Last week the Daily Mail endorsed Theresa May as the next Tory leader. The declaration took many by surprise as not only was it very early in the campaign to come out for a candidate, it had been thought that the paper might opt for Michael Gove — after his wife Sarah Vine suggested Paul Dacre favoured him in a leaked email.
So, why did Dacre snub Gove just a day after he announced his leadership ambitions? While some have taken it to be a sign that the Daily Mail editor was unimpressed by the manner in which the Justice Secretary had turned on Boris Johnson, could any ill-feeling run deeper than that?
In 2004 when Gove was Saturday editor of the Times, he penned an article for The Spectator about Dacre and the Daily Mail. In the article — entitled ‘The deadly Mail’ — Gove takes aim at the paper for becoming ‘a full-throated, anti-war, anti-US, anti-Bush propaganda sheet’:
‘As the war on terror has progressed, we’ve seen a remarkable new coalition form. The nation’s most powerful reactionary force, the Daily Mail, has become the objective ally of the British Left in the struggle of the moment — the war against America.’
While Gove noted that most Mail executives count ‘the fate of the Beckhams’ as more important than the paper’s political line, he said that ‘the phenomenon of right-wing anti-Americanism and conservative hostility to the Iraq war needs to be analysed’:
‘The Mail’s editor, Paul Dacre, has not been content to let his leader column speak for him. There has been a remarkable consensus from almost all its columnists on the folly of the Iraq war and the culpability of those crassly simplistic zealots across the pond.’
In the piece, Gove complains that the prose by Mail columnists on America is ‘practically interchangeable’ with the rhetoric used by Iraq war opponents like George Galloway. He even comes to the defence of Tony Blair, writing that Blair should be commended for doing the ‘right and principled’ thing.
‘Views of both the Iraq war and America have been distorted by the red mist that descends before many Tory eyes when they look at Tony Blair. The idea that a Labour prime minister, especially one as infuriating as Blair, should be both a stalwart war leader and the favoured ally of a conservative American president is too much to take for many. Instead of acknowledging the inconvenient fact that Mr Blair has for once, done the right and principled thing — and that a prime minister Hague or Howard would have done the same — many on the Right prefer to denounce both the Iraq war and the President simply as means of getting at the Labour leader.’
With the Chilcot report revealing damning findings today against both Blair and the Iraq invasion, perhaps Paul Dacre has been proved right after all.