The unbridgeable gulf: The Daily Mail vs. Mail on Sunday

07 Dec 2016  |  Raymond Snoddy 
The unbridgeable gulf: The Daily Mail vs. Mail on Sunday

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre

They are produced in the same building and share the same owner - but the difference between the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday is remarkable, as Brexit has shown.

There is nothing particularly new about different newspapers coming out of the same publishing stable taking differing views on large political issues.

But the stances of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, not just during the Referendum campaign, but now in the battles over Brexit and the current case before the Supreme Court are by any standards truly extraordinary.

How do you explain the tale of two newspapers being produced in the same building under the same ownership yet being so very different?

It could of course be a sophisticated ploy by the Viscount Rothermere to have his cake and eat it on Brexit.

It is much more likely that the unbridgeable gulf reflects the different personalities of two editors who have only one thing in common - they have both edited the Evening Standard.

On one side of the argument there is Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, the almost reclusive, state scholarship boy - the subaltern figure - and on the other the well-connected Geordie Greig (pictured, below) whose mother was a granddaughter of Lord Mowbray and members of his father's family have been Royal courtiers for three generations. Definitely arts-loving officer class.

The Daily Mail of course has form, lots of it from its marked taste for negative front pages on migrants across the years to its crude pro-Brexit propaganda during the referendum campaign and on to probably the single most disgraceful headline of recent times, calling three High Court judges: "Enemies of the People."

The Daily Mail had the right, and should have the right, to criticise and even attack judges or anyone else if they please.

But given its history, the paper would have been wise to reflect for a moment before using an expression, as some quickly pointed out, that exactly mimicked the attacks on the independence of the judiciary in 1930s Nazi papers in Germany.

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One of the defining characteristics of the Daily Mail is when it comes under pressure it attacks again and by any standards the Saturday edition was a tour de force.

Under the slightly less incendiary headline 'The Judges and The People' the Daily Mail assessed the so-called Eurofile ratings of the ten men and one woman of the UK's Supreme Court.

It was a classic Mail confection, assembling publicly known facts on the Eleven and shaking them up like a kaleidoscope to create an unfair and misleading pattern.

There was the frontal attack that these largely white, male Oxbridge Garrick club members were unelected - although is any serious case being made to have judges, whose job is to interpret the law, to become part of a political process through election?

The Mail's real and transparent weapon of choice is guilt by association and any old association will do.

The wife of the President of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger has been guilty of anti-Brexit Tweets. But it gets worse, his sister-in-law Julia who has applied for a German passport was until recently a governor of the University of the Arts London, whose vice-chancellor Jeremy Till emailed students to say the vote had "broken his heart."

Lord Mance is a hopeless case. His wife sits on the Advisory Board of the King's College London Centre of European Law. The director of the Centre Andrea Biondi is a pro-Remain activist and what's more Lord Mance's son Henry is a political journalist for that "anti-Brexit newspaper" the Financial Times. His daughter Abagail is married to management consultant David Bosomworth who has Tweeted that Brexiteers have decided "to tank the pound, make prices soar, destroy the economy and stoke xenophobia."

And so it went on and on...

Interestingly, the paper felt just a little unsure of itself and felt the need to run a long comment piece on: "Why the free press must shine a light on this unelected court" even though there was little sign of the paper being denied that right - however misguided.

Sunday, another day another paper, and there is a very different approach from the Mail on Sunday to previewing the opening of the appeal to the Supreme Court.

Gina Miller, the businesswoman who brought the case and has faced threats of rape and murder as a result, is given a page to set out her views including the argument that senior politicians apparently do not know what any first-year law student does - that only Parliament can grant people rights and only Parliament can take them away.

There was more - former Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable arguing that the march of hard Brexit can be stopped.

Pride of place on the front page however went to a new embarrassment for Theresa May over Brexit.

The Prime Minister has warned senior ministers and mandarins to stop the flow of Brexit leaks on pain of getting sacked.

Naturally her letter was in turn leaked to the Mail on Sunday.

By Monday the Daily Mail was having a go at the "quangocrats" who choose Supreme Court judges in secret and on Tuesday - when there was evidence from the Supreme Court to report - a reprise of 'the will of the people' argument and Attorney General for England and Wales, Jeremy Wright, condemning the judiciary for dismissing the EU vote as "legally irrelevant."

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Then in Wednesday's papers, there were reports of the opening of the case against the Government by Lord Pannick QC who, according to The Times, told the Supreme Court that the Prime Minister had no legal power to trigger Brexit without Parliamentary approval after the "legally irrelevant" referendum.

If Ministers could legally use prerogative powers to trigger Article 50 then the European Communities Act 1972, under which the UK joined the EU would have "a lesser constitutional status than the Dangerous Dogs Act."

It was a powerful argument, which might give a clue to the eventual outcome of the appeal.

Unfortunately, the Daily Mail does not appear to have had any space to cover the response to the Government evidence, which so exercised its attention earlier in the week.

There was room for two pages devoted to historian Niall Ferguson changing his mind and moving from Remain to Brexit under the headline "The Great Recantation" and a page from Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith on why it was crucial to scrutinise judges who will make Brexit decisions.

Perhaps the Mail on Sunday will offer a reprise of the evidence on the weekend.

Meanwhile, we can look forward to January when the Supreme Court will probably uphold the verdict of the "Enemies of the People" and the Daily Mail will suffer the journalistic seizure to top all journalistic seizures.

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