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Monday, July 14, 2008 

On the uselessness of lists.

In general drawing up huge lists is a thankless, pointless task which tends to prove precisely nothing. That most of those who do are self-obsessed narcissists convinced of their own righteousness (and I include myself here) doesn't help. Therefore including Andrew Neil, Tessa Jowell and three Grauniad no-names in compiling their "Media 100" list is hardly likely to inspire confidence. It's no surprise therefore when Carolyn McCall (Groan Media Group CEO) and Alan Rusbridger are both in the top 40.

You know they're just talking bollocks though when this is how they describe Rebekah Wade, who is at no.30, whereas Paul Dacre who still controls a paper with a lower circulation, it's worth remembering, is at no.4:

"Politically I think it had almost zero influence at the last election, and will have even less at the next one," said one panellist. "It has ceased to be the player it was at the heart of British media and politics."

To call this total nonsense would be perhaps putting it too lightly. If you honestly think that a newspaper with a circulation of 3 million, read by probably closer to 8 million has no influence then you're living in a fantasy world. A rather nice fantasy world, it has to be said, but still one that doesn't exist in reality.

You can in fact argue the opposite. While the Daily Mail undoubtedly punches above its weight, and almost everyone agrees that in the not too distant future it will usurp the Scum as the biggest selling daily, it was the unholy alliance of the Murdoch press with Blair that helped ensure that he stayed with us for as long as he did. Although it took a very long time, the Grauniad finally said it was time for Blair to go in around 2005. That left the only papers that really supported him the Times and the Sun. The Mirror doesn't count - although it's unlikely it will ever abandon Labour, it has long since lost any major influence and it always favoured Brown over Blair. No, what helped keep Blair from going under after the Iraq war was the unstinting support of the Sun - its fanatical hatred of the BBC and diabolically slanted coverage of the Hutton inquiry distorted the process out of recognition with the reporting elsewhere. While sympathetic towards Michael Howard, it never offered anything resembling support towards the Conservatives, and with most of the public also unconvinced by Howard, Labour returned in 2005, despite the Blair millstone around the party's neck, even if the Tories did win the popular vote in England.

This pact was always because of the overwhelming Wapping influence on Blair - constant deference towards the Sun's leader line, instant recognition of the latest demands it made, and impeccable rushing to accomodate and help with the next day's headlines. The reason why the Sun's influence has waned now Blair has gone is because Brown has always been far closer to Dacre and the Mail then Wade and the Sun. This hasn't altered the editorial line much, as it is still overly supportive of Brown, showing that Murdoch is still yet to be convinced by Cameron, no matter how similar to Blair he is. This though disproves the idea that somehow the Sun will even be less influential come the next election: already we've seen Cameron making his play on knife crime in the pages of the Sun, something they've unsurprisingly championed. The battle will shortly be joined, and the choice will be made. Will it be as much as a defining moment as the Sun's change to support Labour in 97? No, because the media has overwhelming changed since then. To pretend it won't have any influence is the view of someone who wishes it didn't.

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