This week’s decision by the Daily Star newspaper to effectively endorse the English Defence League is a worrying departure for Britain’s mainstream media.
By Nick Lowles of HOPE not hate
This week’s decision by the Daily Star newspaper to effectively endorse the English Defence League is a worrying departure for Britain’s mainstream media. Of course some may baulk at the concept of the Star as a mainstream media title. When the paper first launched its editor Derek Jameson proudly announced: “It’ll be tits, bums, QPR and roll your own fags!”; it’s been robustly loyal to that vision ever since.
But the Star is a national newspaper, has a circulation of well over half a million, and is supported by a loyal working class readership. When it announces it’s backing a group of racist, Islamophobic extremists we all have to take notice.
What is most disconcerting is that it appears that the newspaper is actually setting the agenda by creating the story. The EDL leadership reacted with bewilderment to the news that they were becoming a political party, with both their main leaders claiming on facebook that this was not the case. After a second day of Star coverage, however, the EDL began warming to the idea.
Some have been quick to seize on the endorsement as further evidence of an agenda being deployed by the paper’s owner Richard Desmond. It’s true that the other Desmond titles, such as the Daily and Sunday Express, have consistently run virulent anti-immigration and anti-Islam storylines.
But it’s also important to note that the Daily Star Sunday has consistently, and bravely, published a number of powerful stories exposing both EDL and BNP extremism; even this weekend the Sunday Star was very critical of David Cameron’s speech on multiculturalism.
When pressed yesterday, Desmond was quick to distance himself from the decision to endorse but he was less forthcoming in his condemnation.
It’s genuinely difficult to know what lay behind the Daily Star’s decision to try to re-attach the wheels onto the EDL’s crumbling bandwagon. Saturday’s demonstration, although significant, was way below the 8,000 strong crowd EDL organisers had predicted. That was despite a week which had seen them generating significant print and broadcast coverage, including a rather tepid interrogation for their ringleader Stephen Lennon by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight.
Luton was billed as a ‘homecoming’ yet there was pitifully little support from the local white community. And those EDL supporters who were bussed in rapidly became bored and disenchanted when it became clear the local Muslim and Asian communities were not going to be goaded into responding to their provocation.
No doubt the Star’s editor Dawn Neesom, who lists her hobbies as watching West Ham and kick-boxing, would claim she is merely representing the views of her readership, who purportedly registered 99% backing for the EDL in an online poll.
But even she must be aware that is totally unrepresentative of her own readership demographic. If 99% of working class Briton’s really backed the EDL, then the EDL wouldn’t have been staggering drunkenly around Luton, praising the prime minister’s speech, they’d have been sitting in Downing Street writing it.
She must also be aware that by endorsing the EDL her paper is now riding around on the back of a tiger. Good policing, good community organising – in which Hope not Hate played our part – self-restraint by all members of the community and a dose of good luck meant Saturday’s demo passed relatively peacefully. But further EDL demos are planned, and sooner or later serious disorder is virtually inevitable. If and when it occurs, the Daily Star’s editor, and her new EDL friends, will have some explaining to do.
The Star’s editorial read:
‘Don’t dare ignore EDL’
Don’t worry; we won’t.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.