I was just about to go to bed when Radio Five Live called to ask if I would talk to Richard Bacon about The Sun switching from Labour to Tory.
‘This is DEV-AS-TAT-ING,’ he said by way of intro though to be fair, when I laughed, he laughed too.
Devastating would be Alistair Darling saying he was quitting as Chancellor because of disagreements over policy with GB.
Devastating would be a petition of half a million NHS workers saying Labour out, Tories in.
Devastating would be the IMF saying Britain’s handling of the recession had been woeful and helped turn it into a depression. (Perhaps they could do an analysis of the Tory response instead.)
So would Labour rather have The Sun’s support than lose it? Certainly. Were we pleased when they made the switch to us in 1997, not least because of the impact on the morale of the other lot? Yes. Is it a ‘devastating blow’ (cliche No 12 from GB media reporting handbook) that they have switched back? No.
It is a big media story, and the media love nothing more than a big media story. That much was clear from the way Nick Robinson and Michael Crick reported it on the BBC last night. I thought they were going to wheel out the Royal death black ties.
Far more significant, possibly, was the economics editor’s report on signs of economic recovery.
Fat chance of that getting big play this morning then, not when the media can all talk about themselves. ‘Gordon Brown has brushed aside (cliche 25) the decision of The Sun etc etc’ Far easier story. Let’s make it the lead.
The media marketplace has changed enormously since 1997. Papers have had to become very different animals to compete with 24 hour news and cope with the advent of the web and, more recently, social networking.
As channels of communication have become more diverse and diffuse, it has been harder for the papers to make impact. The Sun made media impact last night, and it will continue throughout the day. As for genuine political impact, it is likely to be less than they think. If Labour lose, it will not be The Sun wot lost it.
Because while the public may know the politicians spin them a line from time to time, they sure as hell know the papers do too.
The switch was entirely predictable, and had been evident for some time. It was merely a matter of when. For Labour, it should actually help the feeling of fighting back that has finally been around this week. If you’re the underdog, might as well have it clear that you’re the underdog.
The other thing to make clear is that the media mood has been so relentlessly negative around Gordon for so long – and despite their best efforts he is still standing – that this is not going to make that much of a difference. And it may lead others to reflect. Watch for a levelling out of negativity in some of the left press for example.
In the last few years the significance of the newspapers in the political debate has been less any impact on their readers, who will be largely unmoved, but on the rest of the media. It has always amazed me that TV, with its monopoly on immediacy, at least up to the advent of the web, allows its agenda to be set so much by the papers. Don’t forget this too. Whilst TB had the support of The Sun, their editorial stance on many issues, day in day out, was highly critical, and well to the right of the Party. Don’t forget either that Labour won three elections with considerable media negativity surrounding us, especially the third win. One of my favourite stats is that support among Mail readers rose from 1997 to 2001. How many barrels of bile down the drain for that one?
My point is that people will make their own minds up. What a daily paper urges them to do will figure marginally if at all in that judgement, and provided Labour continues to defend the record, take the fight to the Tories, and set out the forward policy agenda with clarity and vigour, the battle ahead can still be won.
David Cameron will be very pleased this morning. What the papers say is what gets him out of bed in the morning. His media strategy is his one success. But press opinion is not the same as public opinion. And public opinion is becoming more not less sceptical about his ability to do serious policy.
What The Sun’s decision means is Cameron will get an easier ride in one newspaper. It does not mean public doubts about his leadership will be dispelled.
When The Sun came out for TB they did so with the headline ‘The Sun backs Blair.’ Today’s ‘Labour’s lost it’ underlines that the decision is about negative feelings towards Labour, rather than positive support for Cameron.
I should also point out that whilst the BBC is reporting what it sees as the political significance of the Murdoch decision, there might be significance for them too. Murdoch plus the Tories in alliance on broadcasting policy… might make wiser BBC heads wonder whether their constant slipstreaming of press negativity is the place they really need to be.
If you needed evidence that it is a switch made for entirely cynical reasons, listen to the bleating of the editor of the Sun in Scotland, who says they are not coming out for Cameron. I thought they were meant to be a national paper? It is the election of the UK Prime Minister we are talking about. So why only south of the border? Because the Tories have no chance here and they know it. Pathetic.
The Suns welcome conversion to common sense after a 12 year blip was inevitable because Labour has made such an utter mess of running this country.
Of the many whoppers in Brown’s speech yesterday, lets take just one, his fatuous claim that “there are 2 million more people providing for their families than in 1997”. No, there are NOT, and whats more the so called ordinary middle can see this with their own eyes every day.
Unemployment currently stands at a 17 year high under Labour, and official figures show that over 10m people of working age under Labour are not working.
Campbell is always a useful weather vane for how Labour will spin their looming defeat and the theme seems quite clear.It will be the medias fault. But the fact is that the British people, and the English people in particular, have heard Brown all too clearly. And they don’t like him.
Isn’t if funny how when politicians change their minds (eg ID cards) they make a humiliating U turn (that should be in your cliche handbook for the press Alastair) but when a newspaper does the same, they’re speaking for their readers. I think the reason papers are more and more sensationalist and attention seeking is because they know the public has seen through their ways. Take away sport and telly and there is nothing left
I wish you still had a column on the Mirror! I am sure lots of people see your blogs but we need you out in the big selling papers every day. I get the Mirror and the Guardian and the commentators are like a herd, all falling over themselves to see who can be the most negative.
Agree entirely re: the Sun’s negative view of Brown being the main factor here, rather than a love of Cameron.
Can’t help but wonder though, on the economic recovery point, that you didnt seem to complain too much when nobody covered the two years of economic growth pre-1997, and just focused on tory ministers shagging about.
Today’s news – tomorrow’s chip paper. It matters not. Onwards and upwards.
And if you need any further evidence of The Sun’s (and Murdoch’s) cynicism, you only have to compare Irish and English editions’ front pages.
GB will hang on to power whatever: that is his sole stratergy.What was the most significant bit in his speech yesterday was the sop to the LibDems with the promise of a referendum on PR. They could prop him up in return.It’s not over yet whatever the Sun says.
GB´s speech was very good, not memorable but good enough (I hope) to unite the party behind him. If Douglas Alexander and Ed Miliband can now come up with bright ideas for the future of Britain and these ideas are skilfully communicated to voters, Labour has a chance.
Andrew Rawnsley wrote that GB has lost British media. But what GB needs and deserves is a fair assessment. He is intelligent, well-read and hard-working. He has got the big decisions right. Although he is not a brilliant communicator, he is the right man for these times.
I have heard of studies which show that the Sun, which I believe is printed on Finnish paper, has no impact at all on election results. This may have been a different story in the days of Kinnock and “Will the last person leaving Britain please switch off the lights”. It will be interesting to see how Facebook will be used in the coming election.
Of course we can laugh at the antics of the Tory Press. There was no suprise there. If the Tories were rattled by GB’s strong performance in Brighton yesterday then clearly so were the Sun. They obviously have given themselves the role of King maker. I hope you are right that the people will see through this Alastair. It is unfortunate that on the doorstep a great deal of their bilge is repeated by its readers.
What a backward step for Newspapers and journalism in particular that it has to stoop to this kind of headline. I hope other media outlets recognise the need now for some balance.
It remains down to party activists however to get out their on the doorstep and put the record straight.
‘My point is that people will make their own minds up’
So why have you been bleating on about the media in almost every blog lately, if they have little or no impact then what they say or write surely shouldn’t bother you.
The Sun is only echoing public opinion, people have had enough of Brown and this incompetent government.
I think you have pitched this analysis quite accurately unlike the BBC’s over the top coverage last night and this morning. The news of this change of support is not news. The Sun abandoned Labour some time ago. People do not but it for political insight. The vast majority will completely ignore this story and jump straight to their more salacious favourites. Perceptions of the paper’s political leanings amongst it’s readers may not reflect it’s views. Research in the 80s at the height of it’s rabid support of Thatcher showed that majority of Sun readers thought that was a Labour supporting paper!
You make good objections to the significance of The Sun’s withdrawal of support for Labour. What is harder to address is the track record of failure which The Sun cites as the reason for its change. I think however much one tries to divert attention to the inexperience of Cameron, a reason of course never to change incumbents which is also known as a dictatorship, or the viciousness of the Conservatives, sounds a bit desperate, or the impact of global forces on our economy, if the buck doesn’t stop with the PM then who do we look at to take responsibility for how this country does, the fact is Labour’s track record is shall we say disappointing. So why, when it’s had twelve years to show what it can do should we give it another five?
Being Finnish, you may be unaware that 86% of the UK is made up of English people. And Brown simply does not ‘get’ the English. He does not connect with them, and does not share their largely ‘work hard and stand on your own two feet’ mentality.
To Brown and McLabour its all about collectivism, and a ‘strong state is a good state’ when in fact the opposite is true. Take their recent facile dictat on babysitting. What right has Harriet Harman got to dictate to responsible adults about whom they should leave looking after their children ? Its statist nannyism gone mad, and the electorate see through it because as with the public smoking ban and fox hunting, it is short term illiberalism used to mask the lack of any over arching theme or narrative.
The state should in reality play an absolutely minimal role in normal people’s every day lives.
The ususal tirade from ‘nick’ who no doubt voted for the tories in 1992 and ever since!!
Murdoch has done this for purely commercial reasons, the tories statements on reform of OFFCOM and the BBC/ scrapping on political impatiality in broadcast media means he wants a ‘Fox’ style news channel in this country and the tories are giving him a down payment.
Perhaps ‘nick’ and others who whinge from the right will send back their tax credits, minimum wage or stop using the improved NHS that are the major achievements of this govt and WOULD NEVER HAPPEN UNDER THE TORIES -GO FOURTH (AND FIFTH!!!!) -Darryl
lol – just saw campbell on the DP – and just how rattled he was. Anita served him his own asshole. Brilliant DP – standing up to the most vicious media manipulator this country has ever seen.
It’s obvious, isn’t it, that none of the Labour hierarchy are at all bothered about the Sun – that’s why every single one of them has been wheeled out to say how trivial it all is. Yup.
Shakespeare said “methinks the lady doth protesteth too much”. LMFAO.
But Brown sacking Darling – which he wanted to do – would not have been devastating?
The editorial in the Sun today backing up the front page is absolutely priceless. The defence editor criticises Labour because we don’t have as many warships now as the French do. Trevor Kavanagh talks about the EU and the pound. The health editor complains that the NHS has become obsessed with patient choice. And the business editor says the credit crunch is the fault of the Bank of England and the FSA.
Clearly you do not find it ironic that Labour has turned on Vicky Pollard with such a vengence…having done so much to make her life so comfortable these last 12 years.
Reminds me of that classic quote from our ex Deputy Prime Minister in his programme “Prescott on Class”. Displaying the type of ‘let them eat cake’ ignorance for which Labour is rightly famed these days, J.P turned to Lady Pauline and asked her “whats a chav?”.
Err. its what your social policies have spent the last 12 years creating, JP !!
I would argue that DEV-AS-TAT-ING would describe what Gordon Brown’s speech yesterday did to the hopes of the Labour party being elected to serve a fourth term.
To be fair, it was all acedemic, as he would have to have exhumed Martin Luther King and had him compose a speech to have had one iota of conning the public.
Unfortunately for the UK and Gordon Brown is that his downfall was not the poor reception by the public of his speech, it was not the Sun no longer backing Labour (which to be honest doesn’t really influence anyone), but rather the failings of himself, his predecessor and his party to manage the economy, his creation of a “Benefits Class” made dependant on welfare payments, his destruction of the NHS as a bastion of safe healthcare (MRSA is rife!), his dumbing down of education education education, his throwing our country into debt (great time to sell our gold reserves, whilst they are at rock bottom prices. At which school of economics did you study, Gordon), and his parties creation of a ferral generation and immagration without integration.
That, Alastair, is truly DEV-AS-TAT-ING!!!
So I wouldn’t worry about the Sun.
Every time a Labour spokesman opens his/her mouth he/she will include a dig at the Tories. It has become so repetitive that it only irritates rather than carrying a message. I do understand their panic and why they feel the need to do it. They are missing an important point. There are many of us Joe Public who will not vote Labour. Have not forgotten the last Tory government. Do not see the LibDems as a viable alternative. We DO want serious change to Parliament and will fill it with Independents if we get the chance.
All these prospective candidates for the main parties who “want to do good for their electorate” and if elected will sit on the back benches and vote as instructed. We have had enough of these spineless people.
News International already have interests in the Tory party – Andy Coulson is former Editor of NOTW, and Cameron seemed very reluctant to sack him when the bugging story broke, which happened during Coulson’s time at the helm. Even Andrew Neil questioned how the hell he DIDN’T know!
The Sun only has about 3 million circulation, and at a time where the internet is where people prefer to find their news via reliable sites, they need to try and keep their circulation up. What is worrying, is the in the Murdoch empire is the right wing Fox news, who campaigned for McCain (and Bush) and were responsible for RW slurring of our NHS.
So.. Fox backed a winner last year for the US Election did they? Maybe the Murdoch empire is now into backing “also rans” The Labour Party do not need them, but the Labour Politicians now need to get out and win the public back. After all, it is our vote that counts next year.
We all knew the Sun intended to ditch support and as to be expected it informed us at a time to cause the most embarrassment.
The PM’s speech was good. I did not appreciate the introduction by his wife. A reminder Alastair that Sarah Brown is as much media savvy as David Cameron. I cringed at the content of her speech and as a woman was offended.
I agree that newspapers do not have as much influence as they once had. Television and radio has an impact and GB should be advised not to lose his cool as he did with Adam Boulton this morning. I think blogs and the internet have also a huge influence – Obama certainly benefited from this.
I rarely buy newspapers now. When I do it is generally the FT. I do read all newspapers online and am often furious with some reports. It is as if somehow the Labour Party should never have governed and in the case of the Mail- Cherie Blair should not have any money nor we should not celebrate that a past PM of the UK is welcomed on the world stage. I do not believe the Code of Conduct that governs our press is tough enough and I would legislate. I also think that too much of our press is right wing and this is disturbing. Bill Clinton stated this week the same right wing press in the US is trying to undermine Obama as our right wing press are doing with GB. I am hoping that fair minded journalists shift the balance and report positive political news. As a nation we are generally fair minded and those in the media who seek to oust the Labour Government may find their campaign backfiring.
Yes it is important to state how much has been achieved and sadly people have forgotten how poor the infrastructure of the country was in 1997. It is not good enough to give an outline of some of the policies mentioned yesterday as they have been around before and some issues such as care for the elderly are as a result of the changing population and a recent study undertaken by the government. Many changes would have happened under any government. Society has changed since 1997 and expectations from citizens too. Technology has enabled us to be much better informed and we know when politicians are manipulating facts. Just think – at one time I had to go to a City Library – I live in a rural community – to read government reports which are now readily available online. This brings me to an important part – no politician from any party can mislead us nor treat us as imbeciles. I often feel insulted or patronised when I listen to some Ministers. Why can we not have honesty from all about the many difficult decisions ahead. The only person I trust on the UK economy is Alasdair Darling. I do not trust GB on the matter now and he must take responsibility for this. Can we not keep others (Mr Balls) out of detailed economic matters and let us listen to the Chancellor.
Neither do I like the word fight regarding the Tories. I want reasoned argument and I am weary of hearing that the Tories would not have done this or that particularly relating to years ago. It puts me off as I do not expect opposition parties to have the same detailed advice that a government has. I do not know what is to be done to ensure the message gets acoss. We need to use more of our talent David Miliband, Hillary Benn et al – those Ministers come across well in the media and can articulate our values. In despair……….
So the Tory papers are showing their true colours at last how will they spin Tory cuts to a pubvlic that have done well out of Labour ?
And if Briotain is broke how will Cameron fix it can he really hug a hoody and get away with it with his voters?
Aty a time of recession Britian need careful investment not Tory cuts and Privatisation whatis there left to privatise . Will Tories bring the Gas and Electricity companies back into line? Will they bring affordable heating and lighting to British homes again?
Will they create jobs for all those hoodies on welfare give a future to our children and our childrens children?
Or will they give bonuses to Bankers and the stockmarkets?
did anyone see Campbell’s disgraceful attempt to bully Anita on the Daily Politics today? What an odious coward you are, Campbell. By the way, she took you to pieces, you pompous prat.
Ollie, you obviously watched a different interview to the one I did. Or else maybe you are one of those rabid Tories whose skin Alastair seems to get under so easily, because the truth hurts. The interview I saw with Anita was very good-humoured and unlike a lot of the hysteria on the airwaves today managed to keep things in a proper perspective. Keep it coming though… I loce the way you right wingers feel you have to be on here. Looking forward to the claim that you are actually a Lib Dem
Alastair, stop bleating about the Sun switching and do something positive. It’s obvious following young Murdoch’s attacks on the BBC and his row with Peston that he wants the BBC butchered.
What we should do is go on the attack and insert a bill in the Queen’s speech that elevates test cricket and England football matches to “crown jewel” status” ie free to watch. We should also legislate that all TV programmes broadcast in the UK have 75% home content.
Would Dave (if elected) reverse a popular decision re the sport if we did it? It would also get rid of that load of imported drivel known as Sky 1.
Re the Sun’s rant on defence, Gorgeous George has stated he will cancel the Typhoon and A400M planes as well as the two carriers.
Pre 1997 we didn’t have one computer in the school whwre I’ve been a governor for the last 14 yrs, the changes we’ve had since are fantastic, including a computer suite, white boards and wireless networking.
Various family members have really needed the NHS, one one had heart surgey in 1994, half the ward was shut due to tory cuts, the difference since then is staggering.
PS Any chance of a signed book for the charity night I’m organising in Manchester on Oct 23rd?
One of the charities we’re suppporting is Mac House situated in Alder Hey kids hospital in Liverpool. They let parents of sick children stay in there for free. Alder Hey have plans for a £280 children’s health as the current building in parts is nearly 100 yrs. IMHO they can forget it if that lot get in.
Surely press communication is the ultimate in Boolean on/off communication. You think carefully about pressing the button, and then do it. There is an inherent impact/risk in all ‘Gutenbergian’ comms. – you live with the consequences for a long time (in The Sun’s case 12 years).
It is no surprise that TV media, will want to initially piggyback on such high impact/risk press view (why think so hard when someone has done it for you?) and to subtly move it’s opinion over a relatively short period of time to more sensitively track public opinion.
All worthy online media must be a matter of real-time public discourse, and as such will always struggle to create an unequivocal, clear single point of view. It is all about the now.
With our media rich environment I agree that today’s shift of opinion by The Sun reached far fewer recipients than in 97. I don’t underestimate however the force of an opinion that is calculated to last years over presentation and comment that will last days and moments.
Good. Murdoch has cleared up any doubt, should anyone have any, on the twisted truths his people are to publish. Perhaps now Gordon will make it clear that he does not want to take part in Murdoch’s leadership debate circus. This week has shown that the Labour cabinet is a capable bunch. Perhaps next week will show the Tories are the opposite. A debate would be between Cameron’s sparkly image and Gordon’s less charismatic (although stronger) image. The boy with his pocket money spending ideas and the other shadows (literally) don’t take part in such a debate so their weakness does not become apparent. If the Labour Cabinet get themselves on the TV and push the Labour achievements and intentions, the Tories will have to reveal their policies and show up their weaknesses.
“As soon as TB finished the Q & A session I took him to one side and said I had some good news. I said you remember in 1994 when I said we should try to get the Sun on board and you said you weren’t sure it was possible, well, they are. He thought it was good news in its own right, but was good in the effect it would have on the other side’s morale. I tipped off Mike Brunson at ITN. On one level, it was ridiculous that it should be seen as a big event, but the reality is that is exactly how it is seen. I felt it was a fruit of three years’ hard work, and there will be many more.”
Two thoughts on the whole Sun hysteria.
In all the carry on of the last 24hrs, the best comment I heard was on R5 this morning, saying that surely the Sun might have waited to hear what exactly he had to say on those things before coming out for Cameron. There’s a wide divide between “Labour’s lost it” and “Cameron’s got it.”
Floating voters, the non-tribals, will vote on personality, not policy, and whim rather than record. They “fancy a change” in the same way some people opt for a different holiday destination one year. If the Sun influence some of them, so be it. Just as many will be turned off by a paper attempting to sell in a party as will be swayed by it, or equally put off by Cameron’s swagger and arrogance.