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October 21, 2022updated 14 Nov 2022 7:11am

How Fleet Street changed its tune on Liz Truss in front pages

By Charlotte Tobitt

News outlets including the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Daily Express and Evening Standard all vocally threw their support behind Liz Truss in the Conservative leadership contest this summer.

And analysis of coverage of the leadership race suggested the Daily Mail, Sun, Telegraph and Times may collectively have helped Truss into Number 10 with positive coverage and negative headlines about rival Penny Mordaunt after her strong showing in the first ballot of MPs. The Mail was almost as negative towards Sunak as it was towards Mordaunt.

But three months is a long time in politics and even the Mail appeared to have shifted against Truss before her eventual resignation on Thursday.

The Independent and Daily Mirror have both now launched petitions calling for a general election. The Guardian and Financial Times have each argued that an election is necessary in their leader columns. But The Sun has said the opposite – that an election would “paralyse” Parliament again for months of campaigning and that “it is ludicrous to imagine Labour would handle our worsening economy any better than a united Tory Party”.

Daily Mail

After supporting Truss during the leadership contest, the Daily Mail backed the early days of her premiership, slamming comedian Joe Lycett for mocking her on Laura Kuenssberg’s new Sunday morning show and even celebrating the now much-maligned mini-budget as a “true Tory budget”.

Tuesday 4 October marked a turning point for the Daily Mail and Truss, with its splash urging her to “get a grip”. And by Saturday 15 October it was asking with a biting use of brackets: “How much more can she (and the rest of us) take?”

The Sun

Unlike the Daily Mail, The Sun did not endorse Truss (or anyone else) in the leadership election.

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Its front pages in the past week have described Truss as “broken” and a “ghost PM”.

It has already turned its attention back to Boris Johnson, but acknowledged Sunak is the “hot favourite”.

Liz Truss in the news

The Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph similarly led on the possible return of its former columnist Johnson the morning after Truss’ resignation.

Liz Truss in the news

It backed Truss as a “change candidate” in August.

The following month, Sunday Telegraph editor Allister Heath described Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous financial plan as the “best Budget I have ever heard a British Chancellor deliver, by a massive margin”. He later said the aftermath of that announcement had been “dispiriting” and that despite the content “Kwarteng’s mistake was one of presentation and context”.

On 2 October, the Sunday Telegraph splashed on Truss’ first newspaper interview since becoming PM.

Liz truss in the news

Daily Express

The Daily Express appeared to stay loyal to Truss until the end – when it, too, looked breathless at the possibility of Johnson’s return with the headline: “He couldn’t, could he… Will Boris bounce back to No 10?”

On Saturday (15 October) the newspaper described those critical of Truss and suggesting she should quit as “vultures circling” and three days later it sympathetically led on her mea culpa interview with BBC News.

How magazines covered the start and end of Liz Truss’ premiership

The Economist
The Spectator

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