Save the Daily Mirror

The Mirror is a key part of Labour’s fightback against the coalition. We can’t afford for it to be c

Every morning on his way home from his shift at the pit, my father would collect the Daily Mirror. Apart from the Daily Herald it was the only newspaper allowed in our home in Wigan. It was the newspaper of my childhood and I continue to buy it.

Now, more than ever, Labour needs the Daily Mirror -- a national newspaper to challenge the Conservative-dominated media and coalition.

We must rescue the paper from the clutches of a greedy, asset-stripping CEO.

For over 100 years, the Daily Mirror has been the paper of the left.

It is the paper that helped build support for the NHS after the world war.

It gave us the dynamic and radical journalism of Marjorie Proops, Paul Foot, Roy Greenslade, Alastair Campbell and Piers Morgan.

It was the only popular newspaper to speak out from the start against the invasion of Iraq.

It was the only paper to back Labour in 2010.

Now, under cover of the new Con-Dem government, the Mirror Group chief executive, Sly Bailey, is killing off a newspaper read daily across Britain by Labour's supporters.

Last week Trinity Mirror announced that 35 per cent of the journalists working across the three national titles would face redundancy.

Bolstered by her 66 per cent bonus rise in 2009 -- knowing Labour is distracted by a leadership election, and sure of support from the Con-Dem government -- Sly Bailey is killing off Labour's link to millions of readers.

Even though the axing of 1,700 staff, the freezing of wages and the disposal of 30 publications in 2009 helped Trinity Mirror stay comfortably in profit.

As the Wall Street Journal has noted:

"Her strategy of delivering shareholder value doesn't seem to extend to much beyond culling staff when the going gets tough."

Today's limited staff work 15-hour days to produce the newspaper.

So there is no slack to cut, if the paper is to maintain its relevance, radicalism and popular appeal.

A tiny skeleton staff will fill the paper with wire reports, like the Daily Express.

Mirror journalists will no longer have the resources to challenge the government, to oppose illegal wars, to investigate wrongdoing or to stand up for the rights of working people.

If stripping the paper of its journalistic assets were not bad enough, Sly is squeezing the Mirror's Labour-supporting readers dry.

Abusing readers' loyalty, she has bumped up the price of the paper to 45p -- more than double the price of the Sun in parts of the country. If Richard Desmond's threat to cut the price of the Daily Star in July materialises, the Daily Mirror will cost four times the price of the Star.

So Bailey expects Mirror readers to pay a premium for a product that she is hollowing out of good writing talent and experience.

Join us in calling for the resignation of Sly Bailey -- and fight for investment in the journalists that have built a great national Labour daily.

Anni Marjoram was adviser on women's issues to Ken Livingstone (2000-2008).

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Is there such a thing as responsible betting?

Punters are encouraged to bet responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly.

I try not to watch the commercials between matches, or the studio discussions, or anything really, before or after, except for the match itself. And yet there is one person I never manage to escape properly – Ray Winstone. His cracked face, his mesmerising voice, his endlessly repeated spiel follow me across the room as I escape for the lav, the kitchen, the drinks cupboard.

I’m not sure which betting company he is shouting about, there are just so many of them, offering incredible odds and supposedly free bets. In the past six years, since the laws changed, TV betting adverts have increased by 600 per cent, all offering amazingly simple ways to lose money with just one tap on a smartphone.

The one I hate is the ad for BetVictor. The man who has been fronting it, appearing at windows or on roofs, who I assume is Victor, is just so slimy and horrible.

Betting firms are the ultimate football parasites, second in wealth only to kit manufacturers. They have perfected the capitalist’s art of using OPM (Other People’s Money). They’re not directly involved in football – say, in training or managing – yet they make millions off the back of its popularity. Many of the firms are based offshore in Gibraltar.

Football betting is not new. In the Fifties, my job every week at five o’clock was to sit beside my father’s bed, where he lay paralysed with MS, and write down the football results as they were read out on Sports Report. I had not to breathe, make silly remarks or guess the score. By the inflection in the announcer’s voice you could tell if it was an away win.

Earlier in the week I had filled in his Treble Chance on the Littlewoods pools. The “treble” part was because you had three chances: three points if the game you picked was a score draw, two for a goalless draw and one point for a home or away win. You chose eight games and had to reach 24 points, or as near as possible, then you were in the money.

“Not a damn sausage,” my father would say every week, once I’d marked and handed him back his predictions. He never did win a sausage.

Football pools began in the 1920s, the main ones being Littlewoods and Vernons, both based in Liverpool. They gave employment to thousands of bright young women who checked the results and sang in company choirs in their spare time. Each firm spent millions on advertising. In 1935, Littlewoods flew an aeroplane over London with a banner saying: Littlewoods Above All!

Postwar, they blossomed again, taking in £50m a year. The nation stopped at five on a Saturday to hear the scores, whether they were interested in football or not, hoping to get rich. BBC Sports Report began in 1948 with John Webster reading the results. James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 – a voice soon familiar throughout the land.

These past few decades, football pools have been left behind, old-fashioned, low-tech, replaced by online betting using smartphones. The betting industry has totally rebooted itself. You can bet while the match is still on, trying to predict who will get the next goal, the next corner, the next throw-in. I made the last one up, but in theory you can bet instantly, on anything, at any time.

The soft sell is interesting. With the old football pools, we knew it was a remote flutter, hoping to make some money. Today the ads imply that betting on football somehow enhances the experience, adds to the enjoyment, involves you in the game itself, hence they show lads all together, drinking and laughing and putting on bets.

At the same time, punters are encouraged to do it responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly. Responsibly and respect are now two of the most meaningless words in the football language. People have been gambling, in some form, since the beginning, watching two raindrops drip down inside the cave, lying around in Roman bathhouses playing games. All they’ve done is to change the technology. You have to respect that.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war