Did Fat Lady Sing For Dacre Over Daily Mail Opera ‘Snub’?

Exclusive by Dan Evans, Founding Editor

THE DAILY Mail has denied it dropped Brexit-backing editor Paul Dacre over a sponsorship snub from Glyndebourne – the high-society opera house beloved of the paper’s owners Lord and Lady Rothermere.

Britain’s biggest mid-market tabloid is facing speculation about the unpublicised ending of its seven-year patronage of the prestigious arts charity’s annual Tour, which Byline Investigates can report exclusively today.

And last night it said: “Paul Dacre’s decision in June this year to stand down as Editor had absolutely nothing to do with Glyndebourne and everything to do with the fact that, at 70, after 26 years’ editing, he wanted to seek new challenges as Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Associated Newspapers.”

Denial: but Paul Dacre's Daily Mail lost sponsorship of the Glyndebourne Tour
Denial: but Paul Dacre’s Daily Mail lost sponsorship of the Glyndebourne Tour

Questions, however, still surround crunch talks held in June 2017 between Glyndebourne chairman Gus Christie and Dacre’s employer Lord Rothermere, that left the Tour without a sponsor in this, its Golden Anniversary year.

Neither side will say which terminated the agreement that, since 2010, had seen the Daily Mail’s logo ubiquitous at the Glyndebourne Tour, appearing on its tickets, flyers, and programmes, as it brought to the provinces productions such as Verdi’s La traviata.

Aggression: Dacre's Daily Mail had Brexit in its 'DNA' (c) AFP
Aggression: Dacre’s Daily Mail had Brexit in its ‘DNA’ (c) AFP

The parting of ways coincided with Dacre’s Daily Mail taking an aggressive lead among the pro-Brexit media; attacking three judges who ruled for a Westminster vote on Article 50 as ‘enemies of the people’ and political opponents as ‘saboteurs’ and ‘Remoaners’.

At the same time, in the run up to the 2017 Tour, which is held each year between October and December, Gus Christie was vocal on the negative impact of Brexit on Glyndebourne’s ability to produce world-leading opera.

“With Brexit looming,” he lamented in the 2017 season’s programme, “we believe that the costs of maintaining our very high artistic standards are going to rise over the next few years, and that our income may not be able to keep up.”

Brexit pain: Glyndebourne's chairman Gus Christie with soprano wife Danielle de Niese  (c) Sam Stephenson
Brexit pain: Glyndebourne’s chairman Gus Christie with soprano wife Danielle de Niese
(c) Sam Stephenson

He was also quoted that June saying: “We employ a lot of European singers and, paying them in pounds, we’re going to have to pay them more to be able to attract them.

“Materials for sets are going to [get more expensive], and we can’t keep putting ticket prices up because we’ll hit some resistance.”

Lord and Lady Rothermere are familiar faces at the Glyndebourne Festival’s black tie and champagne concerts, which host the great and good in a purpose-built opera house in the grounds of an East Sussex country mansion each May-to-August.

Quintessential English: Glyndebourne Festival picnickers and (inset) the opera house itself (c) Telegraph
Quintessential English: Glyndebourne Festival picnickers and (inset) the opera house itself (c) Telegraph

Alongside Wimbledon, Royal Ascot, the Henley Royal Regatta, and Cowes Week, Glyndebourne is a key event in the English classic social season and its tour a premium shop window for corporate sponsors.

Byline has been told the value of the Daily Mail’s sponsorship deal is a ‘confidential’ matter, however the annual report of the Daily Mail and General Trust shows a sudden reduction in its charitable funding of £483,000 between 2016 and 2017, from £1.3m to £877,000.

Jonathan Harold Esmond Vere Harmsworth,  4th Viscount Rothermere – net worth approaching £1bn – has a long affiliation with Glyndebourne, an institution almost as historical as his family newspaper business.

Until 2014, Lord Rothermere was a director of the Glyndebourne Arts Trust, and remains a member of its Advisory Council, while his wife Claudia keeps a long standing and famously close interest in the theatre.

A well-placed source told Byline Investigates: “Glyndebourne is as much in the Rothermeres’ DNA as Dacre claimed Brexit was in the Daily Mail’s.

“The word around Fleet Street and the City is that Dacre’s antagonism, not only over Brexit, but all sorts of issues, including same sex parenting, jarred so much with Glyndebourne’s inclusive values that it no longer wanted to be publicly associated with the Daily Mail.

Glyndebourne regulars: Lord and Lady Rothermere (c) David M Bennett/ Getty
Glyndebourne regulars: Lord and Lady Rothermere (c) David M Bennett/ Getty

“Lady Rothermere in particular is said to have felt injured by it. No one doubts Dacre’s ability as a newsman, and great respect remains for his stewardship of the paper, but there was a clear sense that his antics as editor had become a problem and that the time was, perhaps, overdue for him to go.

“The Glyndebourne rejection is said to have hammered this home. It is no coincidence that his successor Geordie Greig is a European remainer at heart with the deft touch required to rebuild some of the bridges Dacre so wilfully burned.”

The Daily Mail’s attacks on liberals, muslims, and minorities alienated a string of advertisers, including the Sadler’s Wells Theatre and CentreParcs, which deserted the paper over an attack on gay Olympic diver Tom Daley’s plans for fatherhood.

Ubiquitous: the Daily Mail's logo had featured across the Glyndebourne Tour (c) Glyndebourne Tour
Ubiquitous: the Daily Mail’s logo had featured across the Glyndebourne Tour (c) Glyndebourne Tour

Indeed, its reactionary agenda under Dacre would seem to have placed it at loggerheads with Glyndebourne’s expressed desire to be an inclusive organisation.

“We have a commitment to… fairly and appropriately treat all with due regard to… age, ethnicity and race, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, marital status and trade union membership,” Glyndebourne says on its website.

Good advert: Tom Daley and husband Dustin Lance Black (c) Tom Daley
Good advert: Tom Daley and husband Dustin Lance Black (c) Tom Daley

It adds: “This policy applies to our relationships with our existing, future and potential employees, artists and audiences, suppliers, supporters and partners.

The connection to the Daily Mail had long attracted criticism among some Glyndebourne Tour fans on Twitter. 

On November 5, 2016, the day after the Daily Mail’s infamous ‘Enemies of the People’ front page – about which Dacre remains unrepentant – @Frasergrant wrote: “I am so sad that @glyndebourne tour is sponsored by the daily mail. I do hope they find a less hateful and bigoted sponsor next year”

Critics: Twitter speaks
Critics: Twitter speaks

On the sponsorship issue, a Glyndebourne spokesman confirmed that it had not turned down any personal offers of financial support from Lord and Lady Rothermere, but added: “The Glyndebourne Tour has in the past received financial support from the Daily Mail newspaper. That partnership ended in 2017.”

The spokesman added: “Since the details of our relationships with corporate partners are confidential, I am not able to provide any more information.”

Last night the Daily Mail said: “A year before [Paul Dacre] announced that decision [to cease as editor], and at a time when the Mail Group was seeking to reduce costs, Lord Rothermere and Gus Christie had amicable discussions about ending the Mail’s sponsorship.

“Lord Rothermere will continue in his role as a member of Glyndebourne’s Advisory Council.

Positive hopes: the Stop Funding Hate pressure group
Positive hopes: the Stop Funding Hate pressure group

“Paul Dacre has already booked his seats for Glyndebourne’s new season. The Company’s charitable donations are a private matter.”

Richard Wilson, founder of the ethical campaign Stop Funding Hate, said: “It’s no surprise that Glyndebourne and so many advertisers chose to walk away. 

“While Dacre’s Daily Mail sought to speak for mainstream Britain, in reality the newspaper was far out of step with the values of the moderate majority. 

“Many will hope that the Mail now moves in a more positive direction.”

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