This seems like a simple question to answer for some of you: they don’t like the European Union, never have, so of course the right of centre press is going to stick to its guns and try and chide the British public into voting to leave the EU in what may be its only chance to democratically do so. Well, except there is one big problem in all of this: David Cameron. In order to continue to peddle a Eurosceptic line throughout the referendum short campaign, the right-wing press will have to campaign directly against a Tory Prime Minister. And as an addendum to the first problem, I add a second problem: George Osborne. They will have to simultaneously campaign against the man who will very probably be the next Tory prime minister as well.
Set against all of this is the fact that the Conservative Party and all of the media that orbit around it have been presented with a once in a century opportunity to destroy the Labour Party – completely and utterly and for all time. As in, not just weaken Labour so that it takes another fifteen years get back into power; no, destroy them for good; so that the next time this country has a non-Tory prime minister, whenever that may be, he or she will not be a Labour MP but rather from some other party, possibly one that does not yet exist. Corbyn and the Labour members who elected him leader have presented this gift of several lifetimes to the Right – will they really bugger it all up over Europe?
Rumour has it – and they are no more than rumours, but from very credible sources – that the Murdoch press will begrudgingly back staying in if Cameron goes that way (and why pretend any longer that the prime minister can possibly go any other direction?). That obviously isn’t all of the right of centre press taken care of by a long shot – but it does represent a reasonable chunk of the more populist elements. So let’s examine the non-Rupert elements of this bunch then: The Daily Express will obviously campaign for Out regardless. They left behind the Conservative Party long ago anyhow and exist in a sort of UKIP, sepia-tinged version of some Britain that never existed. The Daily Mail? Hard to see them campaigning for anything but Out. But the rest of them? Then it gets interesting.
The Daily Telegraph have taken an even harder Eurosceptic line over the last six months than they had previously held. But they don’t call it the Torygraph for nothing – butting up against most of the Conservative frontbench on an issue to be put to a national referendum will hard going for the publication to weather for that amount of time.
The right of centre press, for the most part, I think, will cave into the Cameron-Osborne nexus on Europe. I could be wrong, but let us see. I just think the prize of getting beyond the EU referendum, to the promised land where a Corbyn-led Labour starts to disintegrate completely, will simply be too alluring to risk.