‘Let us eat cake’: how UK newspapers reacted to latest No 10 party claims

The print edition of the Daily Mail has remained one of Boris Johnson’s strongest backers in the media, even as other rightwing news outlets – including its sister outlet MailOnline – are increasingly critical of the beleaguered prime minister.

On Tuesday the Daily Mail used its editorial to bemoan that “we are in the grip of a collective madness” over the ongoing stories about parties in Downing Street, suggesting those focusing on it are indirectly backing Russian aggression against Ukraine.

“For as Britain obsesses about parties, Vladimir Putin has been busy cranking up his formidable war machine. It is now fully primed for attack,” the paper proclaimed.

This intervention comes after Ted Verity, the outlet’s new editor, ran a rare front page editorial last week decrying the Conservative MPs trying to oust Johnson: “Putin poised to start a war. Inflation soaring. Yet a narcissistic rabble of Tory MPs are trying to topple PM who’s leading us out of Covid. Today, as their plot crumbles, the Mail echoes one of their ringleaders to tell them… IN THE NAME OF GOD, GROW UP!”

By comparison, the editors at MailOnline – which has its own editorial structure and reaches substantially more readers – on Tuesday ran critical headlines such as “FINAL BLOW FOR BORIS?” and “CARRIE: LET US EAT CAKE”. The latter featured a picture of the prime minister’s wife Carrie Johnson next to her grinning husband, channelling the quote often erroneously misascribed to Marie Antoinette.

The MailOnline homepage featuring Boris Johnson and Carrie Johnson on 25 January 2022.
The MailOnline homepage featuring Boris Johnson and Carrie Johnson on 25 January 2022. Photograph: MailOnline

Even as print newspaper sales continue to plummet, their front pages continue to set agendas in Westminster and shape the thinking of both politicians and Downing Street. Although there is no chance of the Daily Mail pulling its support for the Conservatives, the outlet’s personal support for the prime minister could help keep him as party leader in the short run.

The Daily Mail had become more critical of Johnson at the end of last year under the editorship of Geordie Greig, when it was highly critical of Johnson’s refurbishment of the Downing Street flat and his handling of an investigation into the disgraced former MP Owen Paterson. But Greig was ousted last November and replaced by Verity, who has in recent days tried to focus on an old story about Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer having a beer in a constituency office.

There are clues as to what the Daily Mail may want in return for this support. The newspaper has made it clear that it thinks Johnson should scrap April’s introduction of new health and social care tax on income, linking the issue to Johnson’s leadership chances in editorials.

Perhaps more worrying for the prime minister is the decision of the Telegraph titles to turn their fire on his leadership. The newspaper had loyally employed the prime minister for decades, with Johnson fitting in his political roles around his £275,000 job writing a weekly column for the outlet.

It may now be hard to repair relations with the Telegraph following its stories, which include a front page on Sunday highlighting a a technical breach of Covid guidance by Carrie Johnson and the revelation that a “suitcase of wine” was wheeled into Downing Street to fuel one lockdown-breaking office party.

The other outlet which does remain staunchly loyal to the prime minister is the Daily Express, which has run repeatedly run pro-Johnson front pages in recent days – despite the outlet being edited by a lifelong Labour supporter.


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