Never mind the unions. What about the Sun’s influence on the Labour leadership contest?

The Tory press hopes to shove the Labour party to the Right


Not content with telling people how to vote in the election, the Tory press is now looking to ensure the Labour party chooses a candidate it likes.

Thus we’ve seen positive coverage of so-called Blairite contenders such as Liz Kendall and Chuka Umunna (who has dropped out of the race and endorsed Kendall) and hostile coverage of the supposedly ‘Left’ contenders such as Andy Burnham.

The Times and the Telegraph ran cheerful profiles about the ‘refreshing’ Ms Kendall. Even the Sun gave the ‘bold’ MP for Leicester the sort of warm coverage usually reserved for the Conservatives, as she ‘trashed most of Ed Miliband’s policies’ and backed free schools and more defence spending.

Kendall Sun 29 May

Meanwhile, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, who has secured the backing of more Labour MPs, is bloodied in the familiar style of the general election coverage.

Today’s Sun is an exaggerated form of the general trope:

“Andy Burnham today makes a desperate bid to prove he is not a union puppet.”

That’s not from an editorial column. It’s the first line of a news story.

Burnham Sun 29 May

Despite the facts being much the same – criticism of Ed Miliband and Labour’s past, pro-business talk – the contrast with the Kendall coverage is striking. The paper pulls Burnham apart for ‘aiming to woo business’ after ‘speculation Mr Burnham is Unite union chief Len McCluskey‘s choice as leader’.

The Sun says column lays it out:

“The hasty U-turn by top Labour MPs since their election disaster is jaw-dropping.

Who knows now what Andy Burnham actually stands for? One minute he’s Ed Miliband’s class-war henchman. The next he claims ‘the entrepreneur will be as much our hero as the nurse’ and admits Labour DID spend too much.

Pull the other one. And let’s see him say it to Red Len McCluskey’s face.”

(The U-turn point is interesting. If MPs had stuck to their previous positions, the same papers would be saying they are ignoring the verdict of the electorate, and had learned nothing from past mistakes.)

The piece goes on to praise Caroline Flint, who is running for deputy leader:

“Caroline Flint was another Miliband front-bencher. But there’s a difference between her and Burnham when she says she wants to appeal to Sun readers. She sounds genuine.”

Flint Sun May 29

What has Caroline Flint done to please the Sun? Under the Burnham news story, a piece on Ms Flint begins:

“Labour needs to start attacking benefits scroungers as much as bankers if it wants to regain power, says shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint.

The party’s deputy-leader hopeful said it must speak to Sun readers and aspirational voters once more.

She added the party should be comfortable giving a ‘kick up the backside’ to those choosing to live on benefits.”

Note the contrast here. Flint is praised for sounding ‘genuinely’ more conservative than Burnham.

Meanwhile, I’ve not seen any coverage of another ‘deputy leader hopeful’: the high profile Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy, who received an increased majority on a joint Labour and Co-operative Party ticket in the general election.


Ms Creasy is thought to be on the Left of the party, and is probably best known for taking on payday loan scammers Wonga.

She ‘sounds genuine’ too, though I won’t hold my breath about Sun coverage.

Because what we see is the right-wing press hoping to move the Labour party to the right, and influence the terms not just of the leadership election debate but of future general elections.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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62 Responses to “Never mind the unions. What about the Sun’s influence on the Labour leadership contest?”

  1. harrybloggs

    the only thing the sun is good for is too cut it into squares and put it in the outside privy on a nail for sun readers

  2. Ian Young

    Are they saying anything nice about Tom Watson?

  3. fester

    @stewartdblack Existential risks requires bold moves 4 my Labour Party. Joint Declaration.
    #keirforleader #tom4deputy

  4. LesThompson

    it as became apparent that the new candidates for the labour leadership our shifting the public pasoner to the right in an attempt to curry favor with right wing press as kendall and flint former supporters of the miliband stand of predatory business and press intrusion often defines the political debate they think they’re king makers and it not there vote that will make the call it is the millions of voters and public that holed the right to vote i find it surprising well perhaps not there politische after all so seling out your principles it seems is part of politics today lets try and steer you in the right direction you as leadership candidates will need to prove your loyalty to the partei founding principles and you narrativ you prefer to portray will need to project the public opinions and aspirations what then are they, well for a out of work unemployed chap it will be work with a good way and prospects that same chap meets a girl and his needs switch to kids and a house over is head schools and work to keep the roof over is head i would put it to you that none of the above will be achieved by ignoring the fact that most homes our rented in the private sector and the need for to connect with and should the people lison we have fined himself out of work that could find himself out of work so it is time for you to think on this the sun will bump you the moment there’s a bigger story your voters remain deliver to them the narrative of aspiration ?? it means the passion to desire greater things for one’s self and family so begin to point out the failings of the tory over the years by pointing out the council homes sold of and make the argument for change in rebuilding them why well one point is the recycling of revenues of rent back to the state often you now i see the lack oF backbone to consider the need for council homes and the revenue that recycle and recover and from a income source that gets paed by most of the tenontes irrespective of class a fickle neutral narrative is needed to recapture the meaning of self sustaining government …les

    we need to build homes council homes and capitalise on the jobs they will enrich the country with the building will recycle and reduce the welfare budget and all done with a investment plan that can be kept of the debt leger as thay our assets investments returning long term assets to the state not all the center left plans our daft they make sense as is the need to sweet them assets for the sector of renters that have good jobs and remain in the property with out moving on to there own home one of the reasons the tory soiled of the homes in the first place so we sweat the council house that tenant with good jobs that will not move not move on in such a way he provides a market rent to government to build a replacement home for low paed people now we our socialist but not muges we need to become market leaders and seters not followers do not be swad by the tory press make you own press you got something to say and it sells papers they will want it …les

  5. Labouring Life

    I don’t understand this either, its not backed up by anything. Why is she a pink Tory. Its like Mary Creagh saying everyone had a go at her because she didn’t have a working class northern accent, which quite a number of MPs effect but aren’t really Denis Skinner. Bet that never happened to Glenda Jackson! The Labour party has always had wealthy middle class people (mostly thinkers and intellectuals) as part of its make up. Look at its beginnings with Sidney and Beatrice Webb, have you ever been to look at their house in Swiss Cottage, London? Its enormous. So called Red Ed introduced the idea of One Nationism to Labour…that was always a Tory slogan. All this left right pink Tory, Red whatever is bollocks. Either you are for Labour or you are not, and willing to argue out the best way to win in order to put in place policies that are central to our beliefs. Our party itself needs reform so its more transparent and leaders more easily called to account. If Blair hadn’t so carefully forgotten his promises on PR would we be here now? So I am a pink Tory, but I am in the Labour party, so how do you work with me…because we have had too many years of idiots who left (SDP) or were turfed out (personally I have no problem with Hatton rejoining). If we can’t find a way to work with the different parts of the party then we are doomed. Andy Burnham for example has nothing I can relate to, what does he know of the south and living all my life except for a short reprieve with a Tory MP, how can he speak to me or anyone in the South. Who can speak to and persuade voters in Surrey, Sussex, Kent and Hampshire as well as Manchester, Leeds, & Bradford. Who can speak to and galvanise rural voters?

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