Is it the Sun wot’s done it for Gordon Brown?
The Sun’s declaration of support for David Cameron is a carefully timed missile aimed at knocking out any possible positive impact that the PM’s speech might have had – in short, doing its best to ensure that this Murdoch paper is where it always wants to be, on the winning side.
No.10 could see that a Cameron endorsement was coming down the tracks but coming last night, with lethal timing, lethal intent, it really hurt. You could see some of that on the Prime Minister’s face in a couple of his breakfast round of interviews on TV this morning, but he was also being harried quite a bit – actually, more than I can remember seeing in UK politics in recent times.
The Browns invested quite a bit personally over the years in cultivating the Murdoch empire, and The Sun newspaper in particular, to the astonishment and mild horror of some Cabinet ministers – social gatherings, favoured access. You don’t do that if you think the paper is powerless.
It is worth digging out an old Nuffield study by Martin Linton (then of The Guardian, now an MP) – “It’s the Sun Wot Won It” – for analysis of just how much difference it really made in 1992.
That headline, by the way, survived only one edition of The Sun on results morning after the 1992 general election. Rupert Murdoch got wind of it and told the editor to rip it up. “The Sun” should have influence but not advertise it so ostentatiously.
On Radio 4’s Today programme Gordon Brown admitted he had made up his mind on TV debates. It’s a yes but he doesn’t want to tell us yet, and there are details to be worked out. No.10 has been exploring the prospect of doing a series of debates, Cameron/Clegg, Brown/Clegg, maybe with two Cameron/Brown debates. All sorts of permutations.