The news that Trinity Mirror is in negotiations to buy all of Richard Desmond’s Northern and Shell titles, including the Daily Express and Star and OK! magazine has sent a shockwave through Britain’s newspaper industry. Could we be about to see a significant shift to the left in our printed press?
The answer is: possibly, but don’t count on it. Trinity Mirror is a business first and foremost, and the idea of alienating its new readers would probably not sit well with them. Nevertheless, when The Mirror was replaced as Britain’s best-read newspaper, The Sun, in the early 1970s, this was due in large part to a young Rupert Murdoch decisively shifting the paper into a new, tabloid format.
It has long been the lament many in the Labour Party that the nation’s newspapers generally have a right-wing bias. This view is not without credence. Only The Mirror has been consistent in its support for Labour, with other ‘left-wing’ newpapers like The Guardian and The Independent often supporting the Liberals. More often than not, the Tories are able to count on the support of the majority of British tabloids and newspapers.
Lately, a host of well-read blogs has been launched in Britain and elsewhere with the aim of countering “the mainstream media.” Sadly, click-bait providers like The Canary and The Skwakbox appear to care little for facts and often peddle odious conspiracy theories. The Canary, in particular, has attracted criticism for driving traffic to its website by virtue of sensationalist headlines which usually lack substance.
It would therefore be welcome were Trinity Mirror to bravely shift The Daily Express in a more left-leaning direction. This would perhaps reduce the appeal of fact vacuums like some aforementioned blogs, providing the Labour Party with a greater level of credible support in the media.
Any Labour leader should expect to have the press largely against them. This is because the press have been a key pillar of the establishment for many decades. Nevertheless, a Labour Party that tries to avoid this reality and to cry “no fair” when the press becomes hostile will struggle to achieve power for the foreseeable future, especially as the newspaper industry, though declining, is still immensely powerful.
It would be fitting and sweet, however, if Trinity Mirror, whose flagship publication was subverted by Rupert Murdoch all those years ago in a move that demoralised Britain’s once-respected newspapers, were to outflank the right-wing press and at last deliver a more balanced array of headlines for the nation to read.