Daily Mail uses Prince Charles’s black spider memos to attack Labour’s Andy Burnham

Burnham is in the sights of the Tory press. Any excuse to bash him will do


Alongside its story on the latest release of ‘black spider memos’ from Prince Charles to ministers, the Daily Mail has a second story, which begins:

“Andy Burnham, the left-wing frontrunner to be next Labour leader, risked ridicule last night after the release of a letter he wrote to Prince Charles with a cringeingly unctuous sign-off.

In a handwritten ending to the typed letter, the former health secretary describes himself as ‘Your Royal Highness’s most humble and obedient servant’.”

(Burnham’s sign-off was also covered by the Guardian and BBC, but not as the top line of a separate story, or with this editorial slant.)

Two things spring to mind. First, and as the Mail story even mentions, this ‘cringeingly unctuous sign-off’ is actually the standard way to address the Prince, according to Debrett’s British social etiquette.

This may sound stuffy and reverential, but since when did the Mail have a problem with that? This is the paper that complains when the prime minister of Australia declines to curtsey for the Queen.

And which just over a week ago attacked Labour MP Richard Burgon for stating his opposition to monarchy before taking his parliamentary oath.

Imagine what it would have said if Burnham had been too casual.

Second, why out of the 17 memos released today did the Mail seize on one written by Andy Burnham? His fellow Labour leadership contender Yvette Cooper also replied to the Prince, but as the paper notes, she signed off with ‘yours sincerely’.

It appears as though the Mail hoped to embarrass Burnham, either for a feckless raid of Debrett’s when addressing a royal or for being too deferential in the eyes of his left-wing supporters.

Burnham has already filled the place of Ed Miliband as Tory press punching bag, and judging by the press campaign against the former Labour leader things are likely to get worse.

The truth is, all you need to do to ‘risk ridicule’ in the eyes of the Tory press is to be considered left-wing and run for Labour leader.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

Read more: 

Tory press cheers on £3bn cuts… but ignores anti-austerity IMF report

Daily Mail’s 5 step guide to demonising migrants

Sign up for our weekly email by clicking here.

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.