Labour’s strategy for dealing with The Sun is ludicrous

by Kevin Meagher

Last week, The Sun newspaper ran a feature inviting each party leader to wear a wristband showing their support for the Help for Heroes charity. David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage featured. Ed Miliband did not.

There are conflicting accounts about exactly what happened, with the paper maintaining it made several attempts to secure the Labour Leader’s buy-in; while party sources claim they weren’t given enough time to comply with the request. In the event, the paper ran its front page piece, with a blank space reserved for Miliband, blaming his no-show on a “fear of offending Labour lefties.”

Amid the accusations and counter-accusations, what is clear is that the party’s explanation for not co-operating – citing Ed Miliband’s prior diary commitments – was disingenuous nonsense. It would have taken a press officer five seconds to grab a quick photo. But worse than being disingenuous, it was stupid, too, given the paper would inevitably “empty chair” Miliband for refusing to participate.

In fact, it was so obvious how things would turn out that there must have been a deeper motive. Indeed, there remain many voices in the party that want to boycott the paper as punishment for its coverage of the Hillsborough tragedy as well as the illegal phone-hacking scandal; and the party’s strategy is clearly driven by these considerations.

But boycotting The Sun is a disastrous tactic, the worst form of gesture politics. What’s the desired result? To make a principled stand against the quality of its journalism? To hurt Rupert Murdoch commercially? Of course, if anyone’s serious about punishing Murdoch or boycotting The Sun, then why not its News UK stablemate, The Times, as well? Or, better still, cancel your Sky subscription.

Worse, Labour’s approach is unevenly implemented. Ed Miliband was content to pose with a World Cup edition of the paper back in June before u-turning and apologising for doing so after ruffling the feathers of some within the party.

Disgusting though The Sun’s coverage of Hillsborough was, many other papers at the time published similar slurs against Liverpool football fans, egged on by media briefings given by South Yorkshire Police. And now the Mirror Group has conceded that some if its staff were also eavesdropping on private voicemails, so will Labour figures shun The Mirror, too?

For the Leader of the Labour party to freeze-out the best-selling tabloid newspaper in the land is an emotional spasm, not serious politics. Worse, it is counter-productive, doomed to hurt Labour more than it bothers Murdoch and removes, at a stroke, a direct channel between the party and millions of voters.

It is often said that Murdoch backs winners, and with all the polls indicating Labour will emerge from the next election with the largest number of seats, The Sun’s endorsement is there for the grabbing. At the very least, tactical engagement with the paper would ensure there is no repeat of the destructive, vindictive coverage the party received in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The simple fact is this: a political party has to get its message across to as many voters as possible by all means possible. Perhaps some within Labour’s ranks don’t agree, but, hey, at least they’ll have their principles intact as they watch act two of David Cameron’s premiership after 2015.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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8 Responses to “Labour’s strategy for dealing with The Sun is ludicrous”

  1. BenM says:

    I think this piece is drivel. Ed hasn’t suffered one iota from shunning the Sun’s clumsy use of a charity for political purposes.

    But this is interesting:

    “it is counter-productive, doomed to hurt Labour more than it bothers Murdoch and removes, at a stroke, a direct channel between the party and millions of voters.”

    Direct line?!!!

    Blair’s courting of The Sun and Murdoch cost him the first 5 years of his tenure as PM. It blinded Blair to the power he had at his fingertips, when he could easily have pushed a more traditional Labour programme and let the Sun go hang while the Tories destroyed themselves.

    Time Blairites acknowledged that.

  2. swatantra says:

    At some point Labour has to say NO to the SUN. And Ed did it, with the wristband thing. Its a relief that Ed is saying NO to page 3, to dumbing down of questions on morality, and NO to a Thatcherite Agenda, and NO to underhand and unscrupulous journalism.
    At the end of the day it is the right thing to do. And no regrets.

  3. John Reid says:

    Have Labour actually say they’re boycotting the Sun?,
    this article makes awkward reading,but alas it’s right,

    we have been very lucky by geting back ex .lib Dem votes ans Ukip,mainly gaining support from the Tories,

    But to not talk to the sun, through fear of offending people is daft, it’s like Labiur HQ last year telling dan Hodges not to criticise Owen jones through fear of offending the student radical, middle class vote, but by ignoring people who have realistic sympathetic views,even though they may offend the elite,because ,there are those on the left,who’s dedication to anti capitalist socialism,is so pure, they over look sexism,or bin democrats ,if we blank out those who have socially conservative concerns on Immigartion, the EU and read the sun, then we’ll just let the far left infultrate and be obsessed with minority concerns, that sort of appeasement ,lead to the road to ruin,

  4. Ex Labour says:

    And what about the wreath incident with Moribund as well. Same excuse”no time, diary commitments blah blah..”

    Once may be mistake, twice is begining to look like a pattern as far as his support for the armed services is concerned.

    Ignoring the Sun is a silly thing to do and so is being seen as anti-army and it will come back to bite Moribund in the arse.

  5. Landless Peasant says:

    No chance of Ed posing with a copy of the Morning Star I suppose.

  6. Tafia says:

    Liverpool supporters do not buy The Sun anyway because of Hillsboro and it’s sales figures on Merseyside remain abysmally low with many independent newspaper shops even refusing to stock it.

    Because of incidents involving away supporters taunting Liverpool fans by waving the newspaper at them, anywhere near the ground on a match day if the Police see you with a copy they will confiscate it.

  7. John Reid says:

    BenM, the idea that it was only the Sun,that had yo be wooed ,to get labour to win,in 97 is daft,we had to appeal to things former working class’s labour voters who voted Tory 4 times ,we concerned about,tax, and the unions, and not the far left running things,it was that thought at the back of their minds that saw them not coming back to Labour in 92,
    As for 2001 the Sun weren’t massive supporters of us at that election, they knew we were gonna win,and backed a winner, the year 2000 there were endless anti labour headlines on asylum and immigration,in 1998 the sun! has it’s his the most dangerous man in a British! regarding Blair not being able to condemn close EU links, 1999 Mcpherson report, the sun, was scathing of Jack straw, letting far left groups hijack it, to label all the far left who were calling everyone racist get away with it, and the sun, were critical of both holding Pinochet,and getting rid of section 28,

    By 2001 we’d have won without the sun, but it helped us get 41% at the ballot box! only twice in the last 48 years have we got more than 40%

  8. Tafia says:

    In fact so bitter is the whole Hillsboro thing that when Kelvin McKenzie was going to run as a candidate in a Parliamentary by-Election a few years back the Liverpool supporters club said that if he did, they would send a coach load of supporters every day and hound him. He decided not to stand.

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