'Revolution' as UK Tabloid Switches Tack on Brexit


As Prime Minister Theresa May clings to power and tries to stop her party splitting over Brexit, she is getting support from an unexpected and highly influential quarter -- the Daily Mail.

The paper's longstanding editor Paul Dacre, a crusading supporter of Brexit, stepped down this month to be replaced by Geordie Greig, who supported the campaign to stay in the EU.

The switch from Dacre, who had been in charge since 1992, has been hailed as momentous by pro-EU moderates and will provide some welcome relief for Downing Street, which is battling a growing rebellion against May's Brexit compromise strategy.

The Atlantic magazine said Greig "might change Britain", while former prime minister John Major said he had "the power and the potential to change the political discourse of our country."

Labour lawmaker Andrew Adonis, a strident opponent of Brexit, earlier this year said Greig's appointment signaled a "revolution in the British media" that could even "stop Brexit."

The Daily Mail is the third most widely read paper in Britain after The Sun and Metro although it tops the list if online readers are included because of its hugely popular website.

It has been known for its virulent right-wing campaigns against immigration and was a key supporter of Brexit -- against the government line -- during the 2016 EU referendum campaign.

- 'Godfather of Fleet Street' -

When Dacre's departure was announced in June, Kevin Maguire, associate editor of the left-wing Daily Mirror newspapers, described Dacre as the "Godfather of Fleet Street" and said that "catastrophic Brexit was his last hurrah."

Ahead of the Brexit referendum, then prime minister David Cameron, who supported Britain staying in the bloc, asked Dacre to "cut him some slack" in the campaign, the BBC reported.

After Dacre refused to budge, Cameron asked Lord Rothermere to sack him which made the editor "incandescent" and his resolve to campaign for Brexit "stiffened", a source told BBC Newsnight.

Fast forward two years and the paper's stance has turned around.

In an editorial on Thursday, the paper admitted to some reservations about May's plan to keep close ties with the EU but said it was "the only blueprint for Brexit on the table."

It warned rebellious MPs from her Conservative Party that they did not have the numbers to unseat May or an "obvious candidate" to replace her or "a coherent alternative plan for Brexit."

One of its columnists, Andrew Pierce, accused hardline Brexiteers plotting against May of being "traitors" -- a stark reversal for a paper that accused judges who had issued an anti-Brexit ruling of being "Enemies of the People".

The paper's new editorial line risks angering Dacre, who still has an influential role as chairman and editor-in-chief of the Mail's parent group, DMG Media.

Writing in The Spectator earlier this year, Dacre warned against too radical a shift.

"Support for Brexit is in the DNA of both the Daily Mail and, more pertinently, its readers, any move to reverse this would be editorial and commercial suicide," he wrote.

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