Murdoch delivers body blow to Brown

By Liz Stephens

There was bad news for the Labour party this morning after the Sun newspaper ran the front page headline “Labour’s lost it” just hours after Gordon Brown’s triumphant keynote speech.

The headline was a clear sign that News International, the Rupert Murdoch-owned corporation which owns the Sun – Britain’s most read tabloid newspaper – has abandoned its support for the Labour party after 12 years.

However, the Scottish version of the Sun will not be backing the Tories. It’s editor David Dinsmore said he hadn’t “seen enough evidence of [Cameron’s] commitment to Scotland”.

The prime minister was quick to play down the significance of the move this morning.

In an interview with GMTV, Mr Brown said: “It’s the British people that decide elections. It’s the British people that I’m interested in and it’s the British people that I was talking about yesterday.

“Newspapers are entitled to their opinions. Obviously you want newspapers to be for you. But I’ve got an old-fashioned view. You look to newspapers for news, not propaganda. I don’t think editorials will decide elections,” he said.

It has been rumoured that the Sun’s decision to ‘switch sides’ was a direct result of Mr Brown’s failure to confirm during his speech that he would be taking part in a televised debate in the lead up to the next election.

The televised debate idea was being pushed by Sky, another Murdoch-owned corporation.

Other sources have speculated that the withdrawal of News International’s support was a direct result of Mr Murdoch’s dissatisfaction over the government’s new Digital Britain strategy.

While others have debated whether the appointment of the former editor of the Murdoch-owned News of the World as the Conservatives’ Director of Communications may have influenced the decision to switch backing to the Tories.

Speaking on the BBC’s Newsnight programme last night, energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband said he had “seen better headlines”.

Mr Miliband, who will be writing Labour’s election manifesto, said: “I think the Sun has made the wrong judgement.”

The Sun was staunchly Tory through the Thatcher and Major years of Conservative rule but switched sides to Labour for the 1997 election. When Labour won that election, the sun ran the headline: “It’s The Sun Wot Won It.”

Yesterday, Mr Brown gave a rousing speech to the Labour party conference during which he urged activists not to give up on believing that Labour could win a fourth election.

“Now is not the time to give in, but to reach inside ourselves for the strength of our convictions,” he said.

However, the prime minister may face a tough fight ahead. On Monday an Ipsos Mori poll put the party in third place behind the Liberal Democrats.