Pro-Cameron Times changes headline to suit the Tories

Headline declaring: “Cameron risks backlash with early talk of victory” is scrapped.

After endorsing the Conservatives at the weekend, one would expect the Times to be keen to minimise damaging stories about David Cameron. So imagine the media's surprise when, at 10.20 last night, the next day's front page was sent to them with the headline "Cameron risks backlash with early talk of victory".

The story appeared to encourage the idea that the Tory leader, a man used to getting his own way, is already measuring the curtains for No 10. With the polls still pointing to a hung parliament, surely the Tories could expect a little more support from the Murdoch-owned paper?

Version 1

Times03.05

Well, clearly someone at Wapping thought better of it, because just 45 minutes later a new version was emailed out with the rather bland, neutral-sounding headline: "Cameron outlines plans for first days in power".

That striking claim, "Cameron risks backlash with early talk of victory", was still there but it had been relegated to the standfirst.

Version 2

Times03.05newnew

This isn't the first time that the Times has been caught out by its indecision. After the second leaders' debate on TV, the paper featured a picture of Cameron and Nick Clegg with the headline "Neck and neck". But, after a revised version of the paper's Populus poll put Cameron just a point ahead, the headline had metamorphosed into "Cameron nicks it".

Some will no doubt imagine that James Murdoch or Rebekah Brooks (old Rupe is occupied with the Wall Street Journal these days) put in a call to the paper to demand the revision. But here's the point: they probably didn't need to. Successful Murdoch editors usually internalise the prejudices of their proprietor to the degree that no intervention is required.

As the thoughtful former Sun editor David Yelland remarked in a recent interview:

[Y]ou don't admit to yourself that you're being influenced. Most Murdoch editors wake up in the morning, switch on the radio, hear that something has happened and think, 'What would Rupert think about this?' It's like a mantra inside your head. It's like a prism. You look at the world through Rupert's eyes.

Either way, the second favourable headline change for the Tories in less than a month begins to raise natural suspicions.

Hat-tip: PoliticsHome.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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