Former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has used his first public appearance since stepping down to defend his decision to describe high court judges as “enemies of the people” on his front page.
Dacre, who left the job in the summer and has since been formed to watch his successor steadily dismantle his legacy, said the decision to run the front page after the judges ruled Parliament would have to vote on Brexit pushed the issue of judicial involvement in politics on to the national agenda.
He also bizarrely claimed his critics had missed that the headline was a reference to a play by realist Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen – a fact presumably also lost on the many Mail readers who only buy it for Fred Bassett.
The 69-year-old conceded the headline could have been phrased better, but added: ‘But what the hell. The point needed to be made.”
He was giving a lecture at the Society of Editors’ conference in Salford, where he was awarded the society’s first lifetime achievement award.
He used his speech to lambaste the ‘liberal Brexit-hating media’ who ‘almost always regard with contempt the mass-selling papers which have to appeal to large audiences to survive commercially’. But what the hell
He said: “Today, one of the greatest problems we have in restoring trust is that when it comes to the mainstream press, the liberal Brexit- hating media – and, let’s be frank, in their eyes, the Referendum result was further proof of the malignancy of eurosceptic newspapers – only ever see the bottom of the lamp post and remain determinedly, and I would say self-interestedly, oblivious to the good newspapers do.”
And Dacre, who edited the Mail for 26 years, predicted the UK would soon see a rise in right-wing news channels, similar to Fox News in the US, to rival the BBC.
He said: “The problem with the echo chamber is that its inhabitants increasingly haven’t a clue what real people in Britain, outside the M25, are thinking.
“I’ll tell you what those people aren’t talking about. They aren’t obsessing about the Me Too movement or transgender rights or equal pay for BBC women journalists. And they do actually rather like [Theresa] May whom they think is a decent woman trying to do her best in very difficult circumstances.
“It is, of course, because the inhabitants of the echo chamber only talk to each other that the referendum result came as such a seismic shock to them unlike Britain’s popular newspapers which, I suggest, because they have to live in the real world, are much closer to their readers’ thinking.”
But he made no mention of his successor, Geordie Greig, who has been steering the Mail’s coverage away from Brexit cheerleading to actively lambasting the European Research Group of hardline Tory MPs seeking to bind May’s negotiating hands.