Bashing the Daily Mail will kill off the Lib Dems: We need a smarter strategy on difficult papers

It is very popular in the Lib Dems to bash the right wing media, particularly the Daily Mail. At conference we heard most ministers having a go at the Daily Mail and Nick Clegg particularly had some strong mocking words reserved for the paper. This seems a funny strategy considering the Daily Mail is the paper with the second largest Lib Dem readership, second only to the Sun. In fact the majority of Lib Dem voters read a right wing paper, so perhaps we should be looking at winning over more voters, not turning them away. So how do we do this?

Firstly for those who missed my post on Lib Dem readership here is a table showing the papers and how many Lib Dem readers they had in 2010:

In terms of strategy we can see it like this: There needs to be a seven fold increase in Guardian readers, or a 10 fold increase in Independent readers to make the same impact as 1% in Sun or Daily Mail readers. If we think our core vote is in the liberal papers and tailor our message to them, we will be in big trouble. A much better strategy would be to get a message which appeals to both. Perhaps this is impossible. But no one ever made any progress without some damn hard work which probably seemed impossible at the time.

Clearly there are many things the Lib Dems stand for that the Daily Mail are not going to like. It might also make us feel good to bash the Daily Mail. I certainly find the paper very difficult to read but there are not enough people out there willing to vote on the basis they hate a newspaper. They are more likely to pick it up and read it, even if they didn’t buy it or don’t like it.

However, there are messages that will appeal to the Daily Mail that are still grounded in Lib Dem values.  We need to resist the baiting by the paper and right wing pundits and see opportunities. If we listen carefully we even hear them telling us how to tailor our message:

If the LibDems want to strike a pro-enterprise rather than anti-rich tone, then they need to get to grips with the nightmare of burdensome anti-business rules. They could even position themselves as the champions of small business in contrast to the Conservatives, who are often characterised as supporters of big business interests… In their own interests, not to mention those of the nation, the Liberal Democrats need to applaud and encourage economic success, not be seen to be hellbent on deterring it.

Who in the Lib Dems would disagree with being a party to support small business, supporting those who employ local people, supporting local communities and the country? Who in the party would disagree with opposing big business interests which serve shareholders rather than local people and communities? Who in the party wouldn’t want the Daily Mail to praise the Lib Dems for taking a stand on these issues? I doubt the Guardian or the Independent would disagree with such a position either.

When this government and opposition will live or die by the economic positions they take in the coming years, can we afford to have any paper suggesting that we are not doing what is needed to get this country back on its feet economically? Particularly one with such a large Lib Dem readership?

I am sure there are also other messages which would play well to the Daily Mail, and maybe they are even giving us good advice, it’s just no one in the party is reading it? Unfortunately, people who vote for the party are. We may not like the Daily Mail for the prejudice and hypocrisy that is found within it. But in a world of political strategy, this just means we need to be even more creative in our message.

8 Responses to Bashing the Daily Mail will kill off the Lib Dems: We need a smarter strategy on difficult papers

  1. Pingback: Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #242

  2. 1.2 million of our votes come from newspaper readers. We got 6.8 million votes in 2010. We need to make sure we’re resonating with broadcasters first and foremost.

    • Hi Duncan, thanks for the comments and a very good point and I absolutely agree with you. Broadcast media is essential – how do you think we are doing with that at the moment?

  3. Matthew Huntbach says:

    Oh, for heaven’s sake – can’t you see the dripping of right-wing propaganda in your quote from the Daily Mail? Whenever are the Liberal Democrats “hellbent on deterring success?”. I suggest it is when right-wing propaganda merchants say they are when they are trying to get Liberal Democrats to move further to the right. They are full of advice supposedly aimed at helping small business but which is really all about furthering the interest of big business. It is rather like the way they will headline “attack on middle England” some tax change which is actually beneficial to REAL middle England (i.e. people on average salaries), and adversely affects only people in the top 10% of income/wealth.

    • Hi Matthew and very good point. Even though my piece was about the Daily Mail I try not to get too tangled up with their arguments against the Lib Dems, or liberal/fair minded policies, as I think it would send me mad. I do have a look sometimes to see what they are saying and if there are any positive signs from them for the Lib Dems – particularly considering how many people read it. So I totally agree with you that the paper is right wing propaganda. I just wonder if there is a way we could provide a message to them which would support liberal values and be supported by the Mail and therefore get a positive message to their readership?

  4. Pingback: The Lib Dems: Coming to terms with a centrist identity |

  5. externalities says:

    In terms of being pro-enterprise, I’ve been looking quite a bit at tax policy lately and reckon that we could put together a package of tax simplification, such as on [scrapping] National Insurance and [replacing] Business Rates that businesses would love and that would make huge economic sense. But I don’t think that good policy, even in the areas that papers preoccupy themselves with, results in favourable coverage. Their aim isn’t to reward good policy; it’s to sell papers! and to stick to whatever narrative they think will do that. Certainly we can promote ideas that these papers’ *readers* will like, but I don’t think that would stop the papers from trying to distort and paint them in the most negative way possible.

    • Hi Externalities, thanks for the comments and you are absolutely right. Papers make headlines to sell papers and this is always going to be hard for us get a fair hearing with this system. I wonder if we can manage this a bit better so that maybe a few more readers of papers consider voting for us?

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