Those Daily Mail Readers

I have heard it twice in seven days. Twice, at two very interesting events, run by two very respectable think-tanks: Its those dreaded Daily Mail readers who are to blame.

In both cases, that journal was being used as a convenient short-hand – to signify something right-wing, reactionary, and irrational. The implication is that there are all these subscribers out there who are somehow intractable. A block of voters who can be persuaded of nothing.

There was an interesting article in the Sunday Times a few weeks ago, comparing David Cameron to Hilary Clinton. Both politicians, said Andrew Sullivan, are “scared of what they believe”. They are under the impression that the rest of their country does not share their politics. And so they triangulate and obfuscate.

I think a similar fear is being expressed when the left-winger cites the problem of the Daily Mail. But while both Clinton and Cameron’s fears may actually be justified, I think the lefty’s worries are pretty groundless. First, I think popular culture is against the Mail: Think of the ridicule piled upon it on by those TV panel shows, or in the blogosphere. Second, the idea that any section of the population is a single-minded Mobb, is as false as it is patronising.

Worse, though, is that it is defeatest. Assume that Daily Mail readers are a lost cause, and your own campaign becomes a lost cause too. We need to be more confident in the power of our own arguments, and make better arguments too. Not even the government is doing that at the moment. The Daily Mail does not represent the bulk of British opinion: It represents what a small number of editors think British opinion should be.

So, by all means let us continue fisk and critique articles in the Mail, but let’s have a moratorium on the clichĂ©s of the dreaded ‘Daily Mail Readership’. If you want to invoke a bogey-man, well, there’s always The Daily Express Readership instead. They’re still fair game.