Friends turn foe as press is forced to eat its words

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The Independent Online
WITH the savagery of a pack of rottweilers, formerly faithful Tory newspapers yesterday turned on the Government that only six months earlier they had urged their readers to elect.

Without exception, their leader columns ripped apart the policies they had so heartily endorsed and tore into the political masters they persuaded readers to trust: John Major's honour was lost, he was incompetent, weak-kneed and wet; Michael Heseltine was an unprincipled hypocrite.

On Sunday 5 April, the Sunday Times wrote: 'As a result of the re-igniting of enterprise, the country, alone among European nations, has been a job-generating machine over the last decade. The Tories offer a combination of more market economics and progressive social policy . . . that is right for Britain in the 1990s and which the Sunday Times wholeheartedly endorses.'

Yesterday, the newspaper scoffed: 'John Major is like a general fighting the Second World War with the weapons of the first. Britain is lumbered with a do- nothing government which refuses to countenance new thinking and whose only public response to criticism is to parrot the policies that failed the nation. It is not quite accurate to say this is a do-nothing government; the problem is that when it does something it invariably makes matters worse. But the Oscar for cack-handedness must go to its signal achievement in rehabilitating Arthur Scargill. The scale of the Government's incompetence is breathtaking.'

Six months ago, the Sunday Telegraph wrote: 'John Major has pulled it off. Those achievements (of the Thatcher years) are still intact. A victory for anyone but the Conservatives on Thursday would result in a strengthened grip of the Brussels bureaucracy.'

Yesterday, it opined that the Prime Minister's 'honour was sullied and his incompetence exposed. The British people now resemble the British troops in the First World War. They are lions led by donkeys. As in that war, the policies of the leaders have now inflicted casulaties on every family in the land . . . We must not return to the ERM. We must not ratify the Maastricht treaty. If the defeat of the Government over the miners is the readiest way to advance that cause, so be it.'

Back in April, under a headline 'Vote Tory with Pride', the Sunday Express argued that 'anybody who cares - genuinely cares - about the welfare of the sick or the old or the less fortunate should look forward to voting Conservative with pride. No party is more committed to spending money wisely and where it is most needed.'

Yesterday, its leading article described last week's events as a 'disgraceful foul-up . . . the most maladroit piece of government this country has seen for many years'.

In April, the News of the World said: 'John Major and the Tory party are still the better bet for safeguarding our economy and securing Britain's future at home and abroad.' Yesterday, it did not mince words. 'The Prime Minister presides over a shambles and the President of the Board of Trade is exposed as an unprincipled hypocrite.'

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