Conservative Diary

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56% of Tory members say The Telegraph's coverage of the Conservative Party is getting worse


Earlier this year I made some criticisms of The Telegraph's political coverage.

Encountering a senior Telegraph journalist earlier this week it was made very clear to me that this was an unforgivable thing to have done. It appears that newspapers are happy to attack politicians all the time but will bear a grudge if they receive any scrutiny themselves.

Was I unfair in my criticisms of The Telegraph?  In the latest survey of the ConservativeHome Members' Panel I tested my view.  "Please give your opinion on how The Daily Telegraph’s coverage of the Conservative Party has changed over the last two or so years" was the question posed in the survey.  A clear majority believe that The Telegraph's coverage of the Conservative Party is getting worse. The response was clear:

TelegraphCoverage Why has this happened?

Looking at the comments section within the ConHome survey the following explanations stand out:

  • The recruitment of a political lobby team that leans to the Left. Many Tory members won't quickly forget the favourable treatment given to Labour during Gordon Brown's honeymoon or the way in which the newspaper appeared to take lines from Damian McBride - right up until he was disgraced and forced to resign.
  • The hostility of The Telegraph's comment pages.  The attacks from Simon Heffer, in particular, often lose all proportion.
  • The expenses-gate controversy.  I am still of the view that The Telegraph's expenses files were an important contribution to political accountability but there was a failure to distinguish between serious and relatively minor abuses.
  • The loss of key journalists like its former Political Editor, George Jones.  Jones won a reputation in Fleet Street during the height of the New Labour years as one of the very few journalists who was impervious to either the charms or bullying of Peter Mandelson.  He's now at the Press Association.  The drain of talent continued with the loss of Iain Martin to the Wall Street Journal.
  • The other factor is the reduction in political coverage. As the newspaper becomes more features-orientated it has less room for political coverage. This has, of course, created a huge opportunity for blogs like ConHome to provide the kind of coverage of seat selections and internal party thinking that The Telegraph lacks space to provide.

I still think there are many excellent journalists at The Telegraph and I read it everyday.  I can't see that changing anytime soon.  But my message to that Telegraph journalist who is holding a grudge against ConservativeHome is simple: Don't shoot the messenger, the concern about your newspaper is widely-held.

Tim Montgomerie


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