Fleet Street and the referendum – Thursday papers: The day of the poster front page

Chris Boffey is a former news editor of the Observer, Sunday Telegraph and the Mirror and onetime special adviser to the Labour government.

They are the unsung talent behind the front pages of our newspapers but today the page designers deserve a bouquet. They earned their corn on a day when images became more important than words.

Other than Gordon Brown, the sleeping hulk of British politics, being roused from his sulking slumber and delivering what was widely though to be the speech of the campaign, not a lot happened other then the parties rounding off at their final rallies.

The Daily Mail couldn't even bring itself to put the poll as its front page lead, going instead on the murder of two Brits in Thailand and relegating the independence issue to a teaser at the top of the page: "Is this the day the UK dies?"

On the inside it reports how Gordon roared into life and and says the outcome depends on how 170,000 don't knows vote.

There was so little factual reporting in the papers that the BBC newspaper review said: "As voters go to the polls... the event dominates front pages one again. However in common with other broadcasters, the BBC is reporting only factual accounts of the election... to avoid influencing the outcome." It then ignored the front pages.

The reason being that many of them showed images designed to sway opinion, even though most of the UK does not have a vote. So it became the day of the poster front page; the big image and few words.

The Fleet Street Sun was almost laughing at its Scottish counterpart's dilemma of whether to back independence or not. The headline was "Better Together" but the picture and story referred to Prince Harry getting back with a once-dumped squeeze.

The Daily Mirror deserves plaudits for the way the headline talked to the image. Below a picture of the union flag minus its blue is the line "Don't leave us this way".

Flags are the recurring theme. On the front pages both the Independent and the Daily Telegraph go for the saltire and the union flag symbolically side by side.

The Guardian decides to show what a map of Scotland without England and Wales looks like and has the headline "Scotland's day of destiny". You can't beat a cliche.

While the Guardian says that if the paper had a vote it would vote for Better Together, it contends weakly about independence: "The case, as Scottish law might put it, is not proven."

The Times is more robust, demolishing the economic claims of Alex Salmond, and says: "Whether or not the yes campaign has won the campaign, it has certainly lost the argument."

It was only a matter of time, but thanks to the Daily Telegraph for scouring the collective work of Robbie Burns and coming up with: "Be Britain still to Britain true. Amang ourselves united."

Along with most people I have not the faintest what it means but presumably it is a call for Better Together. Steve Bell, the Guardian cartoonist, is also unfathomable but thanks again to Matt in the Telegraph with his portrayal of Bannockburn and one soldier saying to another: "I have noticed a slightly intimidating and bullying atmosphere creeping into this battle."

And whether we end up as one nation or two we will still have to fight what the Daily Star calls the "Killer mutant Mosquitos" that are invading our sceptred isle.

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