Richard Desmond has turned the Express into a UKIP press release

Express reads like Pravda for Nigel Farage - and the Times is little better

 

Reading today’s Daily Express is like reading a copy of Pravda from an alternate universe where Nigel Farage is king.

Ahead of the UKIP leader’s big speech at party conference, the Daily Express front page hails a ‘HUGE BOOST IN FIGHT TO QUIT EU‘:

The crusade for Britain to quit the EU will take a big step forward today when anti-Brussels campaigners unite in battle for victory in the forthcoming referendum.”

You would think from this war-language that Britain was planning for a ground invasion of Belgium. The reality is rather less dramatic:

“A string of pressure groups and think tanks with thousands of activists between them are coming together with UKIP to back a new umbrella group called ‘Leave.EU’.”

As the paper’s breathless editorial shouts:

“The crusade to leave the EU led by the Daily Express us building up a head of steam. The tide of public opinion is turning against the doomed union and now the major Eurosceptic groupings are uniting under one banner.

This has required egos to be set aside, differences to be bridged and agreements to be reached but it is vital if we are to have any hope of freeing Britain from Brussels rule.”

A note of doubt there at the end. If ‘the European project is on its knees’, as the piece asserts, why the desperate phrase ‘if we are to have any hope’?

Nevermind. Next door is a huge article by the grande fromage himself, Nigel Farage, writing in sub-Churchillian mode about ‘a truly defining moment’.

Yes, proprietor Richard Desmond is yet again using a national newspaper as a press release for UKIP and his anti-EU campaign.

Meanwhile, over in the Times we read:

“Desmond ‘furious’ that UKIP used £1million gift to repay loan”

The paper quotes ‘senior party sources’ claiming £200,000 of Desmond’s £1million donation to UKIP ahead of the general election was used to pay back another wealthy donor, Andrew Reid, then the party’s treasurer – who has since disappeared.

The story claims UKIP has ‘haemorraged’ thousands of members since the election, has technical issues taking direct debit donations from members, and slashed ticket prices for its annual conference to fill the room.

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Of course, none of this appears in today’s Express. 

This looks like an attempt by the Tory-supporting Times to pour cold water on the UKIP party conference. Reports earlier this year suggest proprietor Rupert Murdoch has plumped for backing Cameron’s ‘reform but remain’ EU agenda. After all, why if the £200,000 loan was called in before the election is it news now?

It would be nice if the country’s national papers were not used as duelling press releases by rival businessmen, and instead we could have serious and honest coverage of debates over Europe. Is that too much to ask?

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

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