Letter From The Editor: The Sun's excited conversion to the cause of New Labour has left not a dry eye in the house. It has been one of the funniest things in journalism for years

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The Independent Online
We have secret polls which we shall be revealing next week showing the gap between Labour and the Tories down to just five points. Also, as everyone who is anyone now knows, there is a serious sex scandal about to break which involves senior members of the shadow cabinet, a Russian actress and some furry animals. There are reports that Neil Hamilton is defecting to New Labour and will be publicly welcomed by Tony Blair. Oh yes. And a shooting war may be about to break out in the British-mandated Georgiou Islands.

Only joking. But it would take all of the above to convince people that this election was going to be a down-to-the-wire, close contest. And what alarms the news business generally is that voters won't want to read or watch the six-week game, if they think they know the result. It's a lazy and undemocratic reaction, since the parties will be laying out detailed plans which will affect our lives, and these are the weeks when they are most open to challenge.

All we can do is promise you plenty of election-free coverage to refresh you, and ensure that the real issues are teased out and fully argued over. I notice that it tends to be older readers who are most interested. The ignorance of younger voters about the democratic system is worrying: though no fan of loading ever more on to the national curriculum, a proper course in civics and political education seems essential. Democracy is not bred in the bone. It has to be learned, and defended. If we don't test our would-be rulers now, we can hardly complain about the government we'll get later.

We are popular, it seems. The Daily Telegraph is shamelessly mimicking The Independent's masthead and slogans in an attempt to bribe readers away: the house newspaper of right-wing Tory Catholics chirpily proclaims itself "independent". At Wapping, meanwhile, the editor of The Times is belatedly trying the independence game, arguing that though he agrees with Tory policies, the Tory party seems likely to lose, and therefore he may be obliged to change sides. (So long as Rupert lets him.) What, meanwhile, of The Guardian, one paper which because of its long-term leftism, could least plausibly get involved in such mimicry? Well, this week, advertising its election coverage, it too decided it was "truly independent".

While welcoming sinners repenting, and noting that we must be doing something right, I can't help feeling there is a small difference between genuine independence of spirit, and pre-election sales gimmickry. Judging by our recent sales, quite a few others think so too.

At the tabloid end of the market, The Sun's excited conversion to the cause of New Labour has left not a dry eye in the house. It has been one of the funniest things in journalism for years.

But given that The Sun was lured into Blair's camp by his Union Jack- waving article about the iniquities of Euro-federalism, this is surely bound to end in real tears. Within weeks of taking office, a Labour cabinet would have to take key decisions about the intergovernmental conference and give equally clear signals about monetary union. Nothing I have heard makes me think those decisions and signals will please the anti-European Sun in the least.

And if it is forced to make another 180-degree turn, the fact that it has been made to look a fool this spring will stoke its anger to purple- faced hysteria.

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