Today’s Mail headline savaging Boris Johnson for publicly saying what most Conservatives believe about Brexit is more proof that Brexit has lost one of its most formidable proponents. The appointment of arch-liberal and Remainer Geordie Grieg as Mail editor last month (apparently because Lady Rothermere was tired of being abused over Brexit at dinner parties) was always expected to produce a change of editorial tone but not the slavish devotion to Mrs May and her Chequers cause that we have seen over recent weeks, the reining in of the Mail’s redoubtable hacks, who must now toe the party line, and the succession of juicy scare stories about the consequences of ‘no deal’.
The return from Salzburg edition (Saturday 22 September), which presented May as a sort of latter-day Boudicca, was gut-wrenching. Instead of revealing the whole exercise for the monumental cock-up that it was, an embarrassing humiliation, the Mail chose to praise May for her ‘statesmanship’ and ‘magnanimity’, for her ‘dogged resilience’ and ‘unshakeable resolve’. Her refusal to drop her Chequers plan, to even consider the other options with her cabinet (May does not do discussion and debate), showed her ‘steely resolve’. The EU’s behaviour was ‘shabby’ and they ‘were messing with the wrong prime minister’. Even Quentin Letts was drafted in to cheer her, and Stephen Glover, who clearly thinks Chequers is dead, had to preface his concerns (expressed with uncharacteristic mildness) with an extended tirade against the ‘boorish’ EU leaders who had insulted our prime minister.
What a contrast to the Telegraph’s forensic demolition of May’s Chequers position in the capable and principled hands of Jeremy Warner, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Peter Foster, Liam Halligan – and a certain Boris Johnson. Michael Deacon brilliantly, savagely, lampooned May in Monday’s edition merely by reprinting an exchange between her and Andrew Marr in a recent BBC interview. She simply stonewalled every question; and instead of anything that might resemble answers, we had, ‘The mechanical reciting of hollow stock phrases. The tireless repetition. The grim-faced determination to plod onto the end, no matter how badly things are going’. Deacon noted that her performance was ‘a masterpiece of the satirist’s art’ – except that it was real.
Will Conservatives swallow the drivel they are now being fed by the Mail? Or will Boris and the Telegraph prevail?