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Did the Daily Telegraph just bring down the British government?

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You’ve got to hand it to the Telegraph, the famously right-leaning broadsheet has played its hand brilliantly over the past fortnight. The expenses scandal was a great story and they could have blown their wad all in one go, after all, the receipts were due to be released to the general public under the Freedom of Information Act.

But instead of going for a one-off killer story, the Telegraph deftly laid out its devastating revelations piece by piece, ensuring that this bad news just wouldn’t blow over for the Prime Minister. Perhaps if the story lasted under a week he could have ridden it out, but this scandal has been at the top of the headlines for long enough to pretty much bring down the government. At this stage it looks like nothing short of a miracle can save the current Labour administration.

That is the second piece of dexterity from the Telegraph – while this scandal engulfs the entire government, on all sides of parliament, there have clearly been some behind-closed-doors shenanigans to ensure that the Labour Party bears the brunt of public anger. Obviously a few Tories had to be sacrificed so that things wouldn’t be too obvious, but the Conservative Party seems to have escaped the scandal largely unscathed and David Cameron is left smelling of roses.

For all the talk of the electorate lurching towards UKIP, BNP and other marginal parties, it seems highly likely that the next general election will be won by the Conservatives. Something which will come as no surprise to anybody who does a little reading about the relationship between the party and the Telegraph’s owners.

Nobody imagined that the Labour Party could possibly win the next election, but this coup has ensured that they will remain unelectable for a long time, and put the Tories in a relatively strong position. It might even ensure that they reclaim power sooner rather than later, if it forces Brown to call an early election.

None of this is necessarily bad. This terrible government has been painfully limping along for too long, and a swift end would be welcome. But it does raise interesting questions about what sort of collusion went on between the Conservative Party leadership and the Telegraph, and whether these shady dealings are at all healthy for our democracy.

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