London : Britain’s most popular tabloid newspaper Wednesday said it was backing the opposition Conservative Party at the next election, but Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisted that it was the “people that decide elections”.
The newspaper, part of the News Corporation media empire owned by Rupert Murdoch, declared on its front page: “Labour’s Lost It”.
“After 12 long years in power, this government has lost its way,” said the paper, which backed Labour in the 1997, 2001 and 2005 elections.
But Brown, fighting to keep Labour in power in the face of a slew of polls favouring the Conservatives in elections due by June 3, 2010, shrugged off the challenge, saying: “It’s the British people’s views I’m interested in.”
The Sun’s move came a day after Brown told the last Labour conference before the next elections that the ruling party was “not done yet”.
The Sun, whose sales of well over three million copies a day makes it Britain’s best-selling newspaper, is considered an important opinion-maker among the country’s working classes, as well as a barometer of popular opinion.
The paper backed the Conservative Party’s John Major against Labour’s Neil Kinnock in 1990, with an election-day headline declaring: “If Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights.”
When Kinnock lost, it declared: “It’s The Sun Wot Won It.”
The BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson said the paper had “timed its big political switch… for maximum impact both in terms of gaining attention for the paper and taking the gloss off Mr Brown’s big day”.
Conservative Party Chairman Eric Pickles described the switch as “good news” but denied it was linked to his party’s decision to appoint Andy Coulson – former editor of the Murdoch tabloid News of the World – as its head of communications.
Derek Simpson, the leader of Britain’s largest workers’ union Unite, said: “Gordon Brown sounded more like a Labour prime minister than ever during his speech to the conference yesterday and obviously The Sun couldn’t stomach it.”