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Passing of The Times

Posted by Richard Monday, November 01, 2004

When newspaper owners start to behave like governments then we are really in trouble. I remember distinctly when the tabloid edition of The Times was first introduced, there was an unequivocal assurance from the editor that the broadsheet would remain available for those that wanted it.

As of today, however – despite those assurances - only the "comic" is available. The broadsheet died on Saturday. And all we get is a smug, "dear reader" letter from the editor, stating that "there is no doubt that some readers accustomed to the broadsheet will take time to adjust to the new format."

If early reaction is any guide, then the newspaper is in trouble. By the time I got to my local shop, there were plenty of the "comics" on the shelf and The Daily Telegraph had sold out. Spurning the tabloid, I was reduced to buying a copy of The Guardian to read with my morning bacon buttie and coffee. This reader will have no difficulty at all in adjusting to the new format – he simply won’t buy it any more.

Talking of governments, I am glad I ignored the excitable nonsense about the speculation of a snap February election in some of the Sundays yesterday. The Guardian today, through Alan Milburn – Labour’s election supremo – comprehensively rubbishes the idea.

But what is chilling about the front page piece in which his comments are retailed is a "warning" from Milburn: "What we cannot allow is for the next election to turn into some form of referendum purely on the government’s performance," he says. Er… I thought that’s what general elections were for.

One can understand where he is coming from though, with the report in The Telegraph about the NE Referendum, which informs us that turnout is likely to creep past 40 percent – hardly a ringing endorsement in its own right – with the indications that Prescott’s folly will be rejected. Milburn perhaps fears he would also lose an "election-referendum".

The anticipated success in the North East is largely due to the efforts of Neil Herron and his team who have run a spirited campaign, despite the last minute appearance of a Tory dominated team which captured the official designation, in what is seen by many as a rehearsal for the "big one" the EU constitutional referendum.

With the dismal performance of the self-appointed "Vote-No" campaign for that referendum, and the self-destruction of UKIP – which has been invisible throughout the NE campaign - many people will be looking to Herron to copy the formula of the "peoples’ campaign" to fight the constitution

And you thought this Blog was about the EU referendum? Well, it is. But "Europe" seems to have taken the day off today, as far as the media is concerned. With the US elections tomorrow, one can understand the focus on this issue but, when that is over, I suppose their normal service will resume.