Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Telegraph and the Tories

Before I start this piece, I should declare an interest as someone who writes a fortnightly column for the Daily Telegraph.


Tim Montgomerie has written two articles today - one FOR the Telegraph and the other ON the Telegraph for CommentisFree. It is this latter article I wish to concentrate on. The essense of what Tim is saying is that the Telegraph can no longer be regarded as the Torygraph and that relations between the paper and David Cameron are terrible. He concludes by saying this...

What is to be done? The leadership must put more energy into promoting policies
that will appeal to its traditional voters. It already has many such policies
but they receive very little coverage compared to David Cameron's environmental
agenda. I think of the promise of a borders police force, more prisons,
scrapping of ID cards, a review of the Human Rights Act and support for
marriage. None of these policies are in conflict with the Cameron party's
gentler, greener priorities but they need to be sold to core voters. The
Telegraph is vital for reassuring the party's core voters that the party is
worth electing. As a political geek who studies the Tory strategy on a daily
basis I know that the party remains a very conservative enterprise. David
Cameron must find a way of ensuring that The Telegraph shares that
understanding.


Obviously it is clear to any political leader that it is wise to build political bridges with as many parts of the media as possible. You cannot get your message out if the entire media is against you. Cameron always knew that the Telegraph would be a tough nut to crack and Tim Montgomerie is right to point out that more effort needs to be expended in this direction. But it works both ways.


I have never seen the Telegraph as being anti-Tory. It's a Conservative minded paper which reflects the concerns of its readers. It should be a surprise to no-one if it huffs and puffs from time to time at the direction the Party is taking. Of course it has quite a few columnists like Simon Heffer, Jeff Randall - and latterly Janet Daley - who cannot see anything good in David Cameron. But let's not forget it also employs Boris Johnson, Alice Thompson and Rachel Sylvester who can all be put into the pro-Cameron camp. And then there's me.


I was a little suprised Tim Montgomerie didn't mention my column in his piece, as he knows very well why I was taken on. When the Telegraph asked me to write my column they told me they felt they weren't covering Tory politics with enough breadth. They recognised there was a problem. They said they wanted someone who wasn't a signed up Cameroon, but also someone who wasn't antagonistic to David Cameron. They reckoned I fitted the bill. I don't think I am telling tales out of court if I say that Simon Heffer himself was sceptical about me, as he felt that I would be too anti-Cameron as I had worked for David Davis. I hope my columns have demonstrated a balanced approach.

So while the Telegraph should not fall for the view that David Cameron and his circle are closet pinkos, neither should David Cameron view the Telegraph as an enemy.

26 comments:

antifrank said...

Iain, I'm amazed Simon Heffer could recognise the concept of balance. Recently his columns have read like a Private Eye parody of a Telegraph column.

Anonymous said...

What a pretentious load of twaddle.

Do you honestly think the Barclay brothers spent all that dosh buying the Telegraph so that they could be added to Dave Cameron's Christmas card list ? They couldn't give a monkey's what he thinks. Their sole ambition is to make money by giving people the journalism they want.

And if that means ditching that guy for whom the phrase 'old fart' could have been invented, so that they can occupy the centre-ground to more effectively compete with Times Online, then so be it.

Do you think that they would have taken Iain Dale on if it pleased Davey boy but pissed off readers ?

Do me a favour ! The reason they take you on is the same reason they have Bozza on the payroll there, and Simon Jenkins on at Guardian Towers - it's to drive readership.

If your click rate drops, then the same thing will happen to you,like a hot potato. 'No longer called the Torygraph' - do me a favour !

tom_r said...

The more Cameron stretches towards the centre, the more strained his connection to the Right becomes. Not an easy balance to strike when you're trying to broaden the appeal of the party.

Anonymous said...

It is totally disingenuous of you to suggest that they took you on since you are not part of the Cameron camp, as you are 1000% behind everything he says. You are on the Telegraph since you probably told them exactly what they wanted to hear - if they had wanted to slag off your grannie that is what a media tart like you would have done to get the job. You are so see-through it's transparent..

fr said...

As one who used to put the motoring, property, travel and even gardening sections of the T. straight into the bin, I find the idea that it represents the core vote of any party ridiculous. Except, perhaps the £100k+, live in London party.

The idea that they are promulgating, that the working classes of the conurbations are thirsting for reforms that would put their children in Sec. Mods, and have them paying for their doctors is ludicrous.

Anyway, Guido says Heffer has been sacked today !

Anonymous said...

If he has then that's goodnight Vienna from me.

Anonymous said...

Yep thats right.

Guardian says it too. Richard Preston is taking over.

Anonymous said...

Trouble is, Iain, almost everyone is falling for the view that Cameron and co are closet pinkos.

Auntie Flo'

Anonymous said...

Hmm..Does Tim Montgomerie's support for the 'family' extend to support for gay adoption ? We should be told.

Anonymous said...

"Richard Preston is taking over."

Phew, I had a heart flutter when I skimmed over that sentence..for one dark, terrifying second I thought that Robert Peston was taking over !!

Anonymous said...

The Heffalump is not going to be editing the comment pages any more. Hopefully he'll still be writing, as he's the only one who makes any sense apart from Janet Daley. All the rest are closet pinkos.

oh dear, sorry, Iain...

Eddie Pringle said...

Of course Iain - what TM missed was you! How lax of him! It's all about you, isn't it? You you you you you.

Witan said...

What a surprise that Montgomerie should say twice in one day, "What is to be done? The leadership must put more energy into promoting policies that will appeal to its traditional voters"

Of course in the Telegraph he called them right wingers not traditionalists. In both cases he means himself, but masquerades as the voice of the grass roots by using his own polls that are totally non-transparent.

He wants to be a politician like you Iain but lacks the talent? What is he going to do now the Hefferlump has been culled?

chatterbox said...

Iain, stopped reading the Telegraph when it when it started to go downhill a while back. Cameron was not the problem then and he is not now.
I know you write for the paper but when the supposed inhouse tory paper employs columnists who really really dislike Cameron personally to the point of trying to think up ever more childish nicknames on a weekly basis then it does not reflect well on them.
Cameron's job is to appeal to a wider group of voters, but just as important so has the telegraph if its aim was to hang on to or improve its circulation figures.
The fact that they have nose dived suggests that like the Conservative party in the last 10 years if you veer too far to the right you lose rather than retain even your core readership.
At the moment Cameron should concentrate on his job as party leader and the Telegraph should be trying to recover some ground with its former readers some of whom had been loyal for years and were sad to finally be pushed away.

simon said...

I don't really see what the problem is. The Guardian doesn't like Blair and never did - at least in its comment pages. Nobody (except, perhaps, Blair) sees that as a huge problem. So why should the Telegraph be uncritical about Cameron?

Johnny Norfolk said...

The problem is with Cameron not the DT.

He does not sound like a Consevative. He appears only interested in what we conservatives would regard as secondary issues more suited to Labour

Dave Bartlett said...

The Telegraph can be a right-of-centre newspaper without being joined at the hip to the conservative party. Their promotion of localist(?) policy proposals from Direct Democracy and CPS promotes discussion of right wing political policy ideas rather than Conservative Party policy ideas.

[I'm a little surprised that the suggestion (Localist Papers: 1 Open Politics [PDF]) of replacing VAT with a variable local sales tax set, collected and spent by the local council hasn't provoked more discussion in online forums like this and Burning Our Money.]

jilted john said...

Iain

the problem is Cameron is NOT conservative.......i am getting fed up with the media luvvy claptrap. we WANT prroper policies on EU, on migration on schools on the 'state' etc......at the end of the day peope are getting sick of having to follow the luvvy dave when we dont get any of the policies we support.
it will result in us all staying at home come the next GE because there is nothing to vore FOR merely something to vote against.

i for one am losing interest

Anonymous said...

Spot on JJ.SPOT ON.

Anonymous said...

This is totally amazing:
'I was a little suprised Tim Montgomerie didn't mention my column in his piece'

My favourite line ever even from someone as self regarding as Iain.

You've not mentioned the big Telegraph news of yesterday either, that Heffer was deposed. Surely, Iain, you're not out of the loop???

canvas said...

The Telegraph needs modernising. It's so old fashioned and stuffy. A newspaper for Dinosaurs. They can't cope with a cheeky Tory leader who tells the right wing of his party to stop living in the past.

Dave Bartlett said...

Don't know about 'stuffy', but the Telegraph could certainly consider a move to tabloid size. Much easier to handle.

Newmania said...

That seems pretty reasonable . The writers that mystify me in the Telegraph are the little note book people . If anyone wants to waste a few minutes of their life can I suggest you bother with the inane prattle of Bryony Gordon or Sam whatever his name is. Where do they get them from.?
Anti Frank is right about Simon Heffer he needs to take a nap and Janet daley who in the past I have engjoyed is becoming increasingly a parody of herself.

The real problem the Telegraph has is that its readership are so very old.Its difficult for them to move out of the corner they have painted themselves into

Anonymous said...

Newmania

agree bryony is awful. sam leith though is great. a real libertarian conservative.

Anonymous said...

One of Guido's people is saying a frock coat can still be got for £1,200.Do we think this is accurate?
chin chin

Anonymous said...

Dave's latest gimmick appears to have been stalking a police officer.Was he arrested?For the gimmick not the stalking.