Iain Dale has already noted the BBC’s OTT coverage of Brown’s first day as Labour leader. Throughout this week I’ll be keeping a daily eye on the coverage of The Daily Mail and of The Sun of Brown’s first week as Tony Blair’s successor. Both newspapers will be crucial influences on whether Brown can maintain the coalition of voters that delivered three victories for Mr Blair. Both have a history of indulging the Chancellor.
Both newspapers have more or less the same front page splashes: ‘Election In A Year‘ (The Sun – which bills its story as an exclusive!) and ‘Brown Gears Up For Sping Election‘ (The Daily Mail). Have they been spun by the man who has promised to end spin? Or are their political antennae making the same conclusions from the appointment of Douglas Alexander as General Election Coordinator?
EU referendum: Page two of The Sun declares ‘Over To EU: Irish Referendum Pressure On Gord’. Political Editor George Pascoe Watson quotes William Hague and piles the pressure on ‘Gord’ to honour 2005’s Labour manifesto promise. In The Mail there is extensive coverage of William Hague’s intervention, Melanie Phillips writes that Brown will deserve to forfeit voters’ trust if he does not grant a referendum and the Mail leader says: "Mr Brown insists that he wants the public to be ‘informed and consulted’. But not, apparently, on Europe. He holds out no hope of a referendum."
Harriet Harman: Neither newspaper is impressed with Harriet Harman’s victory. The Mail describes her as an "ice cold feminist" and reminds us of her ‘Harriet Harperson’ nickname (shouldn’t that be Harperkin to avoid the reference to ‘son’?!). Both newspapers say that Brown has snubbed her by giving her a "non-job" (The Sun). The Sun’s overall verdict on HH:
"The election of Harriet Harman as Deputy Leader cast a shadow over Mr Brown’s unopposed inheritance of the job he has waited thirteen long years for. But the man who the Queen will appoint Prime Minister on Wednesday showed he is quick-witted and ruthless. Within minutes of Ms Harman’s election he made it clear she will NOT be the new Deputy Prime Minister in place of John Prescott. Though as party chairman Harriet will have a similar role to hopeless old Two Jags — keeping the Old Labour lefties in line. They won’t mind her disowning of the Iraq conflict as “wrong”. They might agree with her thumbs down to nuclear power, a suicidal policy that would leave us at the mercy of the unpredictable Russians and the volatile Middle East. Who knows? The trouble is that she is so politically correct some of her MP colleagues call her Harriet Harperson. Mr Brown spotted her weaknesses a mile off — which shows he has good judgment as he prepares to announce his new Cabinet. He will have enough on his plate fulfilling his promises on housing, education and the NHS without having Ms Harman making a mess of one of the great Ministries."
The Brown speech: Both newspapers say that they are waiting for the beef but both gave the general message a thumbs up. The Sun said "Gordon Brown had an almost perfect day." The Mail:
"After such a very long time to gather his thoughts, Gordon Brown could be expected to press all the right buttons when he made his maiden speech as Labour leader. He did not disappoint. Education, the NHS, housing, voters’ disenchantment with the political process, fear of crime and worries about devolution – each was mentioned as he accepted the party crown at the conclusion of his non-election… Mr Brown has proved beyond doubt his ability to command a great office of state. Now he has to bring the same skill to the whole business of government."
Strong Brown: Both newspapers – particularly with regard to non-jobbing Harriet Harman – emphasised Brown’s ruthlessness. The new Labour leader won’t mind that.
Other stories: It’s often not the editorial line but the selection of stories that most influences readers. Today’s Mail was encouraging in that respect. Here are some anti-Government headlines in today’s newspaper:
- East Europe migrants bring surge in pickpocketing crime
- Quarter of marriages revealed as sham as rules are tightened
- Now pupils might miss out on a place at university if their parents have good jobs
- Labour has lost support of doctors says BMA boss
- Mum denied cancer drug funding has to sell her house
- ASBOs leading to more crime
- Prisoners released without checks in rush to free-up cells
It will be relentless news stories like that which will eventually do for Brown. I hope.