Media Comment: Terry Murden
It’s The Sun wot supports both sides
Critics were quick to seize on the paper’s apparent double standards, one claiming that the title’s owner Rupert Murdoch “has no shame”. Some may be wondering what Alex Salmond might say if he was meet his News International “supporter” over drinks in the Commons bar.
The most obvious conclusion is that this is a pincer movement north and south of the border to keep Ed Miliband and Labour out of Downing Street.
But the contradictory viewpoint also tells us a lot about The Sun’s marketing as well as its editorial standards and gives a strong pointer as to how it sees the outcome of the election.
The paper never knowingly backs a loser and this election is markedly different from others because it is no longer a straight choice between Tory and Labour.
The rise of the SNP has changed the political landscape and The Sun is looking to side with the winning party (more to the point, the majority of readers) on both sides of the border.
An SNP whitewash in Scotland now appears to be a foregone conclusion and the paper is clearly hedging its bets that this will enable the Tories to form a government in Westminster. Hence, backing for the SNP and the Tories.
Ever since The Sun’s infamous “It’s The Sun Wot Won It” headline in 1992 – a reference to its support for the unlikely victors – the paper has been good at picking winners.
In 1997 it switched sides and backed New Labour and Tony Blair. Again, it was on a winner.
In 2010 it warned Britons against putting Gordon Brown back in Downing Street and his career went instantly into freefall.
Its support for Scottish independence has wavered, again in relation to the public mood and the likely outcome of any vote.
In 1992 The Scottish Sun proclaimed its support for independence with the memorable headline: “Rise Now And Be A Nation Again.” That was its one losing hand, although it may claim to have played a part in stirring the nationalist spirit.
In the 2011 Scottish General Election it backed the SNP against all odds. And looked what happened.
But it did not support constitutional change in last year’s referendum. Interestingly, its decision to put its faith in the people “to make the right choice” proved to be an astute decision given that the polls indicated in the closing stages that the vote would be close.
By effectively siding with the electorate it was able to claim it supported its readers rather than the politicians. Once again, it chose a winning ticket.