I have it on good authority that they had a brainstorming session at the Guardian the other day, and discussed the possibility of axing the print version altogether. There is apparently a well-advanced plan to stop the presses, spare the trees and go completely online, within the next two years.
This story has now been officially denied by the Guardian politburo – a move that of course adds nothing but credence to the plot. Let me be clear about me and the Guardian. I don’t think they have ever supported anything I have said or done. When I was standing against Ken Livingstone, they did a special supplement in which various members of the Lefty great and the good were invited to say what a prat/plonker/berk/buffoon I was. Many of them vowed to leave London if I were elected (a promise, sadly, they have not kept).
In spite of this strange hostility, I say to my Guardian friends: don’t do it. It would be a national tragedy if we lost the paper version – the wood-pulp and ink version – of this historic publication. It’s no use telling us that the content would all be there “online”. Everything is online, a great charnel-house of porn and piffle. We need the Guardian lowering at us from the news-stands in all its highmindedness; we need to see people nodding over it gently on the Tube.
Take it online and you lose all political impact; you lose the vital editorial marshalling of the often excellent journalists and cartoonists and photographers into a single daily statement, a single product – and everything gets lost in the morass of Google news. We will always need a real and not a virtual Guardian.
Guilt-ridden Lefties will need it to swat the mosquitoes in Tuscany, or to light the wood-burning stoves in their second homes, or to line the tuck boxes of their little ones as they guiltily pack them off – like dear Polly Toynbee – to their fee-paying schools. And it would be a calamity for us Conservatives if we no longer knew what the enemy was thinking. We need a paper that is genuinely, viscerally hostile to anything that looks remotely like a spirit of enterprise and competition. We need a paper that believes capitalism is fundamentally flawed; that wishes fewer people had jobs in financial services; that thinks the euro was and still is a jolly fine idea; that dislikes the ideology of home ownership (except for Guardian journalists, who are allowed to have more than one); that dislikes anything “elitist” (except for the schools attended by the children of Guardian journalists).
We need a paper that believes the answer to all problems is more tax and more regulation. We need to have the enemy in plain view, on the table, in the shops – not skulking online. We need to know what not to think. So I appeal now to all Conservatives and indeed anyone interested in preserving our national heritage. Even if we only have a few hundred copies left, let us keep the Guardian’s print edition – displayed in town halls, perhaps, like the People’s Daily. Never mind the badger. Save the Guardian from extinction!