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The Daily Mail and its Sunday edition the Mail on Sunday are British newspapers, first published in 1896. For many years, it has had a right-wing editorial slant. For most of its history it was a broadsheet but is currently published in a tabloid format. Its chief rival, the Daily Express, with a similar political stance and target audience, sells less than half as many copies. As of 2004 the paper's publisher, Daily Mail and General Trust, is a FTSE 100 company and the newspaper has a circulation of over 2 million giving it the second largest circulation of any English language newspaper, and the twelfth highest of any newspaper.
The Daily Mail was devised by Lord Rothermere and Lord Northcliffe as an alternative to the newspapers of the day. The paper was first published on May 4, 1896. The Mail was the first tabloid newspaper in Britain, and was popular because of its short, simplified news stories, and pictures. A particularly popular feature of the paper was the introduction of serials. The paper initially cost a halfpenny, and the first edition was 8 pages. Soon after its launch the paper had over half a million readers.
In 1906 the paper offered £1,000 for the first flight across the English Channel, and £10,000 for the first flight from London to Manchester. Punch magazine thought the idea preposterous and offered £10,000 for the first flight to Mars, but in 1910 both Rothermere's prizes had been won.
The paper was accused of warmongering before the outbreak of World War I, when it reported that Germany was planning to crush the British Empire. Lord Northcliffe created controversy by advocating conscription when the war broke out. On May 21, 1915, Northcliffe wrote a blistering attack on Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War. Kitchener was considered a national hero, and overnight the paper's circulation dropped from 1,386,000 to 238,000. 1,500 members of the Stock Exchange ceremonially burned the unsold copies and launched a boycott against the Harmsworth Press. Herbert Asquith accused the paper of being disloyal to the country.
When Kitchener died the Mail reported it as a great stroke of luck for the British Empire. The paper then campaigned against Asquith, and Asquith resigned on December 5, 1916. His successor, David Lloyd George, asked Northcliffe to be in his cabinet, hoping it would prevent him criticising the government. Northcliffe declined.
In 1908 the Daily Mail began the Ideal Home Exhibition, which it still runs today.
In 1922, when Lord Northcliffe died, Lord Rothermere took full control of the paper.
In 1924 the Daily Mail contributed to the defeat of Ramsay MacDonald's Labour Party in the General election, by publishing the Zinoviev Letter, later shown to have been forged, claiming that showed British Communists were planning violent Revolution.
In 1926 the newspaper had a circulation of 2 million.
For a time in the early 1930s Rothermere and the Mail were sympathetic to some degree with Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists. Rothermere wrote an article, Hurrah for the Blackshirts, in January 1934, in which he praised Mosley for his "sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine". This was perhaps more naive than sinister; the BUF of the early 1930s was not the Nazi Party of the Holocaust, and after the violence of the 1934 Olympia meeting, involving the BUF, the Mail withdrew its support.
The paper also published articles lamenting the number of German Jews entering Britain as refugees after the rise of Nazism. It should be remembered that was before the major horrors of Nazism had occurred.
Rothermere had several meetings with Adolf Hitler. He argued that the Nazi leader wanted peace, and in 1934 campaigned for the African colonies confiscated in the Versailles Treaty to be returned to Germany. It should be remembered that all of this occured in the post World War I period when most Europeans' most ardent longing was to preserve peace, and many were desperate to believe that this was possible. It is anachronistic to see it as evidence of opposition to democracy.
Rothermere and the Mail supported Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement, particularly during the events leading up to the Munich Agreement, as did the majority of democratic politicians at the time, including liberals and socialists. However, after the Nazi invasion of Prague in 1939, the Mail changed position and urged Chamberlain to prepare for war.
Rothermere died in November 1940.
The Mail purports to be the voice of Middle England, speaking up for the “Victorian Values” of the moral majority, and the southern Conservative heartlands. It generally takes an anti-European, anti-immigration, anti-abortion stance, and is correspondingly pro-family, pro-tax cuts, pro-monarchy and pro-war. In Peter Hitchens it has (along with The Sun’s Richard Littlejohn) probably the most right-wing columnist in popular British journalism.
Accordingly, the Daily Mail (and its columnists, such as Simon Heffer and Melanie Phillips) is a target of satire and parody in the liberal media and certain satirical magazines. The stereotypical Daily Mail reader is characterised by the left as a borderline-racist, aspiring middle-class Conservative who lacks the intelligence to read the Broadsheet equivalents The Times or the Daily Telegraph.
Some of the criticisms of the Mail are that: it vilifies asylum seekers, blaming them for the country's misfortunes; it is perpetually ‘outraged’ with anyone who does not meet its criteria of what is morally acceptable (for instance Jerry Springer - The Opera or Brass Eye); it regularly over-hypes bad news; and it is obsessed with the property market. This has led to Private Eye mock-headlines such as Influx of asylum seekers cause house values to plummet and Property prices fall as asteroid prepares to wipe out life on Earth. Common nicknames are the ‘’Daily Wail’’ and the ‘’Daily Hate’’, the latter in part because (so the Guardian asserts (http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1178434,00.html)) the Mail's founder, Lord Northcliffe said his winning formula was to give his readers "a daily hate".
The level of criticism of the paper (and its readers) is a reflection of its great influence in the United Kingdom, where it is the second highest selling daily newspaper, and a leading opponent of what it would see as smug liberal orthodoxies. Under the stewardship of its combative and irascible editor Paul Dacre, it seeks conflict with the liberal establishment, and gives as good as it gets.
Although it has often been denigrated for its perceived misogyny, it is currently the most widely read paper amongst women, and has a higher proportion of female readers than any other British national daily. Moreover, the paper has led several causes more often associated with the left, and seemingly at odds with its ‘hateful’ reputation. Most notably, it was one of the first papers to champion the case of murdered black teenager, Stephen Lawrence  (http://media.guardian.co.uk/presspublishing/story/0,7495,1130332,00.html).
- Paul Dacre, the current editor
- Daily Chronicle, a newspaper which merged with the Daily News to become the News-Chronicle and was finally absorbed by the Daily Mail.