It was not the Daily Mail wot won the Stephen Lawrence case

The newspaper's triumphalism undermines the tireless efforts of those who fought to keep the case at

Doreen Lawrence explained it. Yesterday was not a day for celebration at the guilty verdicts for David Norris and Gary Dobson for killing her son. There is some sense of justice in the conviction of these two racist murderers, but Stephen Lawrence remains dead, and others who took part in his killing still walk the streets.

Against that tone of sombre reflection came the rather jarring triumphalism of the Daily Mail, delighted in yesterday's verdicts and calling it "The Mail's Victory". The Mail did more than many other newspapers to fight for the Lawrences and to uncover the truth, but there seemed a slight edge to their coverage, as if it was vindication of the famous MURDERERS splash after all these years. I am not so sure it was.

Back in 1997, the Mail labelled the five suspects as murderers -- "if we are wrong, let them sue us", the front page said. It's been analysed to death down the years, but for me, I still don't see it as a journalistic triumph, as courageous, as brave, or all those other things people say it was. For me, it's the same kind of attitude that has seen people's lives wrecked since -- the certainty of guilt leading to false accusations. But I think most journalists disagree with me.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the MURDERERS front page, the Mail has every right to be pleased with its efforts to help in giving the case maximum publicity. But there was something about the coverage that seemed slightly at odds with the reality of the day. The more I saw the Lawrences, still broken people after all these years, the more strange the video statement from Mail editor Paul Dacre seemed in comparison. There was a whiff of myth-making, of history being written. It was the Daily Mail wot won it. Without that front page, there wouldn't have been justice for the Lawrences.

That's how the story goes, but is it right? I don't know and I don't think anyone knows. It's certainly an inviting narrative to buy into for those of us who believe in the power of journalism or the tabloid newspaper as a force for fairness rather than unfairness. But as much as I would like it to be true, I think it's only part of the story. It's simple to look back and see the front page, then attribute everything that came afterwards to it, but maybe it was just a factor, rather than the defining factor.

There were many, many other people who did everything in their power to keep the Lawrence case at the top of the political agenda. It is perhaps somewhat disrespectful to them to imagine that one newspaper front page was worth more than all of their tireless efforts over 18 years.

So let's return to the Lawrences themselves, ordinary people who have been forced through horrific circumstances to put their grief into the public domain, to share those private thoughts of losing a son. The key to understanding the impact of that crime is in their words and deeds. Yes, two men are in jail, but as Doreen and Neville Lawrence said yesterday, that does not mean the end -- other perpetrators of that disgusting crime still walk free.

There's no right or wrong way to deal with grief, but despite all the setbacks, the stench of corruption and the seemingly hopeless task, the Lawrences never gave up. Never. They only cared about achieving justice, which could and would never bring back their son, but which could bring some kind of peace. No, it is not a time for celebration: Stephen Lawrence is still in a grave rather than being the man he should have been. But perhaps there is hope, after all.

Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
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Everyone's forgotten the one issue that united the Labour party

There was a time when Ed Miliband spoke at Momentum rallies.

To label the row over the EU at Thursday’s Labour leadership hustings "fireworks" would be to endow it with more beauty than it deserves. Owen Smith’s dogged condemnation of John McDonnell’s absence from a Remain rally – only for Corbyn to point out that his absence was for medical reasons – ought to go down as a cringing new low point in the campaign. 

Not so long ago, we were all friends. In the course of the EU referendum, almost all of the protagonists in the current debacle spoke alongside each other and praised one another’s efforts. At a local level, party activists of all stripes joined forces. Two days before polling day, Momentum activists helped organise an impromptu rally. Ed Miliband was the headline speaker, and was cheered on. 

If you take the simple version of the debate, Labour’s schism on the EU appears as an aberration of the usual dynamics of left and right in the party. Labour's left is supposedly cheering a position which avoids advocating what it believes in (Remain), because it would lose votes. Meanwhile, the right claims to be dying in a ditch for its principles - no matter what the consequences for Labour’s support in Leave-voting heartlands.

Smith wants to oppose Brexit, even after the vote, on the basis of using every available procedural mechanism. He would whip MPs against the invocation of Article 50, refuse to implement it in government, and run on a manifesto of staying in the EU. For the die-hard Europhiles on the left – and I count myself among these, having run the Another Europe is Possible campaign during the referendum – there ought to be no contest as to who to support. On a result that is so damaging to people’s lives and so rooted in prejudice, how could we ever accept that there is such a thing as a "final word"? 

And yet, on the basic principles that lie behind a progressive version of EU membership, such as freedom of movement, Smith seems to contradict himself. Right at the outset of the Labour leadership, Smith took to Newsnight to express his view – typical of many politicians moulded in the era of New Labour – that Labour needed to “listen” to the views Leave voters by simply adopting them, regardless of whether or not they were right. There were, he said, “too many” immigrants in some parts of the country. 

Unlike Smith, Corbyn has not made his post-Brexit policy a headline feature of the campaign, and it is less widely understood. But it is clear, via the five "red lines" outlined by John McDonnell at the end of June:

  1. full access to the single market
  2. membership of the European investment bank
  3. access to trading rights for financial services sector
  4. full residency rights for all EU nationals in the UK and all UK nationals in the EU, and
  5. the enshrinement of EU protections for workers. 

Without these five conditions being met, Labour would presumably not support the invocation of Article 50. So if, as seems likely, a Conservative government would never meet these five conditions, would there be any real difference in how a Corbyn leadership would handle the situation? 

The fight over the legacy of the referendum is theatrical at times. The mutual mistrust last week played out on the stage in front of a mass televised audience. Some Corbyn supporters jeered Smith as he made the case for another referendum. Smith accused Corbyn of not even voting for Remain, and wouldn’t let it go. But, deep down, the division is really about a difference of emphasis. 

It speaks to a deeper truth about the future of Britain in Europe. During the referendum, the establishment case for Remain floundered because it refused to make the case that unemployment and declining public services were the result of austerity, not immigrants. Being spearheaded by Conservatives, it couldn’t. It fell to the left to offer the ideological counter attack that was needed – and we failed to reach enough people. 

As a result, what we got was a popular mandate for petty racism and a potentially long-term shift to the right in British politics, endangering a whole raft of workplace and legal protections along the way. Now that it has happened, anyone who really hopes to overcome either Brexit, or the meaning of Brexit, has to address the core attitudes and debates at their root. Then as now, it is only clear left-wing ideas – free from any attempt to triangulate towards anti-migrant sentiment– that can have any hope of success. 

The real dividing lines in Labour are not about the EU. If they were, the Eurosceptic Frank Field would not be backing Smith. For all that it may be convenient to deny it, Europe was once, briefly, the issue that united the Labour Party. One day, the issues at stake in the referendum may do so again – but only if Labour consolidates itself around a strategy for convincing people of ideas, rather than simply reaching for procedural levers.