Interesting response to my (third last!) letter yesterday asking why you don’t vote in local council elections. And, as if the message of disaffection with politicians were not clear enough, then The Sun ruined my (i won’t tell you how to vote) punchline by not endorsing a party for the first time in decades.
Rupert Murdoch (full disclosure, I used to work for him, and happily so) likes to back winners. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t? But, let’s also be honest: most people don’t make it so obvious. That The Sun did not come off the fence is as clear a sign as any that there was no telling ahead of yesterday’s vote what would happen.
Two factors make it even more complicated. Newspapers have less influence on voting habits than they/we think. It was never “The Sun wot won it” but The Sun did cleverly ride the Thatcher wave, just as it did with Blair after her. All through those elections it was remarkable how many Labour supporters bought the pro-Thatcher Sun, and notable how many Tories stayed with the paper during its pro-Blair years.
The second factor is UKIP – or rather that party’s “racist” stigma. For years, newspapers like The Sun and The Mirror have been trying to figure out who their modern readership is. Who are today’s working class? Certainly not the Andy Capp blue-collar wearers of old. So newspapers that might embrace a surging new voice in the political landscape are wary. I’d like to think it’s because they don’t want to associate themselves with racism, and not because they are unsure whether or not UKIP is here to stay.