The Corner

In the UK’s General Election, It’s Tabloid Time

It’s election day in England, which means that it’s time for some of those classically hysterical tabloid headlines. The Sun, typically subtle as it is, has gone for a choice analogy:

The Daily Mirror, by contrast, hopes to send a removal van to Downing Street, and to send David Cameron back to Eton (England’s finest private school, which Cameron attended), or to Chipping Norton (the wealthy Oxfordshire town in which he lives):

This dig was apparently not subtle enough for Scotland’s Daily Record, which went full class-warrior and cast Cameron as the archetypal English “toff”:

The Record’s contribution is a clear echo of 2010’s infamous Daily Mirror cover:

Yesterday, the Sun ran with a now famous photograph of Labour leader, Ed Miliband eating a bacon sandwich:

Naturally, this prompted the Guardian to ask the important questions, as per usual:

But there’s another question where no agreement is going to be possible: was the front page of the Sun surreptitiously antisemitic?

It’s fair game to use an unflattering picture of Miliband – and the picture certainly is unflattering – but why this one? And why use it again, a year after its first use? After all, Miliband’s geekiness provides an embarrassment of riches to those seeking his ridicule. And why point out that this is a bacon sandwich? And then emphasise it with jibes about “pig’s ears”, “porkies” and “saving our bacon”?

It’s hard to avoid sensing a whiff of antisemitism here. Miliband, after all, could be the first Jewish-born prime minister since Disraeli. Damning Miliband with porcine satire seems – like the Daily Mail’s exposé of his “Britain-hating” Jewish émigré father – to radiate some nasty connotations.

Not really, no. The Daily Mail was right: Miliband’s father was a nasty little communist who openly called for the destruction of Britain and for the replacement of her institutions with “a Communist state” led by a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” That he was Jewish is irrelevant.

The role that tabloid front pages actually play in British politics is widely debated. But since at least 1992 there has been a sneaking suspicion that they might occasionally change voters’ minds. In that year, the still-openly socialist Labour party looked as if it would emerge victorious, prompting the Sun to say on election day:

The next day, Britain woke up to a Conservative government — albeit one with a relatively small majority. The Sun immediately took a victory lap:

This conclusion was bolstered by a number of Tory MPs, who agreed that the newspaper had changed the course of the election, and by Neil Kinnock himself.

The rest of today’s papers agree that the election is too close to call.

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