The Daily Mail, like the Tory Party, has been trying for years to rebrand itself on the issue of race. It professes to be at the very least liberal and tolerant and, in better moments, a champion of racial equality.
Maverick editor Paul Dacre invested considerable energy in pursuing the murderers of Stephen Lawrence, in large part to demonstrate the Mail’s modern identity. Given the consistently right-wing attitudes promoted in the paper and its peculiar obsession with an outdated and mythical pre-1960s Britain of all-white, monarchy-respecting, nuclear families this is slightly odd.
In part the desire to parade its equal opportunities credentials has a commercial logic — the paper competes in a diverse market which includes a sizeable black middle class.
But for the Mail there is also a matter of “living down” its history, its promotion of British fascism in the 1930s. The paper’s most infamous front page was published on 8 July 1934. The headline “Hurrah for the Blackshirts” accompanied a piece on Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (BUF) that read: “If the Blackshirts movement had any need of justification, the Red Hooligans who savagely and systematically tried to wreck Sir Oswald Mosley’s huge and magnificently successful meeting at Olympia... would have supplied it.”
On 15 January 1934 the BUF was described as “a well organised party of the right ready to take over responsibility for national affairs with the same directness of purpose and energy of method as Hitler and Mussolini have displayed”. The Nazis were described as “Europe's guardians against the Communist danger”.
On 10 July 1933, the paper’s proprietor Lord Rothermere wrote:
“I urge all British young men and women to study closely the progress of the Nazi regime in Germany. They must not be misled by the misrepresentations of its opponents. They have started a clamorous campaign of denunciation against what they call ‘Nazi atrocities’ which, as anyone who visits Germany quickly discovers for himself, consists merely of a few isolated acts of violence such as are inevitable among a nation half as big again as ours, but which have been generalized, multiplied and exaggerated to give the impression that Nazi rule is a bloodthirsty tyranny.”
The Mail’s support was much appreciated by Hitler, who wrote to Rothermere in 1933 to thank him.
The paper is much less likely to go in for the nostalgic reporting of historic editions than many others. It is a history they would rather we all forgot. Which makes the paper’s 20 April edition an interesting read.
On the last day before the first round of the French presidential election the Mail ran a commentary piece on the choices facing the electorate. The headline was unambiguous: “Despite her flaws, the only responsible vote in France next Sunday is one for Marine Le Pen”.
So the Daily Mail has returned to the business of supporting the rise of fascism in Europe. The author of this piece, Richard Waghorne, promotes the French National Front on the basis that it is the only party “advancing the case for an exit from the Euro” and for Le Pen’s “defence of French national identity in the country with Europe’s most numerous Muslim minority”.
As Waghorne sets the tone for the Mail’s attitude to European fascism the same paper was fighting unsuccessfully to control its rage about the failure of Theresa May to deport religious fascist Abu Qatada.
As ever with this rag, it’s the colour of the fascist’s skin that seems to matter, not the poisonous and reactionary nature of their politics.