David Cameron took on Britain's most powerful newspaper editor over Brexit while PM ... and lost.
According to the BBC’s Newsnight, the former PM told his friend and owner of the tabloid Lord Rothermere to keep his editor under control or have him dismissed.
However, despite his own love for the European Union, Rothermere seems to have stood by Dacre, who’s been at the helm of the Mail for 25 years.
“It is wrong to suggest that David Cameron believed he could determine who edits the Daily Mail,” a spokesman for the one-time Conservative leader said.
“It is a matter of public record that he made the case that it was wrong for newspapers to argue that we give up our membership of the EU. He made this argument privately to the editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, and its proprietor, Lord Rothermere.”
However, according to Newsnight, the then-prime minister told Dacre himself to “cut him some slack” during a private meeting in Downing Street in February 2016.
That same day, European Council President Donald Tusk revealed details of the deal he had struck with Cameron on Britain’s membership of the EU.
Dacre allegedly told Cameron he would stick to his usual editorial line as he had been a committed Euroskeptic for nearly 30 years.
The editor was later told by a source that the PM had spoken to Rothermere about his dismissal, leaving Dacre “incandescent” with rage and all the more determined to have the Brexiteer line of the paper “stiffened.”
The Mail’s coverage of the EU referendum also went on to be extremely critical of Cameron’s leadership. Many believe the paper’s coverage of the referendum influenced the result.
Daily Mail links to govt
The affair does not seem to have soured the relationship between the paper and the government, as the Daily Mail’s political editor was announced on Wednesday as the frontrunner to become a new spokesman to Theresa May.
James Slack had only been on the job for a year but is now lined up to replace Helen Bower, who left in December after several weeks of internal feuding at No 10. She is now Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s director of communications.
Slack’s predecessor James Chapman also left his role at the Mail for a role advising a Conservative politician, namely then-chancellor George Osborne. He is now director of communications for Brexit Secretary David Davis.
While relations between the paper and Cameron were frosty, the Daily Mail has been supportive of Theresa May’s premiership ever since she announced her bid for Conservative leader.