Facing death? Why the Daily Mail will soon be on borrowed time

01 Nov 2017  |  Raymond Snoddy 
Facing death? Why the Daily Mail will soon be on borrowed time

The Daily Mail's ludicrous headlines are the product of a commercial strategy to entice elderly readers - but the demographics are changing, and at some point the newspaper will have to modernise its editorial stance, writes Raymond Snoddy

An odd story appeared on page four of the Daily Mail on Tuesday. You might instinctively think that there are numerous odd - and worse - stories on page four of the Daily Mail every day and indeed many of the other pages too.

For some reason this one just stood out as a perfect example of the level of bile, bias, unfairness and misunderstanding the paper spreads on a daily basis on everything to do with Brexit and the European Union.

“Unholy Trinity of Bremoaners” ran the headline while the more expansive sub-head read: “Clegg, Clarke and Adonis hold summit with EU’s Barnier...and are accused of undermining Britain.”

The “Unholy Trinity” were in fact senior former Cabinet Ministers from the UK’s three main political parties - Nick Clegg, former leader of the Lib Dems and former deputy Prime Minister, veteran Conservative and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Ken Clarke and former Labour Transport Secretary Lord Adonis.

They had the bald-faced effrontery to ask for a meeting with chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier to better understand the EU position to inform their contributions to debates in both the Commons and the Lords.

As the EU said, and the Daily Mail reported, Barnier’s door is “always open to people who want to speak to him and his team” and he has already also met from Labour Jeremy Corbyn, Sir Keir Starmer and Yvette Cooper.

You had to read to the end to find out facts that essentially undermined the conspiracy theory behind the main presentation of the story.

For the Mail, “the Bremoaners,” as opposed to people who have rational arguments to put forward on why and how Brexit will damage the UK, were attending “a summit” rather than an informal meeting.

How wise is it to have a strategy that hitches a paper to an elderly and insular cohort that would on the whole prefer a return to an older, simpler world"

They were also accused of “undermining Britain” even though they pointed out they were in no sense negotiating nor had any power or authority to do so.

In the eyes of the Mail anyone who supported Remain, and still stubbornly believes it is in the best interests of the country to continue doing so, is at best a Bremoaner and quite often a traitor betraying the best interests of the country.

Clegg, Clarke and Adonis were given the nickname of the “Unholy Trinity” trying to undermine the country by a completely disinterested source - UKIP’s Nigel Farage.

Theresa May’s former chief of staff until he was fired, Nick Timothy claimed, without any evidence whatsoever, the three were discussing with Barnier how Brexit could be stopped because that is what they believe, and that therefore they were undermining the UK’s negotiating position.

On the same day there was a significant story in The Times saying that a Brexit agreement with the EU would have to be enshrined in British law and therefore would be subjected to full scrutiny and a vote by MPs.

The May line until now has been it would simply be a “take it or leave it” vote and there was even some doubt on whether that vote would take place before or after Brexit day.

The full scrutiny and serious vote would allow MPs to try to amend the legislation and perhaps even block it.

There was no mention of such a story in the Daily Mail, and if the reason was The Times had an important political exclusive, there was no sign of a follow-up the next day.

Those who live in the Daily Mail echo-chamber - it’s not just social media that produces echo-chambers - remain uninformed that Brexit will only mean Brexit in the Daily Mail sense of the term if a serious bill passes through the Lords and the Commons without significant amendments.

One story about the “Unholy Trinity” is part of a daily pattern of highlighting to the point of almost comical exaggeration the advantages that will flow from Brexit, while minimising the downside through pink-tinged spectacles.

Fine, but isn’t this all a statement of the bleeding obvious?

Yes but the interesting associated thought is what actually all of this means for the future of the Daily Mail and ultimately its survival.

How wise is it to have a strategy that hitches a paper to an elderly and insular cohort that would on the whole prefer a return to an older, simpler world.

The young inherit the earth and the elderly depart from it and the numbers, at least at the moment, are not equal.

Around 530,000 deaths are registered every year in England and Wales alone, compared with around 700,000 births.

The demographics do not look good for the Daily Mail with the young unwilling to touch the paper with a barge pole.

The young do not in general read newspapers as opposed to online news but the possible exception might be the highly educated and politically active young as part of a “flight to quality” in the face of fake online news.

Such people are unlikely to turn to the Daily Mail as we saw with the paper’s over-the-top and ultimately counter-productive attempts to demonise Corbyn in this year’s general election.

Perhaps the Daily Mail and the other Brexit-supporting papers remain so shrill because they realise that the implications of the demographics are serious for those who want to leave the EU.

Between the vote and any second referendum on the terms - if such a thing were to happen - as many as 1.5 million members of the electorate, many of them elderly Brexiteers, will have departed this world.

Over the same period a similar, or even larger number of the young will have qualified to vote and when they can be persuaded to vote they break disproportionately in favour of Remain and probably Labour.
As the Americans say: do the math - however rough and ready the process.

The paper will, however, never change its stance on either Brexit, politics or social policy as long as Paul Dacre is editor.

After all he has created the Daily Mail in his own personal image and though it has been a considerable commercial success no-one can stand out against the march of demographics.

As Paul Dacre enters his 70th year later this month, the Daily Mail editor-in-chief should suggest to himself, as he has done to a multitude of politicians over the years, that he should consider his position.

Not because he is too old but because his views are looking increasingly quaint and out of touch with the modern world and also out of touch with the best interests of his readers.

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NickDrew, CEO, Fuse Insights on 3 Nov 2017
“One always feels a little soiled reading about the Daily Mail's editorial stance - and perhaps occasionally like if we ignore it maybe it'll go away (it could just be me).
The problem is that "at some point" is likely to be a long way off; while the print product may wither, the sentiment it reflects and generates is still alive and well. Don't forget, 52% of people voted for Brexit, and while that figure may have fallen significantly, the fact that it wasn't a complete walkover for the Remain campaign shows just how deep-rooted this jingoistic populist worldview is.
And the Mail Online still garners something like 240m unique devices per month, of which 70m are from the UK. Devices are not users, but even half of that would be a significant fraction of the UK 'news'-reading population.
So although it's appealing to think of a world where the Mail has to shift its editorial stance, for now we perhaps have to try to understand just why it's so popular, and work to shift those underlying perceptions.”