The Daily Mail is the second biggest selling British tabloid newspaper. It supports the Conservative Party. It leans right-wing in its editorial stances, but also supports euthanasia, and is noted for its stance on gun control and the NHS. It has a Sunday edition called The Mail on Sunday. Its two million plus circulation is one of the largest of any daily newspaper in English.
The Daily Mail was founded as a broadsheet newspaper in 1896, but changed to a tabloid format 75 years later. Its closest rival in terms of being less liberal is the Daily Express, which sells far fewer copies.
When it was launched by Alfred and Harold Harmsworth (who later became respectively Lord Northcliffe and Lord Rothermere) it made an unashamed bid for the mass market. It was published at half the price of other newspapers, and kept its coverage both more concise and more populist. This approach led to it being highly successful.
The Daily Mail also set out to be entertaining, using in particular competitions as a means of promotion, and focusing on human-interest stories as a way of attracting readers to whom in-depth political analysis did not appeal. Among other promotions, they began the Ideal Home Exhibition, which continues to be held in London every year.
The paper lost circulation during World War I, when it spoke out in favor of conscription after the outbreak of war, and particularly when it attacked Lord Kitchener, who was at that time a national hero. It was accused by the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, of disloyalty to the country.
After the resignation of Asquith, David Lloyd George asked Lord Northcliffe to join his cabinet, but Northcliffe refused.
After Northcliffe died in 1922, his brother Lord Rothermere took control. It was under his regime that the Daily Mail published the "Zinoviev Letter". This letter which purported to be from Grigori Zinoviev, president of Comintern, the internal communist party of the USSR, was addressed to members of the Labour Party of Great Britain and exhorted them to carry out a violent revolution. The letter was a very plausible one, originating in Riga, and although it later turned out to be a forgery, the editor of the Mail had no reason to doubt its genuineness at the time. Four days later the Labour Party was defeated in the 1924 general election. Historians agree the letter was a forgery but their consensus is that it made little difference in the election. The fact was that the Labour government's recognition of the Soviet Union had been unpopular and it only held power because of the temporary support of the Liberal Party, and a rift within the Conservative Party. Once those factors changed, Labour had little or no chance of winning the 1924 election. After the election Labour leaders used it as an excuse for their failure; it became a roadblock to needed internal reforms in the Labour party.
In the 1930s, the Daily Mail was politically sympathetic to fascism, and Lord Rothermere wrote articles praising the British Union of Fascists and their leader Oswald Mosley in particular for showing “sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine”. One headline notoriously read "Hurrah for the Blackshirts". However, he toned down his support after the Fascist party was involved in street violence. The Mail’s political stance was also influenced by Rothermere’s personal friendship with both Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party – the only newspaper to support them both consistently. Rothermere sent Hitler a telegram of congratulations after Germany invaded the Sudetenland in 1938. The Mail was one of several British newspapers to publish extracts from The Protocols of The Elders of Zion, and was critical of the Balfour plan to set up the State of Israel.
Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy was supported by the Daily Mail until after the Munich Agreement, but the newspaper changed its stance after the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939 and thereafter whole heartedly supported war against the burgeoning Nazi tyranny.
The Mail's attitude needs to be seen in the context of prevalent positive or tolerant attitudes towards Hitler in the 1930s. As later as Saturday 29 February 1936, the Daily Mirror, a socialist newspaper, featured an exclusive personal interview with Hitler on its front page. It had a large picture of the Fuhrer making the Nazi salute and the headline "Hitler's Let's Be Friends" Plea To the World". It described him as a "Man of the People" and "Man of Destiny", and allowed him to put his own case at length, claiming to be a "Man of Peace".
In the pre-war period, Hitler was widely seen as the leader who had done most to solve Germany's economic woes and overcome unemployment. Among those who went from England to meet Hitler in the 1930s were not only Lord Rothermere but also George Lansbury, the Labour Party leader, and David Lloyd George, the veteran Liberal leader, who was photographed shaking Hitler's hand.
Support for euthanasia
The Daily Mail recently published an article in support of euthanasia. The article and author of the piece stated that:
- "When I wake up in the watches of the night, I still wish that I had killed my mother. In her late eighties, this spirited, independent, active (almost hyperactive) old lady began to slither downhill."
- "For a few months, I felt almost grateful that she did not know what was happening to her."
- "She was never happy for a single minute in those last years, until the last day when a kind of peace descended…If only she had died before she reached this state! If only her hitherto dignified life had ended as nature so plainly meant it to end."
- "As I began by saying, I wish I had possessed the courage to smother her with a pillow, rather than leaving her in that living hell for over two years. Had the roles been reversed, I would have begged her to kill me."
- "I do not know whether my poor mother would have wanted an assisted suicide or not. All I know, since watching her agonisingly slow death, is that I would most definitely want to take my own life, or for someone to take it for me, before I reached this stage."
- "I see no virtue whatsoever in these terminal circumstances, in pretending that there is some mystical thing called 'life' which God or Morality have forbidden us to terminate…The half-life of paralysis, and pain, and misery for all around you is no life at all. In my view it is far better to end it all in circumstances which are, if possible, in your control."
- "So yes, I would welcome the legalisation of assisted suicide in this country and would support any moves to bring it on to the statute books…The trouble is that Keir Starmer's guidelines are no help at all - in fact, they mean we are in the ludicrous position of the law saying one thing and doing another."
- "Increasing numbers of people in this country believe, like me, there is an overwhelming case for changing the law. The two objections to changing the law do not stand up…One is that the system is open to abuse. It is claimed that unscrupulous carers or family will force sick or elderly patients to 'opt' for suicide because they do not want to be a burden…But the sorry reality is that unscrupulous and unpleasant people will always abuse the weak and the elderly, whatever the law. Their malign activities will go on whether the assisted suicide is legalised or not…The second objection to legalising assisted suicide is that there is often something noble about people suffering an illness for as long as nature or God decree…There are those who cite the example of Jade Goody - a girl who lived in many ways a terrible and immoral life but who bravely used her terminal cancer to give her children a decent future…Yet most cancer patients are not represented by Max Clifford and will not make a million from their prolonged deaths…On the contrary, for many families the continuation of a terminally sick patient's lingering condition in expensive care can be ruinously expensive, especially if the relatives have to give up their jobs to become carers."
- "It is true that unscrupulous children might make parents feel that they are a burden. But the illness and decrepitude of some patients is often placing a burden - an intolerable burden - on families, making it impossible for them to live their lives and calling for reserves of goodness or sheer energy which they simply do not possess."
- "It is not immoral for carers and younger family members to feel entitled to a bit of a life apart from the agonising bedside, and I fail to see why the preservation of life in such circumstances is always to be seen as virtuous."
- "But beyond this, in a free society, it seems intolerable that grown-up sentient beings can not decide when to bring life to an end, without the added horror that those they love best will be criminalised."
The fortunes of the Daily Mail were revived after a decline in the 1950s by its then-editor Sir David English, and its current editor Paul Dacre continues that trend. He has widened the paper's market by launching an Irish edition and a summarized edition for UK expatriates.
The newspaper's website "MailOnline" has been criticised by the newspaper's readers for pandering to people with left-wing views.
Political and editorial stances
The Daily Mail claims to represent Middle England and Conservative values, opposing the liberal establishment. It generally opposes the European Union and the increasing trend to see Britain as part of Europe. It is usually against immigration, although it has supported the wish of white asylum-seekers from Zimbabwe to remain in Britain. It is generally against abortion, same-sex "marriage" and in favour of the monarchy, tax cuts and harsher penalties for criminals. It is generally supportive of Israel, although it has recently been attacked for its lack of support for the war in Iraq.
It generally takes a strong stand against criminality. It is critical of the British government for "caving in" to edicts from the European Court for example in granting prisoners the right to vote in elections.
It perceives many public media such as the BBC as biased to the left politically. Its columnists tend to be politically right-wing. It endorses the Conservative Party in most elections, and publicly repudiates groups like the British National Party, who are associated with racist (but in many other respects socialist) policies.
The Mail is often accused of fear mongering with numerous health scare articles (recent examples include "How using Facebook could raise your risk of cancer" and "Mouthwash 'causes oral cancer'").
Wikipedia has banned its editors from using the Daily Mail as a reference, allegedly because of "poor fact checking and sensationalism". This may be an attempt to censor right-wing views. There is no objective evidence that the Daily Mail is any less accurate than other British newspapers or mainstream media sources such as The Guardian.
- Taylor, S. J. The Great Outsiders: Northcliffe, Rothermere and the Daily Mail.
- Griffiths, Richard. Fellow Travellers of the Right: British Enthusiasts for Nazi Germany, 1933-39. Jeffrey Herf, ed., Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism in Historical Perspective: Convergence and Divergence. Routledge, 2013, 120-123.
- Daily Mirror, Saturday 29 February 1936.
- Revealed: Just one in five lone 'child' migrants caught lying about their age are thrown out of Britain.