Why isn’t our press more diverse?: Richard Peppiatt

Former reporter, Daily Star

"The Daily Star editorial policy does not hold any negativity towards Islam," was the line trotted out by Northern & Shell execs when I accused them of the opposite almost a year ago.

I agree with them in part; there is no bigoted "editorial policy" locked away in Richard Desmond's safe. Instead, like a factory pumping pollutants into our drinking water, there is just a narcissistic hunt for profit. In the modern media landscape, there is more money to be made entertaining the reader than there is from informing them; and there is no emotional driver more potent than fear and anxiety.

The Daily Star's "BBC PUTS MUSLIMS BEFORE YOU!" front page teetered on incitement to racial violence, but the preference is to scrawl prejudice in less visible ink. Everyone - from reporters through to subs, back bench and editors - is tasked with few enough pen strokes to allow each to deny to himself that he is responsible for the end product.

Meanwhile, the tabloid bombast that accompanied the Stephen Lawrence verdict was in part cover for the uncomfortable truth that his was an extraordinary case precisely because the Daily Mail et al gave it more than a sideways glance. Many hacks will recognise the guilt-tinged feeling at watching a murder plummet down the news-list the moment a brown face emerges from the printer.

It's a decision made by no one and everyone. The parochial machinations of the newsroom are an unspoken sum of parts.

This article first appeared in the 16 January 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The battle for Britain

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.