Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-159)|
25 MARCH 2004
Q140 Mr Liddell-Grainger: When the Opposition
is perhaps weaker than it should be in the parliamentary machine,
do you not see that by exposing the Ecclestone and the Hindujas
and Frankenstein foods, and other things that you have championedOmaha
bombs, you have seen yourself doing perhaps the job of an Opposition?
Mr Dacre: I hope not. I think
this is a beyond pensant myth. We are a newspaper. We reflect
the anxieties of our readers; it is certainly not the job of newspapers
to be an official Opposition and I think the fact you are saying
this reflects more on the weakness of the Opposition, or past
weakness of the Opposition, than any claims the Daily Mail
might have. Certainly I do not think newspapers should be regarded
as the Opposition.
Q141 Mr Liddell-Grainger: As someone
famously saidnothing to do with you, obviously"It's
The Sun what won it", when it came to the election.
Do you not see yourself as being able to fill a breach when there
are weak positions? Maybe with Labour in '83 and '87 and maybe
before now when the Conservatives have been weaker. Do you not
think that you have been trying to fill that gap?
Mr Dacre: It would certainly be
wrong if we were, and I have never claimed that. I think you imbue
newspapers with far more power than they have, you know, I really
do. You can take a horse to water in newspapers; you cannot force
him to drink. You can only articulate anxieties and fears that
readers already have. Our job, and I do not want to be pompous,
is to be guardians of the truth, and if sometimes we are overzealous
and hostile in pursuing this then I plead guilty, but that is
our role. We certainly should not see ourselves as alternative
political parties. It would be preposterous, dangerous and wrong.
Q142 Mr Liddell-Grainger: On the euro
you ran a campaign, you had almost an election where you had ballot
boxes where you put out "Do we want to go into the euro or
not." Now, that was very much a campaigning newspaper except
that all say it was what the Opposition had been saying for quite
some time. Do you not think you were leading on in what an Opposition
was trying to be or do? You were taking an agenda which was to
force the hand of government?
Mr Dacre: No. It was a dramatic
way of highlighting the view that for years our readers, a predominant
number of our readers, had held. They were very sceptical about
Europe, and were against a constitution. The political party of
the day was not listening to it and we carried it out as an exercise.
It was overseen by our respected electoral bodies and a couple
of weeks previously independent polls reflected exactly the same
findings as us.
Q143 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Do you feel
that is your role as well
Mr Dacre: If national politicians
do not listen to the electorate who put them in power then newspapers
should be free to reflect their readers' feelings. Yes, I do feel
Q144 Mr Liddell-Grainger: One of the
things that intrigues me is this; how many times have you gone
on to defend your position onand I cannot think of any
programmeNewsnight or national television? I cannot
ever remember seeing you on anything where you have defended the
position of your paper.
Mr Dacre: I do not know what point
you are trying to make.
Q145 Mr Liddell-Grainger: The point I
am trying to make is that you say you are the guardian of the
Mr Dacre: I did not say that.
I said "newspapers", not "I", are the guardians
of the truth.
Q146 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Well, do you
think Piers Morgan and other editors are"approachable"
is the wrong wordwill go on to things to defend their position?
Mr Dacre: The more Piers Morgan
appears to television, the more his circulation seems to go down.
Q147 Mr Liddell-Grainger: That is an
Mr Dacre: It is not an interesting
thought. My experience over 30 years in Fleet Street is the more
editors think they are public figures and the more they become
speaking heads on TV chat shows the more their newspapers decline
and they do not last very long in their jobs. That is my experience.
My job is to edit my newspaper, to have a relationship with my
readers, to reflect my readers' views and to defend their interest.
It is not to offer myself up to you or television or radio interviewers
as some authority on anything. I am not an authority on anything.
I am a newspaper editor.
Q148 Mr Liddell-Grainger: I disagree.
I respectfully disagree
Mr Dacre: One of many newspapers
Q149 Mr Liddell-Grainger: I think you
are an expert, are you not? You have spent your entire life from
the time you were in Leeds and moving down as a newspaper man.
You are a family of newspaper people. You are an expert. So is
that not the point?
Mr Dacre: I am an expert in newspapers,
in relaying information through typography and headlines and pictures,
and I hope I do that rather well relating to my readership. I
do not put myself up as a political authority. I am not elected;
that is your job. My job is to call you into question if I think
you are doing it wrong as far as my readers are concerned.
Q150 Mr Liddell-Grainger: I reckon if
we got between all of us here 2 million people who listened to
what we said we would be pretty proud of ourselves. You get that
every day of the week
Mr Dacre: Six million.
Q151 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Exaggerated
again! Here you are, a profound influence on the British psyche,
the British way of life
Mr Dacre: But those 6 million
readers also watch BBC, listen to ITN, get their news off teletext,
they listen to you in Parliament and on the Today programme
Q152 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Do they?
Mr Dacre: Do you not have access
to the airwaves? Can you not put your views across? You have a
huge majority; you had until Hutton a sympathetic BBC; why are
you so obsessed with the Daily Mail view?
Q153 Chairman: We are interested in your
approach to public life.
Mr Dacre: We are one paper out
Q154 Chairman: In answer to Ian you say
that you do not speak with any authority and you are not an expert
on these things.
Mr Dacre: I do not think I have
the right, you were asking me, on chat shows and news programmes
to give my views on given subjects because that is your job. I
am an editor.
Q155 Chairman: The interesting thing,
though, is if you are not an authority on anything why do you
speak with such declamatory certainty about everything?
Mr Dacre: I think you are twisting
Q156 Mr Liddell-Grainger: I do not think
we are, I am sorry, Paul. You are an expert. Five days of the
week, six days of the week, you put out a newspaper which has
profound statementsI am thinking of asylum seekers, the
euro and a lot of other things you have championed, the Stephen
Lawrence killersyou championed that. Now you are an expert.
You may hide your light under a bushelyou are being very
modest perhaps. A modest man?
Mr Dacre: I am not being modest.
Take GM foods. I know from hundreds and thousands of letters from
our readers that our readership is concerned about that. Clearly
I have specialist reporters and writers who have looked into that,
and from their views and the feedback I get from my readers we
take a position on GM foods.
Q157 Chairman: But it is the style. I
have a quote here from one of your former reporters who says,
"The ideal Daily Mail story leaves the reader hating
somebody or something".
Mr Dacre: We can all play that
game. I do not know who said it or in what context. It probably
occurred in The Guardian media pages.
Q158 Chairman: No. The charge against
The Guardian will not do in relation to this because that
is the tone in which you approach stories.
Mr Dacre: Those are your words.
Actually, most of our readers do not see it that way. They see
a paper that is very warm, has an immensely supportive relationship
with the readership, takes up great campaigns to represent itit
is only the government and politicians whom we criticise.
Q159 Mr Liddell-Grainger: Paul, we are
answerable to the place over there and answerable to our electorate
Mr Dacre: Nobody is more answerable
than a newspaper editor. Every month the circulation figures go
down and every month an editor is removed