It was the Sun wot won it! And the Express. And the Telegraph, definitely.
Brexit day in Britain was greeted by competing triumphalist newspapers claiming victory, along with competing souvenir ephemera.
While Boris Johnson’s address to a painfully fractured nation was set to include a promise to “bring this country together”, there was little of the conciliatory sentiment in the flag-waving, jingoism of Friday’s headlines.
The Daily Telegraph treated readers to a free supplement: “The story of the Telegraph and Brexit”. Inside, a potted history boasted: “The campaign to leave the EU that changed the course of history and propelled a newspaper columnist into Downing Street.”
It recounted how Johnson, on quitting the front bench after the Chequers summit in July 2018, returned as star columnist. By December 2019, he was prime minister with an 80-seat majority.
“For Boris, from July 2018 to December 2019, that’s quite a turnaround. And we helped him pick himself up and get back on the right track,” the Telegraph editor, Chris Evans, told readers.
Not only did the Telegraph shape the Eurosceptic debate, he added, “one of our columnists has now become prime minister”.
Borrowing from the Sun’s lexicon, the Telegraph cheered: “It’s the readers wot won it”. It was, Evans said, “the longest, but also the most successful newspaper campaign ever run”.
Similar jubilation could be found at the Daily Express. Its “Historic Souvenir Edition” carried a union flag and the headline, “Yes, we did it”, all underlined for good measure. A special pullout supplement insisted: “No other news organisation has battled for so long and with such passion on a single issue that has profoundly affected the country’s future.”
With its crusader knight logo bearing the cross of St George, it proclaimed, “We got our country back”, while it praised its readers: “You [underlined] got Britain out of the EU”.
Not to be outdone, the Sun also patted its readers on the back. Against the backdrop of a giant Special UK breakfast cereal box, with a smiling Johnson beaming out from a teaspoon, it proclaimed: “After a 30-year battle, a great moment for you, our readers.” As a reward, readers could apply to win one of 100 souvenir Brexit 50p coins.
They were also treated to a giant pullout poster that featured a bizarre photomontage of famous Brits – from George Best to David Bowie, Julie Andrews and Charles Darwin – each with a speech bubble saying “See EU”. Meanwhile a smaller montage, “The Shattered Remains”, depicted prominent remainers, including David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn, and Bob Geldof, as bloodied zombies.
The Daily Mail’s Brexit day special heralded: “A new dawn for Britain”. Inside, there was a huge photograph of the Mall lined with union flags. “… and the Palace is flying the flag, too,” it cried, omitting to mention that Buckingham Palace protocol is to run up the union jack whenever the Queen is not in residence. Its readers were promised a free Brexit souvenir tea towel – replicating its white cliffs front page – and, according to the paper, worth £9.99.
The Times featured a wrap-around picture of Big Ben, with the headline “Brexit – It’s Time”.
The Daily Star was also keen to get in on the action. It’s Souvenir Edition featured a photograph of a map of Britain and people clinking beer glasses together in celebration. “Tonight is a TRULY HISTORIC moment for our great nation,” its headline thundered.”
“…..That’s right, it’s the end of Dry January!”
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