There is a very interesting little dance taking place in Scotland at the moment between Alex Salmond’s SNP and Rupert Murdoch’s Sun.
Not obvious bedfellows you might think, but it looks increasingly likely the Sun will come out for the Nationalists, or certainly personally endorse Salmond, in advance of the Scottish elections next month.
The paper has regularly been splashing on celebrity endorsements for the SNP, and is even organising a ‘business breakfast’ for the First Minister, something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago when the Sun’s front page showed a big rope and a big headline ‘Vote SNP today and you put Scotland’s head in the noose’.
So has the Murdoch Empire changed its view of Nationalism? Of course not. But it knows what David Cameron wants out of this election, and that is not a Labour win. The Tories know they have no chance in what is a two-horse race between Labour and SNP, and of those two, they would prefer Salmond to Labour’s Iain Gray. That is another very good reason to vote for Iain Gray.
On many aspects of policy, there has always been far greater closeness between the Tories and the SNP than Salmond would like his more nationalist-inclined supporters to think. It has been noteworthy how his attacks on the Tory government, despite the massive cuts they are making, have been far less strident or consistent than those he made against Labour under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
In any campaign, on balance you’d probably rather have newspapers broadly supportive than pouring bucketloads of bile all over your head. But Labour should take heart from the fact that during the last general election the Sun shouted far more loudly for the Tories than they are even shouting for the SNP now. And the Tories secured one solitary seat in Scotland.
So whilst Salmond mayh be tempted to grin even more broadly when the Sun finally endorses him, he will be a little fearful of the insight many Scots will hold that they’re doing it to help a Tory government in Westminster, not because they care too deeply what happens in Holyrood.
‘Vote Salmond, help Cameron’ does not strike me as the kind of slogan he needs right now. But the Sun may be about to give it to him whether he likes it or not.