Today, the Sun announced (having trailed their front page by sending out emails to loads of leading bloggers – but where was mine, eh?) that they will be backing the Conservatives in the next General Election.
This is not a huge surprise. They have been in a ‘neutral’ position for some time, and even when they did back Labour it was always from the basis that the Tories were rubbish and that New Labour were adopting policies they could get behind. There’s a hint that they only back the party likely to win anyway, so as to curry favour for Mr Murdoch when it comes to media regulation. There’s a fair amount of following readers rather than leading them as well.
I’m not going to go over the reactions, as they are not very much use – either dismissive, as if a paper read by millions can be ignored, or too angry, as if Labour has been betrayed by an old friend. What interesting is the timing…
During the Labour Conference, on the day after the PM’s speech, is clearly a time to give some kind of verdict on the Government. Fair enough. However, the Tories haven’t had their conference yet. What if they manage (wishful thinking perhaps) mess it up? What if they drop a right clanger? Surely it would have been better to have a two-stage strategy: visibly abandon Labour today but put the Tories on notice that they are being watched, and then next week, after ‘careful consideration’ of the performance of the Conservatives, give them a resounding endorsement.
Not only would that allow the Sun a way to avoid a hasty decision, so that they could instead simply call for ‘ABL’ (anyone but Labour), but it would give them two opportunities to make a big splash – after all, they are in the business of selling papers.