Jet contract seals success for Hull paper's campaign

A nine-month campaign by the Hull Daily Mail to save more than 2,000 jobs at the BAE Systems plant in East Yorkshire has been praised by the Prime Minister.

In an article for the paper, Tony Blair wrote: “I want to congratulate the Mail for its vigorous campaigning to win this contract for BAE Systems at Brough. It shows the paper is right at the heart of this community.”

The Sign It Now! campaign helped persuade the Government to award an £800m order for Hawk jets to BAE, safeguarding the company’s Brough plant.

More than 2,000 readers signed coupons that the paper then delivered to Downing Street. Mail reporters joined hundreds of workers in a mass lobby of Parliament.

Editor John Meehan said: “We couldn’t sit back and do nothing.

While other media simply reported the job threat and the wave of despondency that followed, we decided to campaign to save jobs. Our coverage led the fight to secure the Hawk order.

“The message from Tony Blair is the icing on the cake for all my staff who have worked really hard on this story for many months and got the result everyone was praying for.”

On the day of the contract announcement, the paper printed an extra 3,500 copies for a late final edition.

The next day, the Mail devoted its first 10 pages to the story and put out an extra 4,000 copies.

Throughout the campaign, the Mail’s business reporter, Paul Baxter, produced a series of exclusives. The unions telephoned him on his summer holiday to tell him the news they had won the contract.

Baxter said: “For the past eight months, BAE Systems’ plant has been like a second place of work for me.

When the Mail launched its campaign I had no idea how deeply involved I would become. As reporters, we are supposed to remain impartial. However, for me, this story has broken that rule entirely.”

Meehan added: “This is the biggest campaign I have been involved in during my six years at the Mail. Our coverage was second to none. Paul Baxter deserves particular praise, as do the MPs, management and unions for all the hard work they put into achieving this magnificent result.”

The campaign won support from Deputy Prime Minister and Hull East MP John Prescott; Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Hull West and Hessle MP Alan Johnson, and Shadow Deputy Prime Minister David Davis, whose constituency includes Brough.

By Mary Stevens

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