The thing about Britain’s big newspapers, the ones we call broadsheets (although they come in all sorts of sizes these days), is that they belong to two groups: pre-industrial, 18th Century landowner newsletters (like The Times) and steam-powered, 19th Century, industrial-era organs of the modern (like The Guardian). If you look very closely you can still see the shadow of their origins today. They’re all in decline, of course but one of them, Alan Rusbridger’s Guardian, finds itself, quite accidentally, in something of a sweet spot in this torrid political moment.
With all three major parties fighting over a very crowded scrap of territory about the size of a toupé, just to the left of the old-fashioned centre, The Guardian’s special relationship with both sides of the newly recentred British political scene has paid off in a big way. Essentially, if you want to read about politics in Britain now there’s very little point getting anything else, least of all the quite bankrupt (and very ugly) Times. Look at last week’s Guardian: Will Hutton’s hymn of praise for the Education Bill (admittedly in sister paper The Observer) cheek by jowl with Polly Toynbee’s open disgust.
Also of note, you’ve got Fiona Millar’s nicely forensic attempt to elucidate Gordon Brown’s education policy from years of speeches in which he doesn’t mention education at all and (off topic a bit, I know) there’s Simon Jenkins’ not-unfriendly hatchet job on the Beeb’s unhealthy hold over our legislators’ affections and, swinging back round to our theme, Jackie Ashley’s excellent piece about the surprising (and apparently total) victory of the centre-left in British politics. And, bringing us right up to date, here’s Martin Kettle’s assertion, on the paper’s new comment blog, that Jack Dromey dumped Blair in the political merde for reasons of purest principle and not because he was “…outraged to be snubbed by a Labour johnny-come-lately like Lord Levy…” There. Read that lot. Get yourself up to date.