The Sun and it’s sister paper The Scottish Sun have given their verdicts on who they want to win next week’s general election. However this time The Sun isn’t just endorsing one political party but two: the SNP and the Conservatives.
While the UK edition of The Sun announced its support for the Tories, calling on the British public to vote Conservatives to “stop the SNP running the country”, The Scottish Sun backed the Scottish National Party saying it will “fight harder for Scotland’s interests at Westminster”.
The Sun’s front page on Thursday showed a mocked-up image of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge holding up a newborn David Cameron – referring to the arrival of a new royal baby. The headline declared : “It’s a Tory! After fears of hard Labour and a long, painful delivery, the news the nation’s been waiting for”. The newspaper also said that only the Tories can prevent a nightmarish Labour government, propped up by the saboteurs of the SNP.
On the contrary, the front page of The Scottish Sun, inspired by Star Wars, portrayed Nicola Sturgeon as Princess Leia encouraging voters to support her as a “new hope” for Scotland. The Scottish edition of the newspaper said that the Conservatives didn’t understand Scotland and praised Nicola Sturgeon, describing her as inspirational.
Could the UK’s biggest-selling newspaper influence the outcome of next week’s election?
In 1992, The Sun announced on its front page “It’s The Sun Wot Won It”, bragging that it had won the general election for John Major’s Conservatives. The claim was based on the newspaper’s increasingly personal campaign against the Labour leader at the time Neil Kinnock which led to speculation that Rupert Murdoch was actually pulling the strings to achieve a Conservative victory.
With a daily circulation close to two million, it’s evident that The Sun has an impact on the political landscape. But is the newspaper seeking to influence its readers’ political views or simply echo them?
It is impossible to say how much newspapers influence their readers and whether their standpoint can switch who the public would vote for. Newspapers might also follow the opinions of their readership rather than trying to dictate them.
“The Sun is written first and foremost for its readers, and the UK edition and Scottish edition have two very distinct audiences”, a spokesperson for The Sun told the BBC.
“If Scotland and England were playing each other at football, no one would expect The Scottish Sun to support the English national team.”
Andrew Nicoll, political editor of The Scottish Sun, denied to the BBC that this was a cynical move to block Labour leader Ed Miliband from power, or a commercially-driven decision. Nicoll said that his paper’s decision to back Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP, who some polls predict are on course to wipe Labour out of Scotland by winning every seat, reflected two distinct editorial positions.
Darren Lilleker, associate Professor of Political Communication at Bournemouth University, agrees that The Sun tries to appeal to its readership and the decision to back both the SNP and the Conservatives may not be tactical.
“It depends who controls both newspapers. Murdoch owns them but it is said he leaves editors to set the papers’ agendas.” However, support for the Tories in England and SNP in Scotland may aid the Conservatives overall, Lilleker says.
Both editions of The Sun have changed their allegiance to political parties over the years and during the Scottish independence referendum, neither newspaper stated their position.
Whereas it’s impossible to say who is in fact pulling the strings of the two newspapers – Rupert Murdoch, editorial teams or the opinions of the readership – it is certain that The Sun’s message will reach its nearly two million readers.