​Mixed messages? Murdoch’s Sun backs Tories, while Scottish edition backs SNP

Reuters / Finbarr O'Reilly
The “two faced” Sun newspaper has been slammed for openly endorsing rival parties in two of its editions. The UK edition urges the public to vote Tory, while the Scottish edition calls for the public to back the Scottish National Party (SNP).

The titles owned by Rupert Murdoch have released their pre-election verdicts just seven days ahead of polling day.

In the lead up to May 7, the Sun has published a slew of pro-Tory and anti-Labour stories, encouraging its readers to back Prime Minister David Cameron.

‘The Sun’s election persuasion history’

The right-wing paper, which is at the heart Murdoch’s empire, has a long history of seeking to influence elections.

After the “unexpected” Conservative Party victory in the 1992 general election, the Sun’s cover read: “It’s the Sun wot [sic] won it.”

The paper ran an anti-Labour campaign, attacking then-leader Neil Kinnock, which culminated on election day with the headline: “If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights.”

It appears the paper is resurrecting the tradition, but using a less blatant strategy to demolish Murdoch’s least desired party and keep Ed Miliband out of Downing Street.

Miliband found himself in Murdoch’s crosshairs after Labour pledged to “take steps to protect the principle of media plurality, so that no media outlet can get too big” and disproportionately influence voters, according to the New Statesman.

‘Two faced response’

The Sun’s UK edition, published on Thursday, urged the public to vote Tory.

The headline read “It’s a Tory,” over an image depicting Cameron as a baby cradled in Kate Middleton's arms, suggesting a Tory government will be reborn.

The cover further listed three reasons why the public should vote Tory: “Keep the UK on track, stop SNP running the country and guarantee referendum on EU.”

The “contradictory” Scottish edition encouraged Scottish voters to back the SNP. Under the headline “Stur Wars,” a play on Nickola Sturgeon, is a mockup of the SNP leader as Star Wars heroine Princess Leia.

The covers were released shortly after an Ipsos Mori poll showed the SNP could potentially win every one of Scotland’s 59 seats, obliterating the Labour Party in its traditional heartland.

The Sun’s main rival in Scotland, the Daily Record, accused the paper on Twitter of a “two-faced response.”

“Downtown tabloid the Sun endorsing the SNP in Scotland, but backing Tories in England to ‘stop SNP running the country’.Nope, us neither,” Record staff tweeted.

However, critics on social media suggest the Sun is “split in its support.”

'Murdoch Power'

Speaking to RT, Simon Morris, campaigner at Occupy Rupert Murdoch, a group that aims to fight Murdoch “corruption,” said the cover “exemplifies the political influence the media mogul holds over the UK public through his media empire.”

"The narrative published through his publications is that a Conservative victory is the best for the people,” he added.

Morris finds it “galling” that the Sun portrays itself as the paper of the people, when its editors really “encourage people to vote against their best interests through narrowing the field of political discourse and setting an agenda in Murdoch’s best interest.”

‘Sun denies anti-Labour strategy’

Andrew Nicoll, political editor of the Scottish Sun, told BBC Scotland the political split was consistent as both editions were “distinct, editorially-diverse newspapers.”

Nicoll denied a deliberate anti-Labour strategy.

In the time that I’ve worked for the Sun we’ve supported the Labour party, the SNP, the Tories. We’ve fought vigorously against the SNP, we’ve supported the SNP.”

Sometimes that support has gone the way the vote has gone, sometimes it hasn’t. The people of Scotland seem to have chosen the SNP, and we’re going with them,” he added.

The Sun’s head of PR Dylan Sharpe tweeted a statement by the paper which said: “The Sun is written first and foremost for its readers, and the UK edition and Scottish edition have two very distinct audiences.”