(Update 30 Sep 2009: The Sun ditches Gordon Brown and backs David Cameron. Read more)
As The Sun ushers in a new editor today the debate continues over how much political clout the country’s leading red top really exerts.
Certainly Gordon Brown and David Cameron continue to flirt with Rupert Murdoch in the hope of winning his favour, the furtive glances ever more urgent as we approach a 2010 general election.
We know our history, too. The Sun saw off Neil Kinnock in 1992 (‘If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights’ etc), and a timely leader endorsing Labour ensured Tony Blair’s coronation in 1997. That’s the way it’s told, at least.
Trevor Kavanagh, the paper’s associate editor, made a strong case for The Sun’s continuing influence speaking on the Today Programme this morning. His readers, he said, may not be party political in the way they were in the 1980s and 1990s but they are, nonetheless, politically active:
“[Our readers] are deeply interested in the ingredients of politics. They are interested in the crime on the streets, they’re interested in Afghanistan and the way the war has been fought there … and how they get to work in gridlocked Britain.”
And yet, there has always been a suspicion that readers of The Sun buy the paper for the sport, celebrity and page 3. Politics (big P or small p) is merely filler.
In the pre-internet days that was simply a thesis. But let’s consider today’s five most read stories on The Sun website and ask whether the Westminster obsession might just be a delusion:
– The Express Fiddles While The Mail Earns
– Daily Mail Ends Moderation. Will Anybody Notice?
– Fox News Anchor To Rupert Murdoch: ‘Mr Chairman Sir, Why Are You So Great?’
– What’s Wrong With This Telegraph Front Page?