For going on quarter-of-a-century the great Arthur Christiansen steered Beaverbrook’s Daily Express to a commanding position in the English middle-market: sales of 2 million in 1936, three million in 1944, and four million in 1949. In those days, the Express had a finger on the pulse of social group C2, and a boot on the throat of Tory ministers. Much as Malcolm loathed the ‘Empire First’ thundering, he had to admire the magnificent machine that was the Beaver’s paper for the purpose of making propaganda. When Robert Allen wrote his 1983 memoir of the Express, he was able to entitle it — with good reason — Voice of Britain.
No need to boast
On 27 January 1953 Christiansen circulated his editorial staff with a typical instruction:
Ban the word “exclusive” in the Express. Our aim is to make everything exclusive. Therefore we have no need to boast.
He wanted the news (never “stories”) to be told straight, in context, and in plain straightforward English: he would have scorned word-play and punning headlines. Above all he demanded accuracy and fact-checking:
We fell into a bad error yesterday and had to carry a Page One correction on a story. While I seek to encourage members of staff to establish their own contacts in every field of endeavour, I must insist that they use the services of our specialists in checking their information.
The Black Lubyanka — that magnificent Art Deco block (as above) — is now the base of another merchant bank. The last news operation in those parts was Reuters, which debunked to Canary Wharf around eight years ago. As early as 1967 Michael Frayn foresaw saw the end coming:
The Daily Express, four owners and eighteen editors later, is a poor, pathetic rag. It sells a smidgeon more than half-a-million copies daily, and is little more than an advertising sheet for Richard Desmond’s other interests (Channel 5, the dubious “Health Lottery”, and links to his other unsavoury businesses).
So let us celebrate today’s front-page screamer:
Or, if you prefer it in text:
DAVID Cameron last night promised to deliver a tax cut for millions of British families by 2015.
The Tory pledge to introduce an income tax allowance for married couples will be in place by the next election, senior Government sources confirmed.
It will mean an extra £150 a year for households across the country and will provide some welcome cheer amid the economic gloom.
Got that? None of the other UK news-outlets had quite that line:
The government will not introduce a tax break for married couples in next month’s Budget, it emerges…
However legislation is expected to be introduced before 2015 to allow couples to transfer part of their personal tax allowance to their partner. [BBC News]
No concessions for Tory right in PM’s push for gay marriage.
Tax breaks for married couple ruled out in March budget. [The Guardian]
Mr Cameron dashed Tory hopes of a tax break for married couples in next month’s Budget.
A senior Government source said the Prime Minister had delayed the manifesto promise yet again after talks with George Osborne. [Daily Mail]
The Conservative 2010 manifesto and the Coalition Agreement said ministers would introduce a tax allowance for those who wed, but the Government said yesterday that the policy would not feature in next month’s Budget. [Daily Telegraph]
Cameron will not offer marriage tax breaks to placate anti-gay marriage Tories, says Government source
Pledge was made in Tory manifesto and coalition agreement [The Independent]
From Liberia, where he was co-chairingtalks on global poverty, [Cameron] made clear that … [h]e would defy ministers and MPs pressing for tax breaks for married couple to be included in next month’s Budget, instead of waiting until later in the Parliament to introduce them. [The Times, £]
David Cameron has slapped down traditionalists in the cabinet opposed to proposed gay marriage laws by saying he would not introduce tax breaks for married couples in the March budget [ConHome]
Or, to explicate the obvious:
- nothing in this Parliament;
- a ‘pledge’ in the Tory 2015 manifesto, which is a direct lift from the unredeemed one of 2010;
- and even then only a tax-allowance concession worth precisely nothing to most of those couples who are both working.
That grumbling is the noise of disconsolate Tory MPs.
Listen carefully and you’ll catch Arthur Christiansen, rumbling in his Holland-on-Sea eternal rest.