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Paper Monitor

10:20 UK time, Thursday, 21 December 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Sooner or later, one of the papers was bound to try it. Besieged by the press and speculation he had been drunk and wayward after a Christmas party, the Bishop of Southwark told the BBC a few days ago that he had made a complex trip across London by bus and Tube on the night in question. "I defy anyone who has had too much to drink to make that journey," he said (apparently oblivious to the fact that "night bus" is just a modern day synonym for drunk tank).

The resulting sparkle in tabloid editors' eyes across the capital could have been usefully deployed to guide in all those fog-delayed planes. Over to the Sun, where a reporter, kitted out in full bishop garb - mitre, crozier, cape etc - knocked back a bottle of vino and charts his journey from the Irish embassy in London's Mayfair (where the real Bishop had attended a drinks reception on the night in question) to Tooting Bec, south London, via London Bridge.

Paper Monitorites can rest easy that the Sun's man made it to his destination in one piece.

One of Paper Monitor's sub strands - although it's never been formalised as such - could be termed "middle class watch", the point being that many of society's ills, which are the bread and butter of much daily news, have little tangible impact on the middle class audience of the "quality" and "mid-market" press.

So if a paper can tease out a middle class angle from such a story - bingo, it suddenly seems all the more important. The Daily Mail can do this in its sleep. But today's Guardian proves a worthy match, sending a reporter undercover in the British National Party, to reveal that the BNP is, apparently, throwing its weight behind a middle class recruitment drive. Members allegedly include a prominent ballet dancer and a successful complementary medicine practitioner.

It's a significant infiltration by the Guardian - to instil one of its reporters as central London organiser of the party. But while the findings are eyebrow-raising, there's a sense the BNP's leader, Nick Griffin, will actually be quietly pleased with much that is told here, confirming, as it seems to, the party's effort to change its image.

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