Newspapers: At 40, is 'The Sun' facing a mid-life crisis?

As Britain's biggest-selling daily paper reaches a milestone, we asked the experts whether it still packs a punch


Lord Tebbit

Lord Tebbit

Former chairman of the Conservative Party

It is still a great newspaper. I wrote for it for a number of years and what I found was that The Sun presents complex ideas with a fairly limited vocabulary and that's tough journalism. I think a mark of its quality is its political editor [Trevor Kavanagh]. He doesn't stay there for nothing, you know. He thinks it still has influence, and so do I. Yes, it is capable of being vulgar and over-the-top, but the excesses are rare.

Sir Gerald Kaufman

Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sports Committee

It is, without doubt, the most influential newspaper published in Britain today. Forget so-called opinion-formers; I am interested in the people who actually elect me. It consistently hits the spot in the way that its competitors don't. No newspaper gets everything right all the time, but The Sun comes close.

Ann Widdecombe

MP for Maidstone and the Weald

What can one say about The Sun? Well, it serves a market. I know that whenever I have been asked to write for the newspaper I just haven't been able to. I can write Mail-ese, I can write Express-ese but I just can't do Sun-ese, which involves very small sentences of words of no more than two syllables. It writes from its gut instinct and says what people are thinking. I think page 3 is demeaning to women and I think they should get rid of it, but there is not much else I would change. I remember being struck dumb in the newsagents when I saw the "Up Yours Delors!" headline. It was tacky but it was brilliantly tacky.

Alice Mahon

MP for Halifax and campaigner against The Sun's page 3

The Sun isn't a newspaper that I like. I think it almost goes out of its way to degrade women. If you take page 3 as an example, it's an idea whose time has passed - it's terribly old hat. They never had a particular go at me but I was caught up in the general mêlée when Clare Short and I and some others tried to get them to stop it. As for its politics - well, people say they support Labour but they don't. They support No 10 which is not the same thing at all. On the Iraq war they were appalling. Appalling and wrong. And we were right, weren't we?

Chris Horrie

Co-author of 'Stick It Up Your Punter', a history of the paper

It's probably less influential now than it was, but it's still very powerful. Clare Short told me that David Blunkett would shake with fear when he thought about how his policies would play with the paper. It's a negative kind of power, though, a kind of veto it has. The Sun can't put anything on the agenda - for example, if it decided to get behind the Green Party everyone would just ignore it. But if it goes negative on you, you've got a problem. It proved it with Foot, and Kinnock and then Major. The Sun is the nearest thing we have in this country to the political adverts that decide US elections - the demolition jobs and character assassinations that would not be allowed in an advertising campaign in this country. Then again it only has power because politicians believe it has power. If they just ignored it maybe things would be different.

Lord Bell

Chairman of PR firm Bell Pottinger and formerly Margaret Thatcher's election adviser

Its political influence was greater when it was more unpredictable. It had a different way of looking at things. Now there are so many more products in the media that are trying to be versions of it. That's where a lot of its influence lies - on the rest of the media, right through to the BBC. The way they report things has been copied. Content on television - celebrity gossip and reality rubbish - bears a closer resemblance to The Sun than to any other newspaper. I still love it. It's brilliantly put together. It's just difficult for it to go on being ground-breaking.

Clive Soley

Former chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party and privacy law campaigner

It's changed journalism but not, I think, for the better. It was in the gutter for a long time. To be fair it has improved recently. Not just because it supports Labour but because it made itself believable in a way that it simply wasn't during the Kelvin MacKenzie era. As for the future, I think David Yelland was right. It's old market is disappearing and it's got to pull itself upmarket somehow.

Bonnie Greer

Critic and writer

It seems to be a very fragile newspaper, probably the most fragile. It has Trevor Kavanagh, the Political Editor, who commands huge respect and then there's the rest of the paper. It does show you a lot about the power interest in the UK. It has a number of constituencies, which it has to keep happy. It must have access to power and keep its circulation. So, the need to keep all those balls in the air makes it fragile. I don't think it does more harm than any other paper, or any more good. It has this particular remit of being the biggest-selling paper in the country, and it has to be that way.

Interviews by Francis Elliott and Simon O'Hagan

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager (EMEA) - City, London

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?