LibLink: Stephen Tall – The tabloids’ desperate attack on Liberal Democrats

Over at The Guardian’s Comment Is Free website, LDV Co-Editor Stephen Tall looks at the hysterical over-reaction of the rightwing press to the Lib Dems’ poll surge. It has got, he argues, “the rightwing papers running scared and flinging so much mud it insults their readers’ intelligence”. Here’s an excerpt:

Ever since Nick Clegg’s victory in that debate six days ago, the right-wing press, much like the Tory party, has been utterly paralysed, unsure whether to launch a full-tilt attack on the Lib Dems, or to patronise the party’s surge as the teenage tantrum of an electorate which should jolly well just grow up. …

What really worries the Mail and Murdoch about the Lib Dem poll ratings is this: they understand Nick Clegg’s party is a direct threat to the cosy status quo with which they are so comfortable. Don’t take my word for it: former Sun editor David Yelland made the point quite explicitly on these very pages just a couple of days ago in his explosive article, Nick Clegg’s rise could lock Murdoch and the media elite out of UK politics.

Will the Mail/Murdoch attacks work. Only time will tell, says Stephen, but notes that the newspapers are (to their chagrin) no longer as important as they might have once been:

Of course newspapers matter, and I would much rather the Mail and Sun were offering their readers proper news rather than right-wing agitprop. But they no longer matter as much: most of the public take in their information from broadcast media who are obliged by law to be impartial. And the staggering success of the unofficial Lib Dem Facebook group – with 120,000-plus members, now far bigger than the Labour and Tory fan-groups combined – demonstrates the power of the Internet to mobilise voters who scorn the right-wing press’s attempts to dictate the news agenda.

You can read Stephen’s article in full here.

* The accompanying picture is from the unofficial Facebook fan-group,, which currently numbers 127,597 members.

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This entry was posted in General Election and LibLink.


  • Anthony Aloysius St 21st Apr '10 - 9:15pm

    And it’s not only the tabloids. I’ve just watched the Daily Politics “debate” between Cable, Darling and Osborne. I haven’t seen any of these “debates” before, and I certainly shan’t be watching any more. The format is essentially three politicians trying to have a discussion while Andrew Neil (and a sidekick) yell comments, questions and half-baked opinions at them.

    I am far from being Vince Cable’s greatest fan – or the most devout believer in his wisdom and consistency – but I thought Neil’s low-point came when he accused Cable of having described quantitative easing in an article as “the Robert Mugabe school of economics”, and then having changed his mind and supported it. Cable patiently explained that that wasn’t what he had said at all, as Neil would see if he read the article. “I have read it,” yelled Neil, and his sidekick yelled some Zimbabwean economic statistics in encouragement. The sidekick concluded reprovingly that it didn’t sound as though Cable had thought quantitative easing was a very good thing.

    With the help of Google, I found the article in question – – and of course Cable didn’t describe quantitative easing as “the Robert Mugabe school of economics” at all.

    In fact, he said quantitative easing had both attractions and dangers, but that “The Robert Mugabe school of economics provides a salutary warning about uncontrolled monetary expansion in generating hyper-inflation.” Quantitative easing might prove necessary, he continued, but would have to be managed with great skill and care.

    Obviously these ideas were expressed in too complicated a way for the boorish Mr Neil to take in. But perhaps he wasn’t giving the article his full attention when he was reading it. Quite possibly he was busy yelling at somebody at the time.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 21st Apr '10 - 11:04pm

    This is something else, however:

    Nick Clegg received a series of payments from party donors directly into his private bank account, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

    A spokesman for Mr Clegg insisted that the money had been paid to fund half of a researcher’s salary. He said he was “not in a position” to provide the necessary paperwork, but added that this could be produced in future.

    Unless there’s a much better explanation than appears in the article, this looks like an act of monumental stupidity.

  • Steve Comer 22nd Apr '10 - 1:17am

    I don’t know why the BBC is giving Andrew Neil so much air time in this election. His attempts at laddish ’80s style Toryism might be OK for the small post Question Time audience, but during an election surely his thinly veiled anti-Liberal and pro-Conservative views makes him flies in the face of any claim to impartiality?

  • Will Buxton 22nd Apr '10 - 3:36am
  • Andrew Suffield 22nd Apr '10 - 7:12am

    Unless there’s a much better explanation than appears in the article

    It’s a safe bet that anything the Telegraph has printed about Clegg is selectively quoted and cast in the worst possible light. There’s no guarantee it’s even true; they’ve printed unconfirmed rumours before.

    Naturally it will take a little more than two weeks to get to the bottom of their claims.

  • Yesterday’s “Sun” was a remarkable example of grotesque — and comic–distortion in its election “coverage”, whereby the reported loss of some notes by Nick Clegg in a taxi was the basis for a vindictive attack on the Liberal Democrats. Murdock and his lickspittle journalists, having backed Cameron when they believed he was a winner, are now dismayed to find the the Tories are likely to be denied their “Buggin’s Turn” to boss the Country around after the General Election.
    Nick Clegg will not be forgiven for pissing on the Tory Parade, and we can expect more of the same desparate Tory propaganda from these journalistic prostitutes, especially if, as expected, Nick does well in the subsequent leaders’ debates.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Apr '10 - 1:02am

    Looking at the rack of newspapers with big anti-Clegg headlines last morning, it seemed to me to be so way over the top that the papers will seriously damage themselves with it. One of them doing it could get away with it, four or five together leading on different anti-Clegg lines, and it becomes pretty obvious this is an organised campaign by desperate Conservative Party fanatics. I feel people who are happy to have a paper with a slant one way still want it to have some signs of objectivity, and when there’s a whole row of papers all stuffed full with the most blatant party political propaganda, people’s eyes might even be opened to what these papers are really for – twisting their minds to go their way politically. Actually, if it was organised they’d probably have the sense not to be so blatant about it.

    The mid-market right-wingers are beginning to hit a problem. With the rise of the super-rich, the sort of person who reads the mid-markets is beginning to realise s/he’s not one of them. The idea that all you need is to work hard and you’ll reach the top is losing out, as hard-working people with good salaries look at City bonuses and feel a sense of unfairness and of being cheated. So some of the old lines about defending the super-rich staying super-rich because that’s for the good of the country and you can be one of them if you try aren’t working as they used to. The merely comfortable no longer identify with it. Shrill pro-Tory tones may backfire when the middle-manager in his fifties, worked hard all his life, lives in a nice semi, salary 50K or so, job now at risk in the recession, looks at City boys and hates them for their wealth in a way he never hated the top businessmen in the past when they didn’t seem too distanced from him.

    So, now the defenders of the extreme wealth establishment are using their stranglehold of the newspapers to belt out their propaganda. I rather feel there’s many who would have taken it in the past who will start questoining the bias now.

    To me, the rack of Clegg-hating headlines looked like the last days of East European communism. Here we have an out-of-touch establishment, and their paid hacks who run the state news media service, belting out the old lines, only they aren’t quite working, but they are so out-of-touch they just belt out more of them of an even more absurd form, thinking they will work eventually and quieten the proles as they always used to. The old class war lines are brought out, the long defeated enemy of the days when the establishment were the revolutionaries is still held up as a threat. Absurdly, the grim-faced establishment leaders from their mansions and their extreme wealth still try to play the game that they are on the side of the people against the powers-that-be. So, just as the last old commies still put themselves forward as the leaders of the people against capitalism, the right-wing press in defence of the extreme wealth of the City smart set, still try to put themselves forward as popular champions against a socialist establishment they try to make out is still dominant.

    Now, you look at these people, these paid hacks writing the “Clegg eats babies” lines, and it just looks sad. Can these hacks really manage to look like brave defenders of the proletariat against the evil socialist enemy who still really run everything, with Clegg just a front-man for turning back the revolution? Are Rupert Murdoch, the City boys, the big business executives with their mansion-a-year bonuses, really brave champions of the people against the evil controlling establishment as represented by your local LibDem PPC?

    A mild-mannered liberal stands up offering a bit of a change, nothing even that dramatic, to the power of the establishment, and they react back like this. I think there’s a lot of people who were going along with them whose eyes will be opened by this.

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