Construction, conformity and control : the taming of the Daily Herald 1921-30

Richards, Huw George (1992). Construction, conformity and control : the taming of the Daily Herald 1921-30. PhD thesis The Open University.



The period from 1921 to 1930 saw the Daily Herald come under the direct control of the organised Labour movement - jointly owned by the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress. It seperates an earlier incarnation of independent left radicalism from a subsequent identity as a commercial daily tied to an official political line.

It is a period of commercial and competitive failure - the 500,000 circulation constantly evoked as a target was only attained in times of exceptional political or industrial excitement. Reliant on movement subsidies for capital finance it was unable to match the new features and inducements - notably insurance schemes - that competitors provided in a period of rapid expansion and intense circulation battles.

Editorially it was torn between the radicalism of its staff, the journalistic instinct to avoid predictability and the desire of Labour's moderate leaders for an automatically reliable supporter in the national press. As leadership pressures mounted it increasingly became the voice of the centre lecturing followers, with debate restricted - but independent instincts were never totally curbed.

Failure to attract the desired mass readership cannot be wholly attributed to poverty. Initially developed as the voice of a committed, informed radical political elite it continued to reflect their interests - and would always choose to educate rather than entertain. In the absence of a mass counterculture this left it seeking a popular readership with a serious approach. Realisation that a different approach was needed to win such a readership combined with recognition that this would need capital investment beyond the means of the movement to force the partnership formed with Odhams Press in 1929, ending exclusive movement control.

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