Losing the tarts' votes


I like this story on the relationship between the press and politicians.

"By the start of the 19th century, the fraught and difficult relationship between press and politicians had become well established. Already it veered between open warfare and sickly sycophancy. But there was one very great difference between then and now. In those days there was no more universal reading of newspapers than there was universal suffrage.

Generally newspaper sales were confined to the elite who had both money and more than a rudimentary education.

Then, in the middle of the 19th century, several factors came together to create the circumstances which led to the founding of the popular press.

In 1855 stamp duty on newspapers was abolished, bringing down their price dramatically. In 1870 the Education Act made primary schooling available to all. And in 1865 Alfred Harmsworth was born.

Harmsworth created the popular press in the United Kingdom first with his magazine Tit-Bits and then with the Daily Mail. In doing so he redefined the relationship between press and government by introducing a new breed of newspapers which reached millions every day, giving their proprietors huge power.

But power is not a commodity which politicians give up without a fight and the struggle between press and government, which continues today and doubtless always will, reached a zenith in 1931. At that time Lord Rothermere, who was Harmsworth's brother, and Lord Beaverbrook - who admitted to the 1947 Royal Commission on the Press that he ran the Daily Express "purely for propaganda and no other object" - were campaigning for empire free trade.

Driven to the edge of desperation by their constant attacks the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, delivered a speech in which this key passage had been written by his cousin Rudyard Kipling. He said: "The papers conducted by Lord Rothermere and Lord Beaverbrook are not newspapers in the ordinary acceptance of the term. They are engines of propaganda for the constantly changing policies, desires, personal wishes and personal dislikes of two men. What are their methods? Their methods are direct falsehood, misrepresentation, half-truths, the alteration of the speaker's meaning by publishing a sentence apart from the context...What the proprietorships of these papers is aiming at is power and power without responsibility - the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages."

As an aside, Lord Devonshire who was sitting in the audience turned to his son-in-law, Harold Macmillan [a future Prime Minister] and observed: "Good God, that's done it. He's lost us the tarts' vote."

Baldwin's comments would apply today; only the names of the proprietors have changed. One could also add the suspicion that sometimes proprietors act as the agents of foreign governments. Some newspapers have been very hostile to Britain joining the Euro. "Save the pound" is the cry to the mob. What is the hidden agenda, and whose is the hidden hand, in this?

Well, the US dollar functions as the world's reserve currency. This is of enormous benefit to the USA. Foreign governments hold 11 trillion dollars in their foreign reserves. In return for the ink and paper cost of printing the 11 trillion dollars the USA has received 11 trillion dollars worth of goods and services. A great deal, and all well and good, until the foreign dollar holders try and redeem the dollars. The circumstances in which they might do that is if another reserve currency emerges.

If foreign governments start holding their reserves in Euros instead of dollars, and they are starting to do so, this would represent a huge threat to the USA. If the UK joined the Euro block this would greatly increase its credibility as a reserve currency and would be something for the USA to prevent if it can. It may be a coincidence but Saddam Hussein did not get attacked until he announced that Iraq would start trading its oil in euros rather than dollars.

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