Newspapers overwhelmingly opt for the Tories

 

MEDIA:THE FRONT page of yesterday’s Sun, with its reworking of the iconic Barack Obama Hope poster featuring Tory leader David Cameron next to the headline “Our Only Hope”, was just the latest in a long line of provocative interventions in British general elections.

Remember its 1992 election day cover which asked: “If Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave Britain turn out the lights?”

Following the Tories’ subsequent – and unexpected – win, the paper ran a gloating front page claiming it was the Sun“wot won it”. But the Sun, like the News of the World, its sister title in the News International stable, was to later throw its support behind Tony Blair.

The two papers’ endorsement of the Tories this week marks a departure from more than a decade of support for New Labour.

In this election the Conservatives have support from the largest number of daily newspapers in Britain. As Press Gazette, a British media trade magazine, has noted, Labour has found itself with “the unequivocal support of no national newspaper” for the first time since the second World War.

The Timesdeclared its support for the Conservatives last weekend, stating in an editorial that this was the first time in 18 years it had endorsed the party.

In a Monday editorial, the Financial Times, which had not backed the Tories since 1987, concluded that “on balance, the Conservative Party best fits the bill”.

Support from the Daily Telegraph, which has favoured the Tories in every election since 1945, was never in doubt.

The Daily Mailalso declared for the Conservatives, although it griped that David Cameron’s ideology was “sometimes woolly”.

The position of Britain’s left-leaning newspapers has thrown up a few surprises, not least the Guardian’sabandoning of Labour in favour of the Lib Dems.

In a lengthy editorial last week, the paper said that were it to have a vote, it would be “cast enthusiastically” for Nick Clegg’s party. It also advocated tactical voting for Labour where necessary.

The Guardian’schange of position prompted a slew of angry letters and accusations of betrayal from readers. Its sister paper the Observer also gave its backing to the Lib Dems.

Less forthright than the Guardian, the Independent nonetheless argued that “there is a strong case for progressively minded voters to lend their support to the Liberal Democrats wherever there is a clear opportunity for that party to win,” but it also urged tactical Labour voting in marginal constituencies.

Even the Mirror, which has backed Labour since 1945, offered qualified support. The tabloid said that while its political allegiance had not changed, it was calling for tactical Lib Dem voting to keep the Tories out.

The extent to which these declarations of allegiance influence public opinion is debatable. A Press Gazette survey last month found that 90 per cent of respondents said they were not affected by the media when it came to deciding how to vote.