The secret deal avoided creating a damaging Labour rift but has led to fresh claims by the party’s MPs that Mr Miliband is ‘not tough enough’ to be Prime Minister and ‘too weak’ for Downing Street”. It wasn’t secret, though: anyone at the second Leveson Lecture got the news direct from Tom Watson.
The silence over Bryant’s appointment was entirely down to the press. But the MoS has “sources”: “Sources said the Labour leader was so desperate to avoid a resignation over immigration policy that he ‘tamely’ agreed to move Mr Bryant to a new frontbench job”. And who endorses this fiction? “Friends”. Whose friends would they be? And the “little-noticed move” is, again, down to press silence.
What the MoS is doing here is, while pursuing the “Miliband is weak” meme, firing the opening shot in a campaign to make life difficult for the Rhondda MP. There will be more, perhaps in the coming week from the Mail, claiming the party is split and that Bryant doesn’t merit his shadow cabinet berth, without mentioning press regulation, which is the real reason they’re going after him.
It won’t work. But that doesn’t mean the Mail won’t try anyway.