A thorn in the Government's side

A cabinet minister said last night that his colleagues would "punch the air'' with delight at the news that Piers Morgan had been forced to resign as the editor of the
Daily Mirror.

A cabinet minister said last night that his colleagues would "punch the air'' with delight at the news that Piers Morgan had been forced to resign as the editor of the Daily Mirror.

Since 1998, Mr Morgan had been a thorn in the side of the Blair Government, but recently, the anger among ministers about his newspaper's critical stance had turned to loathing. Nowhere was that felt more keenly than among the Labour figures who once worked for the traditional, Labour-supporting Daily Mirror, such as Alastair Campbell.

Mr Blair's former communications director said this week that Mr Morgan must face up to the rules of the political game. "If it transpires that these pictures are fake, then I don't see how his position is tenable."

Labour MPs relied on the Daily Mirror for support in the years when The Sun supported the Conservative Government of Lady Thatcher.

Mr Morgan was bedazzled by the promise of the youthful Blair Government, but when he abandoned his support in 1998 it was taken as a betrayal by New Labour ministers. The disclosures four years ago of his share dealing in a company plugged by his own paper were seen by MPs as further evidence of double standards.

Mr Morgan's decision to campaign against the war on Iraq was a high-risk strategy, but the Mirror's headline "Vile" over the photographs of soldiers apparently abusing an Iraqi prisoner proved a fatal error. After the photographs were pronounced fake, Nicholas Soames, the Tory spokesman on defence, summed up his feelings to friends in a notorious headline from The Sun: "Gotcha!"

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