30/09/2009

Brown Downplays Sun Political Shift

Gordon Brown is resolute the electorate will make up its own mind on his party's future, despite losing the backing of the nation's most read tabloid.

Last night the Sun revoked its 12 year support for the Labour party, just hours after the Prime Minister delivered his 'make or break' conference speech.

Party sources said they are not surprised by the shift, which will see the tabloid buoy the Tories' election campaign. Mr Brown held a series of television interviews this morning, and responded to the Sun's withdrawal insisting "it is people that decide elections".

The tabloid supported Labour during the the 1997, 2001 and 2005 elections, but its switch in support of the Tories has "delighted" David Cameron.

However, the Sun has said it is not prepared to hand over a "blank cheque" to Mr Cameron and his party, who must first earn their readership's trust.

Other senior Labour figures have downplayed the tabloid's decision, with deputy leader Harriet Harman suggesting the party would not be "bullied".

Former minister Margaret Beckett said the switch in support presented a "problem" but was not "insurmountable".
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According to Sun editor George Pascoe-Watson, Labour was given "one last chance" in 2005, but now says 12 years in government has been enough for the left-centre party.

However, the Scottish edition of the Sun has not backed the move, and will not endorse the right-wing Tories.

Mr Brown today told the BBC: "In the end we would would like the support of every newspaper, you'd like to have the support of lots of people that are not giving you support. but it is people that decide elections."

The Sun is run by News International, a company owned by Rupert Murdoch. Mr Murdoch's group also owns Sky News and the News of the World, formally edited by David Cameron's head of communications Andy Coulson.

Tories have rejected claims Mr Coulson's previous association with News International prompted the change in political direction.

Conservative Party Chairman Eric Pickles said the decision was down to Gordon Brown's "failings".

The Sun previously backed election campaigns by Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

On polling day 1992 to paper ran the headline: "If Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights."

This was placed beside a picture of the then Labour leader Neil Kinnock's face and a light bulb.

(PR/GK)

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