The Sun is telling readers to vote tactically to beat Labour

The Murdoch-owned paper is openly campaigning for the Conservatives


‘Vote smart’ says the Sun‘s leader column today, with ‘smartness’ of course meaning ‘what we want you to do’.

And what the Sun wants people to do is vote tactically to keep Labour out of government.

Fighting your way through pictures of the royal family in today’s paper, you’ll find a two-page spread featuring a map of the United Kingdom. The Sun has helpfully identified 26 shaky seats where a vote for UKIP would “allow Labour to steal victory from the Tories on Thursday”, as the paper puts it.

It goes on to tell voters they should vote for the Liberal Democrats in another 14 seats to ‘get Cam[eron] in No10’.

Sun's tactical votes spread

After the usual slurs on Labour and Miliband (‘propped up by the SNP’ etc.), the Sun’s leader column instructs readers as follows:

Study this page. If you’re in one of those battlegrounds, hold your nose and vote Tory on Thursday to keep Labour out.

Farage has urged supporters to vote ‘as wisely as they can’. We believe this is what he means.

We have a similar message for Tories in 14 unwinnable seats where only the Lib Dems can beat Labour: Give the Lib Dems your vote this time.

Each one is a small step towards locking Milband, his class warriors, the unions and the SNP out of Downing Street.

I think it’s fair to call this open campaigning by a national newspaper. This could have been written by a Conservative party press officer.

It’s also worth noting the change of tone from only a few weeks ago, when the same paper was telling us how wonderful George Osborne was and how no other parties are really worth mentioning. Suddenly there are ‘unwinnable seats’, a threat from UKIP and a good chance of the beloved Tories losing.

One could almost feel sorry for the paper. After throwing everything it had at this election, and after the polls refuse to budge an inch, it has to beg readers to ‘hold your nose and vote Tory’.

THE SUN FRONT PAGE 19.03.15. Georges epic strut Budget
The Sun’s front page, March 19: George’s epic strut

Interestingly, today the Times, which just happens to share a proprietor with the Sun, also advises readers to ‘vote Clegg’, though for some positive reasons too. And recently the Daily Mail ran a 48 hour campaign, replete with front page stories and an article by David Cameron, to urge UKIP fans to ‘come home’ and vote Tory.

This is a shift worth noticing: from ‘no-one can possibly vote Labour’ to ‘oh dear lots of people will vote Labour, so we better try something else’.

It’s as good an example as any of how the newspapers try to influence public opinion, and indeed public action in the ballot box, rather than simply reflect it.

This is not a democratic way to behave, any more than it’s democratic to suggest parties elected to office (some backed by democratically elected unions) would be ‘stealing victory’ from a party you prefer.

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


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