To the uninitiated, the main national British dailies seem like a cornucopiae of choice for the reader, there being no less than 11 options available every day (excluding Sundays), and more if you include regional papers. For the average Kiwi putting up with a single paper of one of the two main chains (Fairfax represented online by Stuff and APN dominated by the NZ Herald) excluding the Otago Daily Times which remains as the leading daily independent paper.
The character Jim Hacker on the UK comedy series Yes Prime Minister famously quipped the following about the UK papers:
"The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country;
The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country;
The Times is read by people who actually do run the country;
the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country;
the Financial Times is read by people who own the country;
the Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and the The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is"
followed by Bernard Woolley saying "Sun readers don't care who runs the country, as long as she's got big tits"
Now this is not that far from the truth, except that the Times is not read by those who run the country as much as the Independent is (which post dates Yes Prime Minister). So here is my quick and dirty summary of the papers:
There are three daily papers that are definitive of British political news...
Daily Telegraph: Almost always pro-Tory, but generally more socially liberal than the Tory party tends to be (except lately). Almost always tends to be anti-Labour, but has moved to the centre over time. Certainly one of the best written dailies and the one closest to my point of view. The definitive paper for the market and social liberal. Most reliable for conservative commentary. In NZ it would be most comfortably read by ACT voters.
The Times: Best described as aligned between Blair and the Tories, probably comfortable with David Cameron. Has supported Thatcher and Blair in the past. My second choice, but regularly out does the Telegraph for analysis. Has smudges of conservatism, but generally a moderately socially liberal, pro-economic liberal paper. In NZ it would be most comfortably read by voters in the centre or National voters.
The Guardian: The paper of the Labour left. Easily pro-Labour, but this has been challenged by the war in Iraq. About as reliably pro-Labour at election time as the Telegraph is pro-Tory, but despite its strong leftwing credentials does contain some first class analysis and journalists on its books. Backs leftwing causes on poverty, aid, affirmative action, welfarism, Europe, environment, as much as it also tends to be socially liberal. While I may largely disagree with it, it regularly defends it position with some degree of intellectual rigour. In NZ it would be most comfortably read by Labour, Maori Party or Green voters.
While it sometimes has something worthwhile to say, the Independent no longer really is, as it is essentially the paper of the Liberal Democrats - which themselves promiscuously spread themselves over the political spectrum. The Independent is the leftwing young looking neo-tabloid, scaremongering about the environment, inviting Bono to be editor for a day - so it is constantly attention seeking. As a result its analysis is more once over lightly. In NZ it would be most comfortably read by Green voters.
There is also the Financial Times not just the paper of the City of London and business, but a far more serious analysis of news that is particularly relevant to the economy and business. A heavy read for most, but most comprehensive for hard hitting analysis.
Moving down the market is the Daily Express also referred to as the "Daily Diana" because of its obsession with a well known deceased member of the Windsor household, reflected in it publishing a picture of her on the front page on the anniversary of the July tube bombings last year. It has an English nationalist outlook, tends to have a tinge of bigotry flowing through it and often publishes scandals about government bureaucracy, "political correctness gone mad" (is it ever not mad?) and lots of pictures of tarty young women. It rarely has genuinely interesting gossip that its serious tabloid competitors have, it pretends to not be a T & A rag and can't be seen to be a NEWSpaper by anyone other than BNP voters. In NZ it would be read by NZ First voters.
Further down market is the Daily Mail. The Mail is similar to the express in being crassly conservative and nationalistic, jumps on the "bloody bureaucrats interfering with your lives" bandwagon whilst simultaneously demanding the government "do something" about many other things. The Mail is a paper for the average talkback caller. It has a dark history being pro-Nazi until 1939 (when threatened with closure if it didn't change!), with its then owners supporting the German invasion of Czechoslovakia. It supports the monarchy, is anti-immigrant, supports being mercilessly tough on criminals, is anti-EU. More than perhaps any other paper, a reader of the Daily Mail risks being stereotyped as a racist old fashioned bigot who hates "bloody foreigners" and blames the government for everything. In NZ it would be read by NZ First voters.
The Daily Star is more of a true gossip tabloid. It focuses on the proletariat's obsession with celebrities, sport and gossip about stars. It tends to be somewhat nationalistic as well, but likes T & A so is far less serious and insipid than the Mail and Express. It is for entertainment more than news.
The Sun is the quintessential British tabloid. It has the page 3 girl to attract the bumcrack showing class of workers for their morning wank. It has the highest circulation of any of the papers, with over 3.1 million per day (don't link that to the previous sentence). It has backed both Thatcher and Blair, but tends to be socially liberal and somewhat skeptical about government - so would appeal to young male ACT voters in NZ. It has exposed the BNP for being nasty, so while centre-right does not tend to pander to the anti-immigrant nationalism of the Express and Mail. This excludes slagging off the French (for being French) and the Germans (don't forget the war).
The Daily Mirror is the leftwing equivalent of the Sun, originally launched as a paper for women in 1903! It supported anti-Iraq war protests and is abusively critical of G.W.Bush. It has been overshadowed in recent years by the Sun and the Daily Mail in popularity.
The Daily Sport, takes the Sun and goes further "downmarket", by essentially being a rag on celebrities and stories of ordinary people doing naughty things. It publishes a lot more T & A than any other, so could be seen to be on the boundary between "newspaper" and softcore lads mag.
Finally there is the Morning Star - the communist newspaper of the UK, published daily. I'm serious, it is Marxist through and through. It has been pro IRA, supports Labour candidates that aren't "New Labour", used to be uncritical of the USSR. You might wonder why the Morning Star is the only paper which requires a subscription to see today's "news" online, while all of the "capitalist" ones are free.