Spartacus Blog

The long record of The Daily Mail printing hate stories.

Monday, 19th February, 2018

John Simkin

In August, 2016, The Stop Funding Hate began its campaign to convince companies to pull their advertising from those newspapers that use “fear and division to sell more papers” and demonise groups such as refugees and migrants. (1)

One of the groups main targets is those odious newspapers owned by Jonathan Harold Esmond Vere Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere. According to the Sunday Times Rich List he is estimated to be worth over £1 billion. He has non-domicile tax status and owns his media businesses through a complex structure of offshore holdings and trusts. This helps to explain why his newspapers tend to concentrate their attacks on "benefit cheats" rather than the wealthy who do not pay their taxes. (2)

As Private Eye pointed out: "For a man whose newspapers love Britain so much, the 4th Viscount Rothermere is remarkably enamoured of the world’s tax havens as shelters for his enormous riches. Since 1995, three years before the Hon Jonathan Harmsworth (as he then was) inherited the Daily Mail & General Trust plc empire from his father, the 3rd Viscount, the group has been controlled through a company, Rothermere Continuation Ltd, registered in Bermuda but run from Jersey... Lord Rothermere... inherited his privileged tax status from his father, the 3rd Viscount, Vere Harmsworth, who had himself acquired a French 'domicile of choice' by becoming a tax exile in Paris from the 1970s and pledging his lifelong allegiance to the country about which his papers were not always so kind." (3)

Rothermere is safe from prosecution from this government because of the loyal support he gives to the Conservative Party. This is a long tradition that can be traced back to his two great-grandfathers, Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Lord Northcliffe and Harold Harmsworth, 1st Lord Rothermere, who founded the Daily Mail in 1896. Alfred was the ideas man whereas Harold was the trained accountant who raised the money for the venture. (4)

The Harmsworth brothers had previously concentrated on publishing comics and magazines. This including the highly successful Comic Cuts and Answers to Correspondents. Both men were great supporter of the British Empire, and published Union Jack, a magazine that was full of stories of how British soldiers were heroically defeating its enemies abroad. (5) The Liberal Party supporting The Daily News, who had doubts about getting involved in foreign wars, attacked Harmsworth for "abetting national degeneration". (6)

Harold and Alfred both held extreme right-wing views and were desperate to gain political influence over the masses. In August 1894 they purchased the Evening News for £25,000. Established in 1881 to promote the interests of the Conservative Party, it developed one of the largest circulations in the market. However, the owner, Coleridge Kennard, found it difficult to make a profit from the newspaper and although by 1894 it had a circulation of over 100,000, it had suffered heavy losses. Alfred made it clear that his newspaper would "preach the gospel of loyalty to the Empire and faith in the combined efforts of the peoples united under the British flag". The declaration of principles continued that, in politics, the paper would be "strongly and unfalteringly" on the side of the Conservatives. (7)

Over the first few months Harmsworth had difficulty increasing the circulation of the newspaper. However, advertisers loved the newspaper and the profits soared. By the end of the first year the newspaper made a profit of £14,000. The following year he stated that sales had reached 394,447. Harmsworth claimed this as a world record for a newspaper and added that sales would be over 500,000 if they owned more printing presses.

Harmsworth developed a reputation for "Jew-baiting". On one occasion he published a joke about a Jewish businessman who arranged to have a fire on his premises so that he could claim insurance money. Unfortunately for Harmsworth, a Jewish tradesman in Shoreditch, bearing the same name as given in the joke, had recently claimed insurance for a fire in his London premises. He promptly issued a writ for libel against the newspaper. Harmsworth was forced to apologize and paid the man £600. (8)

The Philosophy of the Daily Mail

In the late 19th century there were several one penny newspapers for the growing numbers of working-class and lower middle-class people who could read. These newspapers were printed on cheap tinted paper. Harmsworth had the idea of using more expensive high-quality white paper to allow for better illustrations. What is more, he was only going to charge a half-penny for the newspaper, and its free daily magazine. The newspaper was to be called the Daily Mail. "The object of the Daily Mail is to give every item of important news... The object of the Daily Magazine is to amuse, interest, and instruct during the leisure moments of the day." (9)

The Harmsworth brothers knew that they could not make a profit out of the venture by relying on the revenue received from the sales of the newspaper. The business model was based on creating a large circulation newspaper that would appeal to wealthy business owners wanting to advertise their products. These were people who would fully support the political message they intended to communicate. At the same time, they knew that it would be impossible for a left-wing newspaper to attract this kind of advertising that would enable them to compete with the price of the Daily Mail.

The Daily Mail was the first newspaper in Britain that catered for a new reading public that needed something simpler, shorter and more readable than those that had previously been available. One new innovation was the banner headline that went right across the page. Considerable space was given to sport and human interest stories. It was also the first newspaper to include a woman's section that dealt with issues such as fashions and cookery. Most importantly, all its news stories and articles were short. The first day it sold 397,215 copies, more than had ever been sold by any newspaper in one day before. (10)

Harmsworth gained many of his ideas from America. He had been especially impressed by Joseph Pulitzer, the owner of the New York World. He also concentrated on human-interest stories, scandal and sensational material. However, Pulitzer also promised to use the paper to expose corruption: "We will always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty." (11)

In order to do this Pulitzer pioneered the idea of investigative reporting that eventually became known as muckraking. As Harold Evans, the author of The American Century: People, Power and Politics (1998) has pointed out: "Crooks in City Hall. Opium in children's cough syrup. Rats in the meat packing factory. Cruelty to child workers... Scandal followed scandal in the early 1900s as a new breed of writers investigated the evils of laissez-faire America... The muckrakers were the heart of Progressivism, that shifting coalition of sentiment striving to make the American dream come true in the machine age. Their articles, with facts borne out by subsequent commissions, were read passionately in new national mass-circulation magazines by millions of the fast-growing aspiring white-collar middle class." (12)

Alfred Harmsworth completely rejected this approach to journalism. "Looking back, what it (the Daily Mail) lacked most noticeably was a social conscience... Alfred had no desire to start looking for social evils, and no need. What he had to keep in mind were the tastes of a new public that was becoming better educated and more prosperous, that wanted its rose bushes and tobacco and silk corsets and tasty dishes, that liked to wave a flag for the Queen and see foreigners slip on a banana skin." (13)

One of his journalists, Tom Clarke, claimed that his newspaper was for people who were not as intelligent as they thought they were: "Was one of the secrets of the Daily Mail success its play on the snobbishness of all of us? - all of us except the very rich and the very poor, to whom snobbishness is not important; for the rich have nothing to gain by it, and the poor have nothing to lose." (14)

The Conservative Party and the Daily Mail

Alfred Harmsworth made it clear to the leaders of the Conservative Party that the newspaper would provide loyal support against the movement towards social change. Arthur Balfour, the leader of the party in the House of Commons, sent a private letter to Harmsworth. "Though it is impossible for me, for obvious reasons, to appear among the list of those who publish congratulatory comments in the columns of the Daily Mail perhaps you will allow me privately to express my appreciation of your new undertaking. That, if it succeeds, it will greatly conduce to the wide dissemination of sound political principles, I feel assured; and I cannot doubt, that it will succeed, knowing the skill, the energy, the resource, with which it is conducted. You have taken the lead in the newspaper enterprise, and both you and the Party are to be heartily congratulated." (15)

In July 1896, Harmsworth asked a friend, Lady Bulkley, to write to Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury, the new prime minister, suggesting that in return for supporting the Conservative Party, he should be rewarded with a baronetcy. The letter pointed out that as well as owning several pro-conservative newspapers he had recently established "the Daily Mail... at a cost of near £100,000". Salisbury refused but was willing to offer a knighthood instead. Harmsworth rejected the offer and commented that he was willing to wait for a baronetcy. (16)

It was not long before the Daily Mail began his "campaign of hate". Its first target was the trade union movement and soon afterwards it became foreigners. Alfred Harmsworth was a passionate supporter of the British Empire and he is said to have idolised two men, Joseph Camberlain and Cecil Rhodes. He intended to use his newspaper and the rest of his publications to "strum the Imperial harp". According to Harry J. Greenwall, the author of Northcliffe: Napoleon of Fleet Street (1957) Harmsworth "with the Daily Mail unleashed a tremendous force of potential mass thought-control" as it became the "trumpet... of British Imperialism." (17)

Alfred Harmsworth, a strong supporter of the Boer War, saw this as an opportunity to damage the Liberal Party. A series of articles appeared in the Daily Mail that questioned the patriotism of people like David Lloyd George, who opposed the war. The old-fashioned "Little Englander" position, said the newspaper, by sympathizing with the enemy in the South African crisis, had failed to interpret the sentiment of the nation for "England and Empire". According to Harmsworth, for the Liberal Party to survive, its only hope was to regain the trust of the country by supporting the band of thirty or so Liberal Imperialists, led by Rosebery, Asquith and Grey." (18)

The Boer War proved to be very popular with the British public. In 1898 the Daily Mail was selling 400,000 copies a day. Harmsworth encouraged people to buy the newspaper for nationalistic reasons making it clear to his readers that his newspaper stood "for the power, the supremacy and the greatness of the British Empire". By 1899 it had reached 600,000 and during the most dramatic moments of the war in 1900 it was almost a million and a half. (19) According to Adrian Addison, Harmsworth knew his readers would enjoy a good war. He would often say: "The British people relish a good hero and a good hate." (20)

Campaign of Hate against Germany

Alfred Harmsworth also developed a hate campaign against Germany. At first he was concerned by Germany's decision to give all adult males the vote. This was followed by Otto von Bismarck taking the view that the best way of preventing socialism was by introducing a series of social reforms including old age pensions. In 1881 he announced that "those who are disabled from work by age and invalidity have a well-grounded claim to care from the state." When the issue was debated Bismarck was described by his critics as a socialist. He replied: "Call it socialism or whatever you like. It is the same to me." It has been argued that Bismarck's intention was to "forge a bond between workers and the state so as to strengthen the latter, to maintain traditional relations of authority between social and status groups, and to provide a countervailing power against the modernist forces of liberalism and socialism." (21)

In 1883 Bismarck introduced a health insurance system that provided payments when people were sick and unable to work. Participation was mandatory and contributions were taken from the employee, the employer and the government. The German system provided contributory retirement benefits and disability benefits as well. Germany was therefore the first country in the world to provide a comprehensive system of income security based on social insurance principles.

Bismarck explained: "The real grievance of the worker is the insecurity of his existence; he is not sure that he will always have work, he is not sure that he will always be healthy, and he foresees that he will one day be old and unfit to work. If he falls into poverty, even if only through a prolonged illness, he is then completely helpless, left to his own devices, and society does not currently recognize any real obligation towards him beyond the usual help for the poor, even if he has been working all the time ever so faithfully and diligently. The usual help for the poor, however, leaves a lot to be desired, especially in large cities, where it is very much worse than in the country." (22)

The Harmsworth brothers had always been opposed to the working-class having the vote and feared the welfare reforms introduced in Germany would become the policy of the Liberal Party. Harmsworth sent his leading journalist, George W. Steevens, to report on the country: "The German army is the most perfectly adapted, perfectly running machine. Never can there have been a more signal triumph of organization over complexity... The German army is the finest thing thing of its kind in the world; it is the finest thing in Germany of any kind... In the German army the men are ready, and the planes, the railway-carriages, the gas for the war-balloons, and the nails for the horseshoes are all ready too... Nothing overlooked, nothing neglected, everything practised, everything welded together, and yet everything alive and fighting... And what should we ever do if 100,000 of this kind of army got loose in England?" (23)

Linley Sambourne, Fidgety Wilhelm (1st February, 1896)
Linley Sambourne, Fidgety Wilhelm (1st February, 1896)

Harmsworth became convinced that Britain would have to go to war with Germany and urged the government to increase its spending on defence: "This is our hour of preparation, tomorrow may be the day of world conflict... Germany will go slowly and surely; she is not in a hurry: her preparations are quietly and systematically made; it is no part of her object to cause general alarm which might be fatal to her designs." (24)

In an interview Harmsworth gave to a French newspaper he explained his views on Germany: "Yes, we detest the Germans, we detest them cordially and the make themselves detested by all of Europe. I will not permit the least thing that might injure France to appear in my paper, but I should not like for anything to appear in it that might be agreeable to Germany." (25)

The Campaign against Old Age Pensions and Unemployment Pay

In 1904 the Conservative government rewarded Alfred Harmsworth with the title Lord Northcliffe. Harold Harmsworth had to wait another six years for his title, Lord Rothermere. By this time the brothers not only owned The Daily Mail but also The Evening News, The Daily Mirror, The Times, The Sunday Observer and The Weekly Dispatch. Despite this, the brothers were unable to stop the Liberal Party from winning a landslide victory in the 1906 General Election, when they won 397 seats (48.9%) compared to the Conservative Party's 156 seats (43.4%).

The Harmsworth brothers were especially hostile to the Liberal plans to bring in a welfare state based on the one that existed in Germany. The main hate figure in the government was David Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who wanted to provide old age pensions for people over the age of 70. In 1909 Lloyd George announced what became known as the People's Budget. This included increases in taxation. Whereas people on lower incomes were to pay 9d. in the pound, those on annual incomes of over £3,000 had to pay 1s. 2d. in the pound. Lloyd George also introduced a new super-tax of 6d. in the pound for those earning £5,000 a year. Other measures included an increase in death duties on the estates of the rich and heavy taxes on profits gained from the ownership and sale of property. Other innovations in Lloyd George's budget included labour exchanges and a children's allowance on income tax. (26)

Lord Northcliffe disliked the idea of paying higher taxes in order to help provide old age pensions and used all of his newspapers to criticize the measures in the budget. The Daily News launched an attack on the wealthy men opposed to the budget: "It is they who own the newspapers, and when we remember that The Times, The Daily Mail, and The Observer, not to mention a host of minor organs in London and the provinces, are all controlled by one man, it is easy to realise how vast a political power capital exerts by this means alone." (27)

Drawing of Charles Bradlaugh beingevicted from the House of Commons in 1880
Linley Sambourne, The Philanthropic Highwayman (1909)

Lord Northcliffe and Lord Rothermere also led the opposition to the National Insurance Bill, a health insurance scheme similar to one introduced in Germany in the 1880s. "Insurance was to be made compulsory for all regularly employed workers over the age of sixteen and with incomes below the level - £160 a year - of liability for income tax; also for all manual labourers, whatever their income. The rates of contribution would be 4d. a week from a man, and 3d. a week from a woman; 3d. a week from his or her employer; and 2d. a week from the State." (28)

Lord Northcliffe, launched a propaganda campaign against the bill on the grounds that the scheme would be too expensive for small employers. The climax of the campaign was a rally in the Albert Hall on 29th November, 1911. As Lord Northcliffe, controlled 40 per cent of the morning newspaper circulation in Britain, 45 per cent of the evening and 15 per cent of the Sunday circulation, his views on the subject was very important. (29)

Frank Owen, the author of Tempestuous Journey: Lloyd George and his Life and Times (1954) suggested that it was those who employed servants who were the most hostile to the legislation: "Their tempers were inflamed afresh each morning by Northcliffe's Daily Mail, which alleged that inspectors would invade their drawing-rooms to check if servants' cards were stamped, while it warned the servants that their mistresses would sack them the moment they became liable for sickness benefit." (30)

The bill was passed by the House of Commons on 6th December and received royal assent on 16th December 1911. However, Lord Northcliffe and Lord Rothermere, had much more success in their campaign to stop women and most working-class men from being given the vote. He ordered his newspapers to ignore the subject as he believed any publicity only helped their cause. (Similar to the way that the Daily Mail today ignores giving publicity to those trying to expose the way wealthy people use offshore holdings and trusts to avoid paying taxes.) On a visit to Canada and the United States he proudly pointed out that newspapers in those countries had more information on the activities of the National Union of Suffrage Societies and the Women Social & Political Union than the ones controlled by him. (31)

However, he thought it wise not to give his opinions in public as he feared it would lose him readers: "My view of the position of newspaper owners is that they should be read and not seen. The less they appear in person the better for the influence of their newspapers. That is why I never appear on public platforms. As to the woman's suffrage business, I am one of those people who believe the whole thing to be a bubble, blown by a few wealthy women who employ their less prosperous sisters to do the work. I judge public interest in the matter by the correspondence received. We never get any letters apart from those from the stage army of suffragettes." (32)

Lord Northcliffe was also extremely hostile to trade unions. One of his journalists remembered how he behaved during a strike organised by the National Union of Mineworkers: "During this coal strike the orders came thick and fast. Whatever he might do through The Times in the way of influencing public opinion, he could do far more through the Mail, with its millions... He thought mob rule might be coming, so the mob must be divided; the public must be shown how the miners were enjoying themselves at the seaside or dog races while helpless workers in other industries suffered from the creeping paralysis." (33)

Lord Northcliffe had consistently described Germany as Britain's "secret and insidious enemy", and he commissioned Robert Blatchford, to visit Germany and then write a series of articles setting out the dangers. The German's, Blatchford wrote, were making "gigantic preparations" to destroy the British Empire and "to force German dictatorship upon the whole of Europe". He complained that Britain was not prepared for was and argued that the country was facing the possibility of an "Armageddon". (34)

Lord Northcliffe was highly critical of a Liberal government who were more willing to spend more money on the emerging welfare state than on defence spending. In the run-up to the 1910 General Election he accused the government of "surrendering to socialism" and that it was the patriotic duty of the British people to vote for the Conservative Party as Germany wanted a Liberal victory in the election. (35)

First World War

The Daily Mail campaigned for the introduction of military conscription to deal with the threat of Germany. It argued that "in recent years" no other subject "has attracted more attention, has aroused more discussion, or been followed by our readers with closer interest". It also published a pamphlet that dealt with this issue. Within a few weeks it sold over 1,600,000 copies. The Manchester Guardian accused the newspaper of "deliberately raking the fires of hell for votes". (36)

On the outbreak of the First World War the editor of The Star newspaper claimed that: "Next to the Kaiser, Lord Northcliffe has done more than any living man to bring about the war." Once the war had started Northcliffe used his newspaper empire to promote anti-German hysteria. It was The Daily Mail that first used the term "Huns" to describe the Germans and "thus at a stroke was created the image of a terrifying, ape-like savage that threatened to rape and plunder all of Europe, and beyond." (37)

As Philip Knightley, the author of The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist and Myth Maker (1982) has pointed out: "The war was made to appear one of defence against a menacing aggressor. The Kaiser was painted as a beast in human form... The Germans were portrayed as only slightly better than the hordes of Genghis Khan, rapers of nuns, mutilators of children, and destroyers of civilisation." (38) In one report the newspaper referred to Kaiser Wilhelm II as a "lunatic," a "barbarian," a "madman," a "monster," a "modern judas," and a "criminal monarch". (39)

Lord Northcliffe's greatest political victory was to destroy the Liberal Party. In 1916 he joined forces with David Lloyd George in an attempt to persuade the H. H. Asquith, the prime minister, and several of his cabinet, including Sir Edward Grey, Arthur Balfour, Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe and Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, to resign. It was reported that Lloyd George was trying to encourage Asquith to establish a small War Council to run the war and if he did not agree he would resign. (40)

Tom Clarke, the news editor of The Daily Mail, claims that Lord Northcliffe told him to take a message to the editor, Thomas Marlowe, that he was to run an article on the political crisis with the headline, "Asquith a National Danger". He also told Clarke to print pictures of Lloyd George and Asquith side by side: "Get a smiling picture of Lloyd George and get the worst possible picture of Asquith." Clarke told Northcliffe that this was "rather unkind, to say the least". Northcliffe replied: "Rough methods are needed if we are not to lose the war... it's the only way." (41)

Asquith eventually resigned on 5th December, 1916, and was replaced by Lloyd George. He brought in a War Cabinet that included only four other members: George Curzon, Alfred Milner, Andrew Bonar Law and Arthur Henderson. There was also the understanding that Arthur Balfour attended when foreign affairs were on the agenda. Lloyd George was therefore the only Liberal Party member in the War Cabinet. Lloyd George wanted Northcliffe to become a member of the War Cabinet, however, Henderson told him that if this happened he would resign and take away the support of the Labour Party from the government.

The Daily Chronicle attacked the role that Lord Northcliffe and the other Conservative Party supporting newspaper barons had removed a democratically elected government. It argued that the new government "will have to deal with the Press menace as well as the submarine menace; otherwise Ministries will be subject to tyranny and torture by daily attacks impugning their patriotism and earnestness to win the war." (42)

Lord Rothermere and The Daily Mail

Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe, suffered from streptococcus, an infection of the bloodstream, that damages the valves of the heart and causes kidney malfunction. After he died in August, 1922, the newspaper empire was run by his brother, Harold Harmsworth, Lord Rothermere. His main enemy was the emerging Labour Party and its leader, Ramsay MacDonald, formed a minority government after the 1923 General Election,

As with the Daily Mail today, its main strategy was to try and link the Labour Party with the Soviet Union. During the election campaign that it was under the control of the Bolshevik government in the Soviet Union: "The British Labour Party, as it impudently calls itself, is not British at all. It has no right whatever to its name. By its humble acceptance of the domination of the Sozialistische Arbeiter Internationale's authority at Hamburg in May it has become a mere wing of the Bolshevist and Communist organisation on the Continent. It cannot act or think for itself." (43)

Two days after forming the first Labour government Ramsay MacDonald received a note from General Borlass Childs of Special Branch that said "in accordance with custom" a copy was enclosed of his weekly report on revolutionary movements in Britain. MacDonald wrote back that the weekly report would be more useful if it also contained details of the "political activities... of the Fascist movement in this country". Childs wrote back that he had never thought it right to investigate movements which wished to achieve their aims peacefully. In reality, MI5 was already working very closely with the British Fascisti, that had been established in 1923. (44)

Maxwell Knight was the organization's Director of Intelligence. In this role he had responsibility for compiling intelligence dossiers on its enemies; for planning counter-espionage and for establishing and supervising fascist cells operating in the trade union movement. This information was then passed onto Vernon Kell, Director of the Home Section of the Secret Service Bureau (MI5). Later Maxwell Knight was placed in charge of B5b, a unit that conducted the monitoring of political subversion. (45)

It soon became clear that the intelligence community was working very closely with the press barons to undermine the Labour government. In April 1924, MacDonald recommended Alexander Grant, the managing director of McVitie and Price, for a baronetcy. This was a surprise as Grant was a lifelong supporter of the Conservative Party. On 11th September, 1924, the Daily Mail reported that Grant had given MacDonald a Daimler car and was the holder of £30,000 worth of shares in McVitie and Price. (46) MacDonald replied that the shares simply covered the running of the car. This was hardly convincing and the story caused considerable embarrassment to the Labour government. He eventually agreed to give the car back to the company. (47)

On 10th October 1924, MI5 received a copy of a letter, dated 15th September, sent by Grigory Zinoviev, chairman of the Comintern in the Soviet Union, to Arthur McManus, the British representative on the committee. In the letter British communists were asked to take all possible action to ensure the ratification of the Anglo-Soviet Treaties. It then went on to advocate preparation for military insurrection in working-class areas of Britain and for subverting the allegiance in the army and navy. (48)

Hugh Sinclair, head of MI6, provided "five very good reasons" why he believed the letter was genuine. However, one of these reasons, that the letter came "direct from an agent in Moscow for a long time in our service, and of proved reliability" was incorrect. (49) Vernon Kell, the head of MI5 and Sir Basil Thomson the head of Special Branch, were also convinced that the Zinoviev Letter was genuine. Desmond Morton, who worked for MI6, told Sir Eyre Crowe, at the Foreign Office, that an agent, Jim Finney, who worked for George Makgill, the head of the Industrial Intelligence Bureau (IIB), had penetrated Comintern and the Communist Party of Great Britain. Morton told Crowe that Finney "had reported that a recent meeting of the Party Central Committee had considered a letter from Moscow whose instructions corresponded to those in the Zinoviev letter". However, Christopher Andrew, who examined all the files concerning the matter, claims that Finney's report of the meeting does not include this information. (50)

Kell showed the letter to Ramsay MacDonald, the Labour Prime Minister. It was agreed that the letter should be kept secret until it was discovered to be genuine. (51) Thomas Marlowe, who worked for the press baron, Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Rothermere, had a good relationship with Reginald Hall, the Conservative Party MP, for Liverpool West Derby. During the First World War he was director of Naval Intelligence Division of the Royal Navy (NID) and he leaked the letter to Marlowe, in an effort to bring an end to the Labour government. (52)

The newspaper now contacted the Foreign Office and asked if it was a forgery. Without reference to MacDonald, a senior official told Marlowe it was genuine. The newspaper also received a copy of the letter of protest sent by the British government to the Russian ambassador, denouncing it as a "flagrant breach of undertakings given by the Soviet Government in the course of the negotiations for the Anglo-Soviet Treaties". It was decided not to use this information until closer to the election. (53)

Stanley Baldwin, the leader of the Conservative Party, and H. H. Asquith, the leader of the Liberal Party, decided to being the Labour government down over the issue of its relationship with the Soviet Union. On 30th September, the Liberals condemned the recently agreed trade deal. They claimed, unjustly, that Britain had given the Russians what they wanted without resolving the claims of British bondholders who had suffered in the revolution. "MacDonald reacted peevishly to this, accusing them of being unscrupulous and dishonest." (54)

John Bernard Partridge, Punch Magazine (October, 1924)
John Bernard Partridge, Punch Magazine (October, 1924)

The following day, Conservatives put down a censure motion on the decision to drop the case against John Ross Campbell. The debate took place on 8th October. MacDonald lost the vote by 364 votes to 198. "Labour was brought down, on the Campbell case, by the combined ranks of Conservatives and Liberals... The Labour government had lasted 259 days. On six occasions the Conservatives had saved MacDonald from defeat in the 1923 parliament, but it was the Liberals who pulled the political rung from under him." (55)

1924 General Election

The Daily Mail published the Zinoviev Letter on 25th October 1924, just four days before the 1924 General Election. Under the headline "Civil War Plot by Socialists Masters" it argued: "Moscow issues orders to the British Communists... the British Communists in turn give orders to the Socialist Government, which it tamely and humbly obeys... Now we can see why Mr MacDonald has done obeisance throughout the campaign to the Red Flag with its associations of murder and crime. He is a stalking horse for the Reds as Kerensky was... Everything is to be made ready for a great outbreak of the abominable class war which is civil war of the most savage kind... They must see that these miserable Bolsheviks and their stealthy British accomplices are sent to the right-about or thrown out of the country. For the safety of the nation every sane man and woman must vote on Wednesday, and vote for a Conservative Government which will know how to deal with treason." (56)

Ramsay MacDonald suggested he was a victim of a political conspiracy: "I am also informed that the Conservative Headquarters had been spreading abroad for some days that... a mine was going to be sprung under our feet, and that the name of Zinoviev was to be associated with mine. Another Guy Fawkes - a new Gunpowder Plot... The letter might have originated anywhere. The staff of the Foreign Office up to the end of the week thought it was authentic... I have not seen the evidence yet. All I say is this, that it is a most suspicious circumstance that a certain newspaper and the headquarters of the Conservative Association seem to have had copies of it at the same time as the Foreign Office, and if that is true how can I avoid the suspicion - I will not say the conclusion - that the whole thing is a political plot?" (57)

David Low, The Plot Press (1924)
David Low, The Plot Press (1924)

The rest of the Tory owned newspapers ran the story of what became known as the Zinoviev Letter over the next few days and it was no surprise when the election was a disaster for the Labour Party. The Conservatives won 412 seats and formed the next government. Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of the Daily Express and Evening Standard, told Lord Rothermere, the owner of The Daily Mail and The Times, that the "Red Letter" campaign had won the election for the Conservatives. Rothermere replied that it was probably worth a hundred seats. (58)

After the election it was claimed that two of MI5's agents, Sidney Reilly and Arthur Maundy Gregory, had forged the letter. It later became clear that Major George Joseph Ball, a MI5 officer, played an important role in leaking it to the press. In 1927 Ball went to work for the Conservative Central Office where he pioneered the idea of spin-doctoring. Christopher Andrew, MI5's official historian, points out: "Ball's subsequent lack of scruples in using intelligence for party political advantage while at Central Office in the late 1920s strongly suggests... that he was willing to do so during the election campaign of October 1924." (59)

Rotheremere's newspapers continued to increase their circulation. By 1926 the daily sales of the Daily Mail had reached 2,000,000. Lord Rothermere personal wealth was now £25 million and he was estimated to be the third richest man in Britain. Rothermere became increasingly nationalistic in his political views and in 1929 joined with Lord Beaverbrook to form the United Empire Party. Rothermere urged the Conservative Party to remove its leader, Stanley Baldwin, and replace him with Beaverbrook. He also argued for a reform of the House of Lords to make it possible for peers to be elected to the House of Commons. (60)

This dispute divided conservative voters and this enabled the Labour Party to win the 1929 General Election. Once again it was a minority government. However, MacDonald, aged 63, had long lost his left-wing views, and when he joined forces with the Conservatives to form a National Government his newspaper empire fully supported his £70 million economy programme that made a £13 million cut in unemployment benefit. All those paid by the state, from cabinet ministers and judges down to the armed services and the unemployed, were cut 10 per cent. Teachers, however, were treated as a special case, lost 15 per cent. Tom Johnson, who wound up the debate for the Labour Party, declared that these policies were "not of a National Government but of a Wall Street Government". In the end the Government won by 309 votes to 249. (61)

In the late 1920s Rothermere became a supporter of Adolf Hitler. Rotheremere's newspapers continued to increase their circulation. By 1926 the daily sales of the Daily Mail had reached 2,000,000. Lord Rothermere personal wealth was now £25 million and he was estimated to be the third richest man in Britain. Rothermere became increasingly nationalistic in his political views and in 1929 joined with Lord Beaverbrook to form the United Empire Party. Rothermere urged the Conservative Party to remove its leader, Stanley Baldwin, and replace him with Beaverbrook. He also argued for a reform of the House of Lords to make it possible for peers to be elected to the House of Commons. This dispute divided conservative voters and this enabled the Labour Party to win the 1929 General Election.

Daily Mail and Fascism

In the General Election that took place in September 1930, the Nazi Party increased its number of representatives in parliament from 14 to 107. Adolf Hitler was now the leader of the second largest party in Germany. James Pool, the author of Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler's Rise to Power (1979) points out: "Shortly after the Nazis' sweeping victory in the election of September 14, 1930, Rothermere went to Munich to have a long talk with Hitler, and ten days after the election wrote an article discussing the significance of the National Socialists' triumph. The article drew attention throughout England and the Continent because it urged acceptance of the Nazis as a bulwark against Communism... Rothermere continued to say that if it were not for the Nazis, the Communists might have gained the majority in the Reichstag." (62)

According to Louis P. Lochner, Tycoons and Tyrant: German Industry from Hitler to Adenauer (1954) Rothermere provided funds to Hitler via Ernst Hanfstaengel. When Hitler became Chancellor on 30th January 1933, Rothermere produced a series of articles acclaiming the new regime. The most famous of these was on the 10th July when he told readers that he "confidently expected" great things of the Nazi regime. He also criticised other newspapers for "its obsession with Nazi violence and racialism", and assured his readers that any such deeds would be "submerged by the immense benefits that the new regime is already bestowing on Germany." (63)

Lord Rothermere also had several meetings with Adolf Hitler and argued that the Nazi leader desired peace. In one article written in March, 1934 he called for Hitler to be given back land in Africa that had been taken as a result of the Versailles Treaty. (64) Hitler acknowledged this help by writing to Rothermere: "I should like to express the appreciation of countless Germans, who regard me as their spokesman, for the wise and beneficial public support which you have given to a policy that we all hope will contribute to the enduring pacification of Europe. Just as we are fanatically determined to defend ourselves against attack, so do we reject the idea of taking the initiative in bringing about a war. I am convinced that no one who fought in the front trenches during the world war, no matter in what European country, desires another conflict." (65)

Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler
Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler

As Richard Griffiths, the author of Fellow Travellers of the Right (1979) has pointed out: "Rothermere visited Hitler on a number of occasions, and corresponded with him. As we have seen, Hitler's first major dinner party for foreigners, on 19th December 1934, had as its guests of honour Rothermere, his son Esmond Harmsworth, and Ward Price, together with Ernest Tennant. Rothermere's subsequent article in the Daily Mail was violently enthusiastic about what Hitler had done for Germany. Hitler wrote a number of important letters to Rothermere in 1933 and 1934, but the most interesting of them, because of its subsequent fate, was the one written on 3 May 1935 in which he advocated Anglo-German understanding as a firm combination for peace. Rothermere circulated this to many politicians, convinced that his personal contact with Hitler had produced a real breakthrough." (66)

Lord Rothermere also gave full support to Oswald Mosley and the National Union of Fascists. He wrote an article, Hurrah for the Blackshirts, on 22nd January, 1934, in which he praised Mosley for his "sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine". Rothermere added: "Timid alarmists all this week have been whimpering that the rapid growth in numbers of the British Blackshirts is preparing the way for a system of rulership by means of steel whips and concentration camps. Very few of these panic-mongers have any personal knowledge of the countries that are already under Blackshirt government. The notion that a permanent reign of terror exists there has been evolved entirely from their own morbid imaginations, fed by sensational propaganda from opponents of the party now in power. As a purely British organization, the Blackshirts will respect those principles of tolerance which are traditional in British politics. They have no prejudice either of class or race. Their recruits are drawn from all social grades and every political party. Young men may join the British Union of Fascists by writing to the Headquarters, King's Road, Chelsea, London, S.W." (67)

Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler
The Daily Mail (22nd January 1934)

The Daily Mail continued to give its support to the fascists. George Ward Price wrote about anti-fascist demonstrators at a meeting of the National Union of Fascists on 8th June, 1934: "If the Blackshirts movement had any need of justification, the Red Hooligans who savagely and systematically tried to wreck Sir Oswald Mosley's huge and magnificently successful meeting at Olympia last night would have supplied it. They got what they deserved. Olympia has been the scene of many assemblies and many great fights, but never had it offered the spectacle of so many fights mixed up with a meeting." (68)

David Low, a cartoonist employed by the Evening Standard, made several attacks on Rothermere's links to the fascist movement. In January 1934, he drew a cartoon showing Rothermere as a nanny giving a Nazi salute and saying "we need men of action such as they have in Italy and Germany who are leading their countries triumphantly out of the slump... blah... blah... blah... blah." The child in the pram is saying "But what have they got in their other hands, nanny?" Hitler and Mussolini are hiding the true records of their periods in government. Hitler's card includes, "Hitler's Germany: Estimated Unemployed: 6,000,000. Fall in trade under Hitler (9 months) £35,000,000. Burden of taxes up several times over. Wages down 20%." (69)

Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler
David Low, But what have they got in their other hands, nanny? (26th January 1934)

In July, 1934 Lord Rothermere suddenly withdrew his support for Oswald Mosley. The historian, James Pool, argues: "The rumor on Fleet Street was that the Daily Mail's Jewish advertisers had threatened to place their adds in a different paper if Rothermere continued the pro-fascist campaign." Pool points out that sometime after this, Rothermere met with Hitler at the Berghof and told how the "Jews cut off his complete revenue from advertising" and compelled him to "toe the line." Hitler later recalled Rothermere telling him that it was "quite impossible at short notice to take any effective countermeasures." (70)

This development explains why The Stop Funding Hate is right to campaign to convince companies to pull their advertising from the Daily Mail. According to its website: "Newspaper editors have a strong incentive to run sensationalist anti-migrant headlines: it boosts their readership – and that means they can earn more from advertising. Many of these advertisers have strong ethical stances on other issues: on discrimination in the workplace, on their supply chains, on their role in their communities. But when it comes to choosing which publications they fund with their advertising budgets, their own ethics and values have often been ignored. Until now."


(1) Louise Ridley, The Huffington Post (16th August, 2016)

(2) The Sunday Times (26 April 2014)

(3) Private Eye (21st October 2013)

(4) Adrian Addison, Mail Men: The Unauthorized Story of the Daily Mail (2017) page 36

(5) S. J. Taylor, The Great Outsiders: Northcliffe, Rothermere and the Daily Mail (1996) page 19

(6) J. Lee Thompson, Northcliffe: Press Baron in Politics 1865-1922 (2000) page 17

(7) Alfred Harmsworth, The Evening News (31st August, 1894)

(8) Harry J. Greenwall, Northcliffe: Napoleon of Fleet Street (1957) page 47

(9) The Daily Mail (4th May, 1896)

(10) Francis Williams, Dangerous Estate: The Anatomy of Newspapers (1957) page 140

(11) Joseph Pulitzer, New York World (May, 1883)

(12) Harold Evans, The American Century: People, Power and Politics (1998) page 94

(13) Paul Ferris, The House of Northcliffe: The Harmsworths of Fleet Street (1971) page 20

(14) Tom Clarke, diary entry (1st January, 1912)

(15) Arthur Balfour, letter to Alfred Harmsworth (7th May, 1896)

(16) J. Lee Thompson, Northcliffe: Press Baron in Politics 1865-1922 (2000) page 337

(17) Harry J. Greenwall, Northcliffe: Napoleon of Fleet Street (1957) pages 56-57

(18) The Daily Mail (20th September, 1900)

(19) Matthew Engel, Tickle the Public: One Hundred Years of the Popular Press (1996) page 64

(20) Adrian Addison, Mail Men: The Unauthorized Story of the Daily Mail (2017) page 44

(21) Kees van Kersbergen, Comparative Welfare State Politics: Development, Opportunities, and Reform (2013) page 38

(22) Otto von Bismarck, speech in the Reichstag (March 1884)

(23) George W. Steevens, The Daily Mail (8th October, 1897)

(24) S. J. Taylor, The Great Outsiders: Northcliffe, Rothermere and the Daily Mail (1996) page 141

(25) Orlon James Hale, Germany and the Diplomatic Revolution (1931) page 17

(26) Hugh Purcell, Lloyd George (2006) page 28

(27) The Daily News (3rd May, 1909)

(28) John Grigg, The People's Champion (1978) page 325

(29) David Butler, British Political Facts 1900-1968 (1969) page 284

(30) Frank Owen, Tempestuous Journey: Lloyd George and his Life and Times (1954) page 208

(31) Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe, letter to Kennedy Jones (27th September, 1909)

(32) Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe, letter to Lord George Curzon (February, 1912)

(33) Tom Clarke, My Northcliffe Diary (1931) page 51

(34) S. J. Taylor, The Great Outsiders: Northcliffe, Rothermere and the Daily Mail (1996) page 141

(35) The Daily Mail (8th December, 1909)

(36) Neal Blewett, The Peers, the Parties and the People (1972) page 127

(37) S. J. Taylor, The Great Outsiders: Northcliffe, Rothermere and the Daily Mail (1996) page 143

(38) Philip Knightley, The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist and Myth Maker (1982) page 66

(39) The Daily Mail (22nd September, 1914)

(40) The Times (2nd December, 1916)

(41) Tom Clarke, My Northcliffe Diary (1931) pages 105-107

(42) The Daily Chronicle (7th December, 1916)

(43) The Daily Mail (30th November 1923)

(44) John Hope, Lobster Magazine (November, 1991)

(45) Keith Jeffery, MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service (2010) page 233

(46) The Daily Mail (11th September, 1924)

(47) David Marquand, Ramsay MacDonald (1977) page 359

(48) G.D.H. Cole, A History of the Labour Party from 1914 (1948) page 165

(49) Gill Bennett, Churchill's Man of Mystery: Desmond Morton and the World of Intelligence (2006) page 82

(50) Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) page 150

(51) A. J. P. Taylor, English History: 1914-1945 (1965) pages 289-290

(52) Hamilton Fyfe, Thomas Marlowe : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(53) G.D.H. Cole, A History of the Labour Party from 1914 (1948) pages 166-167

(54) Martin Pugh, Speak for Britain: A New History of the Labour Party (2010) page 180

(55) Austen Morgan, J. Ramsay MacDonald (1987) page 118

(56) The Daily Mail (25th October 1924)

(57) Ramsay MacDonald, statement (25th October 1924)

(58) A. J. P. Taylor, Beaverbrook (1972) page 223

(59) Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) page 150

(60) S. J. Taylor, The Great Outsiders: Northcliffe, Rothermere and the Daily Mail (1996) pages 270-274

(61) Tom Johnson, speech in the House of Commons (8th September, 1931)

(62) James Pool, Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler's Rise to Power (1979) page 314

(63) Harold Harmsworth, 1st Lord Rothermere, The Daily Mail (10th July, 1933)

(64) Harold Harmsworth, 1st Lord Rothermere, The Daily Mail (21st March, 1934)

(65) Adolf Hitler, letter to Harold Harmsworth, 1st Lord Rothermere (December, 1933)

(66) Richard Griffiths, Fellow Travellers of the Right (1979) page 164

(67) Harold Harmsworth, 1st Lord Rothermere, The Daily Mail (22nd January, 1934)

(68) George Ward Price, The Daily Mail (8th June, 1934)

(69) David Low, Evening Standard (26th January 1934)

(70) James Pool, Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler's Rise to Power (1979) page 315


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