Paperchase unexpectedly found itself at the centre of a high-pressure political firestorm this weekend – and it was all, rather curiously, over two free rolls of Christmas wrapping paper.
The British stationery company had organised a promotional giveaway with the Daily Mail, but very quickly a whirlwind of angry Twitter comments from Paperchase customers and the campaign group Stop Funding Hate forced the company into a dramatic change of heart.
In an apologetic statement, Paperchase said: “We’ve listened to you about this weekend’s newspaper promotion. We now know we were wrong to do this - we’re truly sorry and we won’t ever do it again. Thanks for telling us what you really think and we apologise if we have let you down on this one. Lesson learnt.”
Upset, the Daily Mail then hit back saying it was “deeply worrying” Paperchase had let itself “be bullied into apologising”.
“Has the company considered what message they are sending to the four million people who read the Daily Mail on Saturday, many of whom will be their customers?” the paper said in a statement yesterday.
And now there’s even been a backlash to the backlash with right-wing commentators attacking Paperchase for caving in:
But despite these attacks, Paperchase was absolutely right to cut ties with the right-wing newspaper.
And I’m not just thinking about the usual criticisms of the Daily Mail:
- Chief cheerleader for Brexit
- Most vocal supporter of Theresa May and the Tory government
- Vicious and unfair attacks on Jeremy Corbyn during the general election
- Insensitive treatment of sensitive topics like transgender children and refugees
All of this is true - but it’s not the reason why Paperchase was right to sever its advertising relationship.
First, it’s totally within the right of a private company like Paperchase to communicate with their customers in any way they think is best. After hearing from their customers, Paperchase had a re-think and decided they no longer wanted to be associated with the Daily Mail. That’s fine. No-one owes them anything. There is the valid question of whether Paperchase can afford to piss off millions of potential customers who also read the Daily Mail. Maybe not, but that’s their business decision and their right to make it.
Importantly, the Daily Mail is an incredibly powerful and successful media institution - probably the most powerful in our country (see Theresa May’s selection as Tory party leader). It’s good that we have strong, independent media institutions like the Daily Mail. But just like the BBC, it’s right that from time to time this powerful institution is challenged. Paperchase’s decision is a reminder to the Daily Mail that they cannot act with complete impunity; that there will be financial consequences for their actions. In this case, customers and concerned citizens simply clubbed together to use their collective economic clout as a way of putting pressure on Paperchase and to send a message to the Daily Mail.
This is not to say, however, that everyone who reads the Daily Mail is a swivel-eyed loon. And the Daily Mail and MailOnline are both filled with talented, hard-working journalists; many of whom do not agree with the right-wing politics of their company (including myself in a former life). Famously, the former Daily Mail political editor James Chapman, who also worked for George Osborne and David Davis, has now revealed himself as an arch-Remainer and even argued for a new political party to stop Britain’s exit from the EU.
I also understand the concerns of people on the other side that we shouldn’t be censoring national newspapers, however much we disagree with them. Freedom of speech and expression, although not limitless, are among the most important features of our democracy. I recognise this point and would fiercely defend the right of the Daily Mail to print its right-wing, conservative opinions. But let’s put this into perspective: the two-free-rolls-of-wrapping-paper-in-a-Saturday-newspaper deal isn’t going to sink the titanic Daily Mail.
Finally, let’s not forget the incredible irony that the Daily Mail, which regularly targets (some would say bullies) private people and public bodies, is upset that they are now the target of criticism: sorry guys, what goes around comes around. It’s laughable for them to now complain that Paperchase was “bullied into apologising”.
It’s only good and proper that sometimes powerful institutions like the Daily Mail feel the heat. It’s what they do to other people every day.