Stephen Glover on The Press

The curious case of a Tory press that disdains the party's leader
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The Independent Online

Meanwhile, though Mr Cameron attracts some sympathetic comments from liberal commentators, the Tory press and its columnists are almost wholly unmoved by him.

Consider this extraordinary fact. It is difficult to think of more than a couple of Conservative columnists who regularly root for Mr Cameron in right-wing newspapers. Matthew D'Ancona is a dependable supporter in the Sunday Telegraph, as is Michael Portillo in the Sunday Times, though his advice (dump all traditional Tories) verges on the lunatic. There are friendly observers, such as Charles Moore in the Daily Telegraph or Matthew Parris in the Times, but Mr Cameron does not have a phalanx of committed cheerleaders such as Tony Blair enjoyed in 1994. The Independent's Bruce Anderson is a lonely wide-eyed enthusiast, but this newspaper seems an unlikely platform for a Tory revival.

Perhaps Mr Cameron is guilty of an error that Tony Blair certainly did not make when he became leader of the Labour party - namely, to assume that he need only concern himself with proprietors and editors. They are fine insofar as they go, but if Mr Cameron is hoping to get a movement going he will have to cast his net wider. Messrs Anderson, Portillo and D'Ancona scarcely constitute an army. Moreover, the editors with whom Mr Cameron has broken bread do not appear to be true believers in the project.

The Tory press - by which I principally mean the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph - have been writing about the Tory leader in the tones of an exasperated school teacher increasingly disappointed with a once promising pupil. Neither paper has yet given him a thorough roasting, but the day may not be far distant when they do.

Last Friday's Mail probably went further than it has before in representing Mr Cameron as a ludicrous figure. Over a photograph of the Tory leader being pulled by huskies across a Norwegian glacier, the Mail suggested that he had accounted for 30,000 gallons of fuel in his jaunt to the Arctic Circle. The science editor, Michael Hanlon, suggested in an accompanying piece that Mr Cameron had visited the wrong glacier. By the way, I should remind readers that I write a column for the Mail.

The Telegraph is potentially the sterner critic. The acting editor, John Bryant, is an unenthusiastic Cameroon. Among the paper's columnists, only Charles Moore and Alice Thompson are markedly sympathetic to the Tory leader, and even Ms Thompson cannot be counted on. (I exclude Boris Johnson, who as a Tory spokesman is obviously parti pris.) Simon Heffer is persistently rude, and recently again called Mr Cameron a "PR spiv". The business columnist Jeff Randall, who may be seen as a kind of consigliere to the paper's proprietors, the Barclay twins, also dislikes the Tory leader. So does Guy Black, the Telegraph's official spin doctor, who takes an interest in editorial affairs.

If the Conservatives should perform poorly in the local elections, the Telegraph and the Mail may let fly. There are people around Mr Cameron who will say: so what? Or even: a jolly good thing, too. This seems very unwise. He can't afford to make an enemy of the Tory press at this juncture in his career. His advisers may tell him that, in the end, the Tory newspapers have nowhere else to go. Is this really true? The Mail, for example, has a weakness for Gordon Brown, which it could develop.

What can Mr Cameron do? He recently thought of appointing Sarah Sands, recently sacked as editor of the Sunday Telegraph, as his spin doctor, but she has preferred a position at the Daily Mail. Presumably he still thinks that his media team needs strengthening, which I am sure it does. But working on improving his relations with centre-right journalists is only part of the battle.

If he were successful - in local elections and opinion polls - he would need to watch the Tory press less warily. As it is, he should surely toss these newspapers at least the odd piece of red meat so as to give them some cause to think that he might, after all, be a Tory. It may well be that he is constitutionally incapable of acting in such a way. In which case, short of some electoral miracle on 4 May, I foresee tears before bedtime.

Not how to report a suicide bombing

Perhaps the reader will believe me when I say that in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I am as neutral as it is possible to be.

So last Tuesday I was a little dismayed by the manner in which the Independent - though it was not alone - reported the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. The opening paragraphs of the piece were entirely devoted to the youth of the bomber, Samer Samih Hamad, and to the anti-Israeli remarks of his relatives, who sought to justify the bombing. There was little description of the horrors that the bomber had inflicted, and scant details about the nine victims.

Generally, I do not go along with suggestions by members of the Jewish lobby that reporting of Israel is skewed. On this occasion, I could see their point.

A reassuring display of 'Guardian' republicanism

I must admit that I have never been fully convinced by the idea of the Guardian as the new paper of the Establishment. So I was reassured to see a piece by Jonathan Freedland last Friday advocating that, when the Queen dies, we should get rid of the monarchy. Even now, I think we can safely say that the Establishment, whatever it may exactly be, is not republican. To run such a prominent article on the Queen's 80th birthday was not the best way of advertising the paper's Establishment qualities.

A piece by Richard Gott in last Tuesday's Guardian provoked similar thoughts. Mr Gott was forced to resign from the newspaper in 1994 after it was alleged that he had been an important KGB "agent of influence" - at the very least, accepting money from the KGB for foreign travel. Mr Gott's former Soviet links astounded many of his colleagues at the Guardian, where he had been known as "Gott the Trot" and "Pol Gott".

His disgrace, I am happy to say, was rather short-lived. According to the paper's own records, he has written 63 articles for the Guardian since 1998, a third of them in the last two years. He often muses about South American affairs. Last Tuesday's offering was a tribute to Fidel Castro who, we were told, is recognized by a new generation in Latin America as "one of the great figures of the 20th century".

Actually, I do not at all complain about Mr Gott's rehabilitation. I am delighted to see him back. It reminds me of the days when the Guardian had many of the attributes of the hard-left. It also confirms that it has some way to go before it can plausibly call itself the paper of the Establishment.

Incidentally, The Times has no better claim so to describe itself. In its second section last Friday it referred to the Queen as "Her Maj".

scmgox@aol.com

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