'Crush the saboteurs': British newspapers react to general election

Jane Martinson

The front pages of Britain’s national newspapers the day after Theresa May’s decision to call a snap general election were black and blue; possibly in honour of the bruises felt at being blindsided by the prime minister. As is so often the case nowadays, it was the Daily Mail that delivered the real air of menace.

Filled with a huge close-up picture of an oddly smiling prime minister, the Mail’s headline said that May had vowed to “CRUSH THE SABOTEURS”. There could be no doubt who these deliberate vandals were, either: unelected members of the House of Lords, and the 48% of the country who failed to vote for Brexit.

Or, as the standfirst had it: “In a stunning move, May calls the bluff of game-playing Remoaners (including unelected Lords) with a snap election.” The “reports and analysis” filling pages 4-19 underlined how significant the decision to call an election on 8 June was.

Though not quite as controversial as last November’s “Enemies of the people” front page, which rounded on the Supreme Court judges for daring to do their job, spoofs of Wednesday’s front page appeared less than an hour after the Mail landed.

The Scottish edition of the Mail struck a different tone however.

For the Sun and the Telegraph, two papers which have made no secret of their support for Brexit, the prime ministerial decision was all about the politics and their hearts were pumping blue blood.

The Sun led with “Blue murder”, clearly seeing May’s plans for an early election as a bid to both kill off Labour and those pesky Tory rebels.

Interestingly enough, the Mail’s front page could have been written by the Sun, which has often been the case since ex-Mail executive Tony Gallagher took over at Britain’s (just) biggest-selling paper. Last November, the Sun says column said: “The Brexit saboteurs of the Commons and Lords must be faced down and crushed... Theresa May would be mad not to crush pro-EU saboteurs and annihilate Corbyn’s Labour.”

The Telegraph, refusing the funereal tone of most of its competitors, went with another huge picture of the prime minister and “May’s bolt from the blue”.

May most often appeared open-mouthed and against the black backdrop of the number 10 front door: handy visual guides for an industry kept in the dark about the prime minister’s momentous decision.

The Labour-supporting Mirror saw this as a chance to hurt May with a comparison to the only other female prime minister. “The lady IS for U-turning,” it said of the decision, made despite repeated denials. For the second time in less than a year, the Tories were once again putting party above national unity, it added.

Other newspapers saw political gains for May. The Times ran with “May heads for election landslide: Brexit voters set to desert Labour in snap poll.”

The Guardian saw in the decision a bid for greater strength in difficult negotiations ahead with a headline which ran: “May: Give me my mandate”

Despite its dalliance with Ukip, the front page of the Express could have been a Tory electioneering pamphlet. “Vote for me and I’ll deliver EU exit,” it trumpeted.

City AM focused on the numbers – the fact that there would be a general election in 50 days – while the FT was typically factual: “May calls snap election to strengthen hand in Brexit talks.”

As ever at times of political shock, it was left to cartoonists to lighten the mood. The Telegraph’s Matt showed a canvassing candidate at the doorstep with a man in a vest saying “We have to stop meeting like this.”

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes