He omitted ‘sad’, but in many respects that is the overwhelming feeling many Conservatives experience when they turn to the tawdry pages and bigoted blogs of this once-great bastion of Tory journalism. It does not quite merit the Burkean prestige of being ranked alongside Parliament, Church and the Monarchy as a revered institution. But it has been one of the finest newspapers in these islands’ history, and, under former proprietors and editors, much treasured and loved.
But no longer.
There are insufficient clichéd metaphors to express the extent to which it has been reduced to a hollow shell; a shadow of its former self; a façade of dramaturgy bleating nothing but synthetic patriotism, the illusion of faith and but an echo of the philosophy of conservatism.
Since the Barclay brothers purchased the newspaper, The Daily Telegraph has ceased being the unofficial house journal of the Conservative Party – or the Torygraph, as it was affectionately known. Perhaps the political shift was purposeful. But it has lost its political moorings to the extent that it is no longer coherent: it does not appear to understand the difference between constructive criticism and outright hostility.
The Barclays terminated the contracts of some of The Telegraph’s finest: one thinks of Craig Brown and AN Wilson, not to mention Patrick Barclay, George Jones, Sam Leith, Andrew McKie, and Mark Steyn. And they phased out the regular columns of Iain Dale and Daniel Hannan MEP. And these have been replaced with a coterie of Labour-leaning, like-minded journalists who criticise the Conservative Party and berate the Church of England at every turn. Many of its articles evidence Labour and Roman Catholic partiality. And those which do not are of the Norman Tebbit / Simon Heffer / UKIP-sympathising strand of conservatism, for whom such terms as ‘One Nation’, ‘Compassionate’ or ‘Progressive’ are nothing but a dissonant heresy.
On the left are those who loathe David Cameron; on the right are those who despise him.
That is The Telegraph’s notion of ‘broad church’. It has not quite lost its voice, but it has become shrill, shallow and girlishly immature.
Witness yesterdays front page (yes, front page) story about Nadine Dorries.
It is quite extraordinary that a ‘quality’ broadsheet should choose to lead with such fabricated smut on the day after two teenage boys die from overdosing on a legal drug, mephedrone; with BA facing crippling strikes at the mercy of UNITE; when Gordon Brown has admitted lying to Parliament and to Chilcot; and when it transpires that UNITE appear to have
And with all these rather substantial goings on, The Telegraph serves up tabloid trash and smutty sleaze and innuendo.
The accused and reliable primary sources have stated that the story is simply NOT TRUE.
And His Grace makes no apology for shouting.
It appears that when Telegraph journalists wish to bring to the attention of the world the exaggerations and inaccuracies of their competitors, they stamp their feet and scream and scream and scream.
Or perhaps that is just one.
There is no evidence at all that Nadine Dorries has manipulated a friend of hers to stand against Esther Rantzen in Luton South in a bid to stop the former That's Life presenter becoming an MP.
But why should The Telegraph let the facts get in the way of a good story?
Except, of course, that it isn’t even a good story.
The reality is that The Daily Telegraph has become nothing more than an embittered rag for the pursuit of camp carping, puerile quarrels and childish vendettas.
And if the targets of those vendettas are Conservative and Anglican (or Evangelical or Tablet-reading Roman Catholics), so much the better.
The Church of England may once have been the Tory Party at prayer, but The Daily Telegraph was the Conservative Party in the armchairs of their homes, in the days when those homes were inviolable castles. The news journal was synonymous with the maintenance of the great themes of conservatism and a critical friends (if not unswervingly loyal) to whomever happened to be the Conservative Party leader. It became a natural part of the Establishment because it sought to maintain the Establishment – the United Kingdom, Monarchy, Parliament, and the Church of England.
But then the Barclays descended.
And support for the Established Church was reduced to the token, solitary voice of the neophyte George Pitcher, for whom the XXXIX Articles are but a grotesque ornament of unfortunate ecclesial history. All that passes now for religious reporting is an incessant, hyper-critical but very ‘robust’ carping crusade against everything that is not ‘orthodox’ and Roman Catholic: that is the Protestants, the ‘liberal’ Anglicans, the ‘liberal’ Roman Catholics, the Roman Catholic Bishops of England and Wales (just about all of them). In fact, Christians and their treasured institutions are largely held in utter contempt unless they are Benedict-adoring, Catholic-Herald-reading Roman Catholics or Anglo-Catholics who embrace fully the munificent personal ordinariates described in the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus
It now evinces a caustic, intemperate, bitter and fundamentalist Roman Catholicism which is steeped in untruth: it is a creed which is loathed by many British Roman Catholics, derided by many of the bishops of England and Wales, and wept over by archbishops and cardinals.
It is an embarrassment to Pope Benedict himself, devoid, as it is, of the love, humility and the fragrance of Christ of which he a veritable incarnation.
Politically, The Telegraph has transmogrified into the Labourgraph.
But theologically it has transubstantiated into the Talibgraph.
Its pretentious political tone is as narrow, hollow and insular as its self-righteous religiosity.
The once-discerning and magisterial Telegraph has become suffused with the malice and trivia of the tabloid.
Charles Moore and Peregrine Worsthorne must be in mourning. Certainly, very many Tories long for their return, or at least a return to their journalistic principles. The Barclay brothers know little and care even less about journalism. They are notoriously touchy about any criticism. They have been happy to use laws that inhibit press freedom. They want their papers to be mouthpieces for their own reactionary opinions and clamp down – through intermediaries – on anything that runs counter to their personal views. They are utterly intolerant of voices raised in protest – religiously or politically.
But it looks as though the are here to stay, so we might as well get used to dealing with their Talibgraph.
But God help you if you happen to upset them or irritate the disciples who kiss their feet.