One of the milestones on the road to a general election is the point where you really notice that the press have picked their sides.
Having spent most of the Parliament scrutinising the Government whilst the Opposition fight for attention, it is now apparent that whatever their doubts about David Cameron the prospect of a Miliband ministry has been enough to put the Tory press pack in fighting form.
To demonstrate this we need only look at today’s editions of the five traditionally Conservative-inclined national papers: The Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and The Sun.
Of these both The Times (£) and the Mail have anti-Labour attack stories on their front pages, whilst the Telegraph eschews front-page aggression but dedicates two of its five cover items to Cameron’s fresh attack on bad schools and the Chancellor’s £30bn windfall from lower debt repayment costs.
Whilst The Sun (£) and the Express both lead with other things (a Royal Marine sniper and an upcoming coldsnap, respectively) one only needs to turn to the inside front page to find fresh attacks on the Opposition.
The Sun’s page 2 features a big picture piece about how Douglas Alexander inadvertently alluded to Edmund Blackadder’s attempt to run Baldrick in a crooked by-election when describing Labour’s new, Ed-light campaigning strategy, and tops it off with a prediction from Martin Winter (of Daily Mail diary fame) that UKIP could take up to 20 seats off the party.
(An interesting aside: for all the fuss made about Page 3’s ‘mammary lapse’ there was no sign of Lucy, 23, from Warwick in today’s edition – readers were guided to the website).
Meanwhile the Express has the main page 2 story an item entitled “Labour reeling as top bosses attack policies”.
On the inside pages there’s more:
- Trevor Kavanagh’s Sun column relates at some length how Miliband brought his woes upon himself10 whilst the Tory “war on bad schools” is on page 10.
- The Times runs Labour’s fight with Boots and Osborne’s windfall on page 2 whilst dedicating a two-page spread to the Prime Minister’s welfare offensive on pages 6-7.
- The Mail continues its Boots story on page 4 beneath a story about Labour refusing to rule out a coalition with the SNP
- Both the Mail and the Telegraph editorials respectively savage Labour as anti-business and praise the Tory record on education.
This is just the content readily spotted in the print editions – one only needs to peruse today’s newslinks to find further online material, particularly focused on Miliband’s ongoing leadership woes.
This is not to say that absolutely everything is going as CCHQ might wish – the now UKIP-leaning Express is rather more muted than the other four, whilst the Mail still finds space to criticise the Education Secretary’s handling of religious schools. Nor should we forget that someone is probably saying something nice about Miliband in the Guardian.
Nonetheless it will make a very satisfying morning’s reading in Tory HQ.
The advent of fixed-term Parliaments has seen the dramatic extension of the long campaign for the 2015 general election. If the Tory press maintain this level of aggression Labour is in for a punishing few months.