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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Boris Johnson is right about Saudi Arabia - but will he stick to his tune in Riyadh?

The Foreign Secretary went off script, but on truth. 

The difference a day makes. On Wednesday Theresa May was happily rubbing shoulders with Saudi Royalty at the Gulf Co-operation Council summit and talking about how important she thinks the relationship is.

Then on Thursday, the Guardian rained on her parade by publishing a transcript of her Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, describing the regime as a "puppeteer" for "proxy wars" while speaking at an international conference last week.

We will likely never know how she reacted when she first heard the news, but she’s unlikely to have been happy. It was definitely off-script for a UK foreign secretary. Until Johnson’s accidental outburst, the UK-Saudi relationship had been one characterised by mutual backslapping, glamorous photo-ops, major arms contracts and an unlimited well of political support.

Needless to say, the Prime Minister put him in his place as soon as possible. Within a few hours it was made clear that his words “are not the government’s views on Saudi and its role in the region". In an unequivocal statement, Downing Street stressed that Saudi is “a vital partner for the UK” and reaffirmed its support for the Saudi-led air strikes taking place in Yemen.

For over 18 months now, UK fighter jets and UK bombs have been central to the Saudi-led destruction of the poorest country in the region. Schools, hospitals and homes have been destroyed in a bombing campaign that has created a humanitarian catastrophe.

Despite the mounting death toll, the arms exports have continued unabated. Whitehall has licensed over £3.3bn worth of weapons since the intervention began last March. As I write this, the UK government is actively working with BAE Systems to secure the sale of a new generation of the same fighter jets that are being used in the bombing.

There’s nothing new about UK leaders getting close to Saudi Arabia. For decades now, governments of all political colours have worked hand-in-glove with the arms companies and Saudi authorities. Our leaders have continued to bend over backwards to support them, while turning a blind eye to the terrible human rights abuses being carried out every single day.

Over recent years we have seen Tony Blair intervening to stop an investigation into arms exports to Saudi and David Cameron flying out to Riyadh to meet with royalty. Last year saw the shocking but ultimately unsurprising revelation that UK civil servants had lobbied for Saudi Arabia to sit on the UN Human Rights Council, a move which would seem comically ironic if the consequences weren’t so serious.

The impact of the relationship hasn’t just been to boost and legitimise the Saudi dictatorship - it has also debased UK policy in the region. The end result is a hypocritical situation in which the government is rightly calling on Russian forces to stop bombing civilian areas in Aleppo, while at the same time arming and supporting Saudi Arabia while it unleashes devastation on Yemen.

It would be nice to think that Johnson’s unwitting intervention could be the start of a new stage in UK-Saudi relations; one in which the UK stops supporting dictatorships and calls them out on their appalling human rights records. Unfortunately it’s highly unlikely. Last Sunday, mere days after his now notorious speech, Johnson appeared on the Andrew Marr show and, as usual, stressed his support for his Saudi allies.

The question for Johnson is which of these seemingly diametrically opposed views does he really hold? Does he believe Saudi Arabia is a puppeteer that fights proxy wars and distorts Islam, or does he see it as one of the UK’s closest allies?

By coincidence Johnson is due to visit Riyadh this weekend. Will he be the first Foreign Secretary in decades to hold the Saudi regime accountable for its abuses, or will he cozy up to his hosts and say it was all one big misunderstanding?

If he is serious about peace and about the UK holding a positive influence on the world stage then he must stand by his words and use his power to stop the arms sales and hold the UK’s "puppeteer" ally to the same standard as other aggressors. Unfortunately, if history is anything to go by, then we shouldn’t hold our breath.

Andrew Smith is a spokesman for Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). You can follow CAAT at @CAATuk.