OPINION: Cameron isn't playing well with editors

A Labour-supporting hack was moaning to me the other day about the easy ride David Cameron has been getting in the media, conveniently forgetting that Tony Blair was treated like a saint for most of his early years as Labour leader.

Tory spin-doctors I meet aren't nearly so happy with the treatment their leader gets. Yes, for sure, Cameron is given the celebrity treatment Gordon Brown was recently deriding, but he can't rely on real, solid support in the traditional Tory press.

The Daily Telegraph is more supportive these days, but there is still plenty of sneering in the comment pages. The Torygraph can be relied on to put the boot into the Chancellor, but I can't see how its campaign to find a candidate to take on Brown helps the Tory leader much. The Sunday Telegraph, under the Brown-hating Patience Wheatcroft, will continue to attack the Chancellor but, apart from star columnist Matthew D'Ancona, the paper is hardly in love with Cameron.

The Times is interesting, in that it seems to have lost faith in the Chancellor but, again, columnists such as Anatole Kaletsky haven't. In any case, it won't be the editor who decides whom the Thunderer supports - it will be Rupert Murdoch.

Cameron has also failed to impress the Aussie tycoon. Murdoch is, of course, keeping his cards close to his chest in order to keep the Chancellor on his toes, but so long as it looks like Brown has a good chance of winning the next election, expect The Sun and the News of the World to support him. The Sunday Times may be left to do what it wants, although John Witherow, the editor (not a Brown fan), may not be around at the time of the next election as his paper's sales continue to plummet.

One paper that matters more than most is the Daily Mail and here Cameron has big problems. His biggest is that Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief is not a fan, and that's putting it mildly. A Mail hack told me last week that his boss had nothing but contempt for the Tory leader and, to make matters worse, Dacre is a long-time fan of the Chancellor. It was Dacre who always got the first phone call following his Budget speech. Dacre was also the only newspaper editor to attend the funeral of Gordon Brown's daughter Jennifer. Need I say more?

The Express will, of course, back any Tory leader when it can find space between Diana stories and shocking house price revelations, but it doesn't really signify.

Anyone who tells you that who the papers support doesn't matter is a liar. Which is why Came­ron's spin-doctors are so worried.
charlie.whelan@haymarket.com

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