The Daily Express is a newspaper that has greatly declined from its glory days. It has a circulation of under half a million – compared to its great rival the Daily Mail that sells just under 1.5 million. When readership of the websites is taken into account – a particular strength for the Mail and weakness for the Express – the gap becomes wider. Readership is higher than circulation, of course, the Express can still claim over a million readers.
Yet for the Conservatives the Daily Express has suddenly becoome rather important. Its proprietor Richard Desmond has decided to make a donation to UKIP – although it doesn’t automatically follow that his newspapers will give an editorial endorsement to the Party in the election campaign.
Yet Express readers – older, male, working class, tending to live outside London – are just the sort of people who hitherto voters Conservative but have drifted off to UKIP.
Thus we had an article in that paper this morning by David Cameron about immigration.
The Prime Minister declared:
“DAILY Express readers want an immigration system that is fair and that puts Britain first.
That is what I am determined to deliver.
Since becoming Prime Minister, I have put in place a longterm plan on immigration – and here I want to set out the progress that has been made.”
He then does so making reference to efforts on non-EU migration. However the point UKIP make – which will a concern felt strongly Express readers – is that there can still be unlimited immigration from the EU.
So Mr Cameron adds:
“The free movement of people in Europe was never meant to be about criminals, beggars, rough sleepers and fraudsters travelling around the continent – so we want stronger powers of deportation and longer re-entry bans to stop them coming back.
“These are the changes we are seeking. Overall our objective is clear: we will secure changes to welfare that will cut EU migration.
“That will be an absolute requirement for me in that renegotiation.
“And once we have finished those discussions I have made a clear commitment: to let you decide on our future in Europe, with that In/ Out referendum in 2017.”
Then, in the familiar pitch for UKIP votes, he says:
“As for Ukip – whatever promises they make, a significant vote for Ukip threatens to let Ed Miliband and Ed Balls into Downing Street.
“And that means no immigration control, no EU referendum and chaos in our economy.”
Thus far the plea hasn’t really worked. Voters expressing their anger by voting for UKIP are not inclined to be placated by being told off like errant children – “Stop that nonsense at once, or you will have Ed Miliband in Downing Street.” As the General Election gets nearer the warning may be taken more seriously. Many Daily Express readers may feel a greater personal afffinity with Nigel Farage than David Cameron. But they may also conclude that Mr Farage is not going to become Prime Minister.
It will certainly be a challenge for the Conservatives to win the General Election if they can’t persuade Daily Express readers to vote for them.