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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > May 2017 > The men who hated Britain

The men who hated Britain

A gripping and very funny account of the Daily Mail reveals its brutal brilliance, says Michael White

Mail Men: The Unauthorised Story of the Daily Mail, the Paper that Divided and Conquered Britain by Adrian Addison (Atlantic, £20)

In the unlikely event that liberal readers will approach this book with vengeful relish, they will be disappointed. Their hopes for an aggressive dissection of the harm the Daily Mail has repeatedly done to British public life since the stridently right-wing newspaper was born in 1896 will evaporate as the author, Adrian Addison, tells his surprisingly jaunty tale.

Addison is that rare Fleet Street beast who has worked for both Radio 4’s Today show and the Sun. Fortunately, he refrains from the sanctimonious moralising so instinctive to both the Mail and its bête noire, the Guardian. His cheerful, anecdotal approach makes for a narrative that is gripping, terrifying and, in a bleak way, very funny. The portrait of the Mail he paints shows that the newspaper is not as bad as some people say: it is even worse. But he also rightly acknowledges its long periods of brutal editorial brilliance, from the Boer War to Brexit.

One of the Mail’s specialities has been annoying foreigners, and during the First World War it succeeded spectacularly. So enraged were the German high command by the paper’s decade-long bellicose attitudes that in February 1917 it dispatched a destroyer to shell the Kent coast by night.

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In Prospect’s May issue: Neal Ascherson, Simon Jenkins, John Curtice and Frances Cairncross examine the growing divide between England and Scotland. Ascherson argues that England has become Scotland’s “neurotic neighbour,” while Jenkins says we should learn from history and prepare for Scotland to leave the Union. Cairncross and Curtice debate whether Scotland could afford to break with England and whether a fresh referendum on independence is actually winnable. Also in this issue: Jason Burke questions whether the world will be a safer place after the downfall of Islamic State, Paul Hilder examines how politics got tangled in the web and Michael White reviews a new book charting the history of the Daily Mail
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