The Daily Mail is part of the DMG Media group, which also includes the MailOnline, Mail on Sunday, and Metro. It is owned by Lord Rothermere – previously a strong supporter of David Cameron and who was close enough to him to have spent a couple of days with him and his wife at Chequers – whose net worth is estimated at £940 million.
With an average daily circulation of 1.4 million copies, second only to the Sun, the Daily Mail has long been one of the biggest players in the British media. Its influence, and more particularly that of its reclusive editor Paul Dacre, is legendary. ‘Politicians no longer fear Murdoch as they once did’ according to former Independent and New Stateman editor Peter Wilby, ‘they still fear Dacre’.
Although the Mail urged its readers to vote for Britain’s membership of the European Community in 1975, it has been virulently anti-EU since the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 – which was also when Dacre took over as editor. The paper’s opposition to the EU has not been mild since 1992, but has been laced with deep ideological dislike.
This by no means abated after the referendum in 2016 – in fact the Mail and MailOnline have ratcheted up their aggressively anti-EU rhetoric since then, using language that has led to floods of complaints and parallels being drawn with the newspaper’s support of fascism in the 1930s.
Ben Chu has written in the Independent of a chilling new language of tabloid spin, where those who disagree are not just wrong or misguided but ‘traitors’ who deserve to be punished.
David Cameron allegedly asked the Daily Mail’s current owner Jonathan Harmsworth (the current Lord Rothermere) to remove Dacre as editor before the Brexit referendum. He was no doubt fully aware of the influence the paper might have on the result.
Of course the Daily Mail is no stranger to supporting questionable movements. Its founder, the first Lord Rothermere, ‘corresponded with Adolf Hitler and was a secret admirer of Benito Mussolini’, and directed the paper’s favourable coverage of them. He also supported fascists closer to home, famously writing an article in support of Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists (known as the Blackshirts).
He wrote to Hitler – or ‘My dear Fürher’ as he called him – as late as 1939, expressing admiration for his ‘great and superhuman work’.
Funnily enough, the current Lord Rothermere, Jonathan Harmsworth, inherited the Daily Mail ‘through a Jersey trust, and a Bermuda-registered offshore entity’, and is a non-dom (a person who lives in a country but is not legally domiciled in it, usually for tax purposes), in order to avoid paying millions in taxes on his mansion, Ferne House, according to a 2013 article in Private Eye. LBC commentator James O’Brien has argued that having owners who avoided tax themselves explains why papers such as the Daily Mail provided so little coverage of the Paradise Papers revelations.
Embarrassingly, Paul Dacre’s properties have benefited from EU subsidies of at least £460,000 since 2011.
Dacre recently announced his resignation as editor of the Daily Mail, to be replaced by Geordie Grieg, a move which could significantly change the paper’s – and the nation’s – discourse around Brexit. As one Conservative told The Independent: “Dacre’s Mail is the standard bearer for Brexit and what it stands for. So it would be silly to deny that Brexit isn’t potentially losing one of its greatest champions.”
Considering the Mail’s influence in the country and its dislike of the European Union, it is almost a wonder why more people didn’t vote for Brexit. Maybe because the advantages of staying in were clear enough to at least partly counterbalance even this newspaper’s malign influence.
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