Mike over at Vox Political has written this piece, Manipulation (clumsy, obvious and failed), on the rabid support for the Tories and the SNP respectively in the separate editions of the Sun for south and north of the Border. For England and Wales, the Scum proudly proclaims Cameron as the political titan leading us all into a new age of prosperity, and saving us all from those dreadful people in the Labour party and SNP.
The Scottish Sun and Sturgeon as Star Wars Heroine
Viewers in Scotland have their own programme, as the TV broadcasters say. There the Sun has portrayed Nicola sturgeon as Princess Leia from Star Wars, offering A New Hope. Presumably this reference to Star Wars means that they hope her term as political titan (Scots version) will be followed by five sequels. This metaphor could be a very mixed message for SNP voters and Sun readers, if it’s remembered that despite the massive affection for the films by Star Wars fans all over the world, the last three were pretty much panned by the critics. The first of the sequels, The Phantom Menace, was accused of racism and homophobia. Jar Jar Binks, who was clearly intended by Lucas to be a sympathetic comic underdog, instead managed to annoy just about everyone. To the point that one group of fans released their own, bootleg version, The Phantom Edit, which had the character edited out completely.
And the three sequels chart the gradual corruption of Annekin Skywalker from promising young pilot, robot creator and Jedi apprentice, to the Sith lord of evil, Darth Vader. Which could be a metaphor for the corruption of British politics from the 1970s onwards due to the pernicious influence of one Rupert Murdoch. There is a Chancellor Palpatine, and he’s in charge of New International and Fox News. It’s so much easier than a high profile political post.
Murdoch, the SNP and a Tory Victory
Mike makes the point that the Scottish Sun’s support of Sturgeon and the Scots Nationalists is a marriage of convenience, intended to ensure that the SNP destroy Labour in Scotland, and curtail wider support for Labour in the rest of the UK, thus ensuring an overall Tory victory. Mike writes of the Murdoch press that
They reckon that, with this pluralism, they can encourage enough Sun readers to vote Tory in England and Wales, while the Scots have been primed to vote SNP already – locking Labour out of office and putting Cameron back into Downing Street.
Rupert is banking on Labour sticking to its refusal to work with the SNP, leaving the way open for another Conservative-led Coalition government. That way, we can all look forward to another “It’s the Sun what won it!” headline in the south, and a “Never mind!” sop to the Scots, who’ll be locked into the union but with no say in anything that happens – because they voted for nationalism.
Voters in Scotland may find it hard to square the right-wing rag’s support for the SNP with that party’s own claim to be left-of-centre – but then, the SNP has found it impossible to square its claim that voters should avoid voting Labour in Scotland so the SNP can do a deal with Labour after the election, or to justify its refusal to ask voters south of the border to vote Labour (John Swinney refused to do so – what – seven times on a TV news report). The reason is that the SNP needs a strong Tory performance in England and Wales, otherwise Labour won’t need to make a deal with anyone. It’s a completely contradictory position that Nicola Sturgeon and her gang have glossed over with repeated – and often false – attacks on Labour.
The Sun, and Irish Nationalism and Ulster Unionism
In fact, this isn’t the first time the Sun has adopted a contradictory stance, supporting both Unionism and nationalism according to which side of the Border its editions are aimed. The Sun also has an edition for Eire, as well as a separate version for Northern Ireland. The actual content for both versions is put together in Wapping, and this has had highly amusing consequences when things have gone wrong. Such as an incident back in the 1990s, when someone pressed the wrong button, sending the contents of the two papers to each other. The result was that readers in Eire, suddenly found that the paper’s editorial stance had changed from being highly supportive of the Good Friday agreement to rabidly hostile. Loyalist readers north and east of the Border were also left wondering why the paper had ditched its opposition to the peace process, and was now supporting a united Ireland. Outrage and complaints followed.
Murdoch, Alex Salmond and the SNP
In Scotland, the SNP has been very careful to solicit the support of the Murdoch press. Alex Salmond himself met the Dirty Digger personally at least 12 times, more than the other leading politicians. All British politicos have in the past been very careful to get the power of the press on their side, including and especially Tony Blair. Salmond and Sturgeon have been no exception. The advantages to both parties are obvious. The SNP gets the support of the press, while Murdoch acquires sympathetic political support for his media empire. Remember: Murdoch is terrified about losing a fraction of his grip on the British press following a Miliband victory. As I’ve posted a few moments ago, he has told his journalists that his entire media empire is in jeopardy and could be ended if Labour gets in.
This support is not given freely. It’s very much a poisoned chalice, and the prices is high: continued support for Murdoch’s policies. Blair bought Murdoch’s loyalty as part of the New Labour project. This was his attempt to recreate the Labour Party as a centre-right, neo-liberal party with a slightly more benign attitude to welfare and workers’ rights than the Tories. And throughout his administration, Blair was always worried about his latest policies would be received by Murdoch, and the other press barons like Dacre and Richard Desmond.
Writers and commentators on Murdoch himself have stated that the press baron has pursued a consistent political line. He has always demanded privatisation and deregulation, including that of the NHS, attacked trade unions, workers’ rights and demanded savage reductions to welfare benefits and the infrastructure of the welfare state.
He is not a suitable bedfellow for the leader of any self-respecting left-wing party, whether Labour or the SNP.
I’ve no doubt that both Salmond and Sturgeon feel that gaining Murdoch’s support for the election need not lead them into further political indebtedness, or allow him to influence the rest of their policies. They’re wrong. The fact that Salmond met him so many times indicates how dependent he feels on gaining Murdoch’s support. And Murdoch will play on that.
Just like Palpatine does to Annakin Skywalker in the Star Wars sequels.
To go back to the Star Wars metaphor, Murdoch does not offer A New Hope, but The Revenge of the Sith.