By Matt Taylor
Now you might think that The Sun is a shameless excuse for a newspaper with nothing but gossip about celebrities who’ve got no reason to be celebrated…but…being the best selling rag in the country it holds some serious sway over the population despite its far from serious outlook on what masquerades as news these days.
Today the most notorious of red-tops revealed that it had swung from favouring Labour, the party it has backed since just before Blair’s election victory in ’97, in a blow which will surely knock Gordon Brown’s confidence in spite of his defiant speech to the Labour conference yesterday.
But don’t dismiss this as the irrelevant ramblings of a tabloid unworthy of serious attention. The Sun, the UK’s top selling newspaper, clocks up a circulation of getting on for three million with estimated readers trebling that. And it has a history of appearing to be able to sway its readers towards one party or the other. In 1997 it burnt its two decade-standing Tory bridges to support New Labour and Tony Blair six weeks before a landslide victory the title
itself among others attributed partly to its ability to affect public political opinion. And previously the tabloid had announced that it was “the Sun Wot Won it” after it declared “If Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave
Britain please turn out the lights” over a hard-fought election that saw the Welshman defeated. Even Kinnock himself blamed the Sun for causing him to lose the election to the hapless John Major.
Okay, today it doesn’t command the kind of circulation it once did. But now the Sun supplements its sales figures by topping the online charts too, having recently overtaken the reputable Guardian Online for web-based readers. So this is in no uncertain terms a big thing. And although many commentators along with the indications of polls suggested that a Tory goverment led by Cameron could be winging its way to Number 10, the move by news magnate Rupert Murdoch’s title could spell no way back for Brown or anyone else at the head of the Labour party.
And it’s been a long time coming. The Sun’s own columnist Trevor Kavanagh said that “Nobody can accuse The Sun of a rush to judgement. This newspaper has supported Labour through for 12 roller coaster years”.
The same kind of sentiment can be said for the people of Stoke-on-Trent – except their allegiance to a party which once stood for values they held close to their hearts lasted much longer than the Sun’s twelve years. A Labour stronghold now without any Labour councillors in its decision-making team goes to show just how public opinion has gone against a Labour Party which never delivered its promise the working class who stuck by them so steadfastly.
We already have a Tory in charge here in Stoke-on-Trent, and we’re unsure yet whether anything is (or will get any) better. But would a change back to the blues locally and nationally bring back the fortunes of the country and dispel the fears of many who think the current government has lost its way? Or would things simply go from bad to worse?