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Filmed at the Royal Geographical Society on 25th February 2016.
“Immigrant-bashing, woman-hating, Muslim-smearing, NHS-undermining, gay-baiting”. That’s how one critic has described the Daily Mail. It depicts a world where traditional British values are under siege – from the EU, rising crime, and benefit scroungers – and it assures its readers that they are not alone in their anxieties. It loves nothing more than a good health scare. According to the Mail, almost everything causes cancer (116 items at the last count, including salami, flipflops and chimney sweeping). As for women, they are castigated for trying to ‘have it all’, and any female celebrity who ‘dares to bare’ on the beach is subjected to microscopic scrutiny of her physique. Perhaps most worrying of all is the power the Mail holds over our politicians. “What would the Mail say?” is the question ministers ask themselves when considering any liberal policy that might get a slap-down from the paper. Making the case against the Mail in this debate will be Zoe Williams of the Guardian and the Rev Richard Coles, the former popstar who is now a parish priest and much-loved Radio 4 presenter.
On the other side of the argument we have Daily Mail columnist Peter Oborne and Roger Alton, former editor of the left-leaning Observer newspaper. As they will point out, the Mail is the UK’s most popular newspaper in print and online. Millions of ‘ordinary’ people read it because it understands and articulates their concerns better than other papers. Mail readers are decent, hardworking people, struggling to pay their bills, ambitious for their children and loyal to their country. Hatred of the Mail comes largely from the liberal elite who sneer at unfashionable types who don’t work at the BBC or the Guardian. The Mail may be hard on immigrants and celebrities, but it has served this country time and again by exposing the wrongdoings of the rich and powerful. And it has a fine track record as a campaigning newspaper, most famously bringing the killers of Stephen Lawrence to justice by naming them murderers and challenging them to sue.