Despite massive losses to its readership and finances, says Nick Cohen in The Spectator, “the Tory press charges on like an old, angry bull”. The police initially found that Keir Starmer had broken no Covid rules in Durham, but the right-wing papers “hammered away” at “Beergate” until the cops finally felt they had to reopen the case. The Tories were initially delighted. But now that the Labour leader has said he’ll resign if he is fined, “you can hear the sounds of gears clunking into reverse”. If Starmer is vindicated, it’ll make him look “honourable” and Boris Johnson look unprincipled.
“Is the Tory press now a danger to the Tory party?” It’s not the first time Conservatives have come a cropper because of their Fleet Street boosters. Last year Tory MP Owen Paterson was caught illegally lobbying, but under pressure from former Telegraph editor Charles Moore, the PM tried to get him off the hook. It was a disaster. Conservative backbenchers turned on Johnson, Paterson resigned and the Lib Dems won the resulting by-election. I’ve worked in the liberal press all my life and never come close to hurting the Tories so badly. But perhaps a bigger problem than over-enthusiastic right-wing columnists egging on the government is that over-enthusiastic right-wing columnists have become the government. Boris Johnson is, at heart, a pundit, not a politician, and he thinks in terms of columns not policies. And really, journalists should never be allowed to manage anything. “We can never be trusted to put in the hard, boring work.”