Labour’s newspaper endorsements strengthen ‘change election’

Labour’s newspaper endorsements strengthen ‘change election’ narrative

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The campaign is in its final week, with just four days to go until Britons cast their votes in the general election.

Today, Labour leader Keir Starmer is visiting three constituencies won handsomely by the Conservatives in 2019 — in Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Campaigning locations, of course, reflect election expectations: Labour believes the polls.

Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, is campaigning in the Midlands as he warns voters there are “four days to save Britain from a Labour government”. As for the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey partook in a spot of light bungee jumping this morning. Leaping from Eastbourne, his aim was to encourage people to “try something new” and vote for his party.

With the election firmly in its final stretch then, the party leaders are trying their utmost to win over any last-minute undecideds and marshal their supporters into polling stations on Thursday.

The Labour Party’s core message this election has been simple and, unlike the Conservatives’, entirely consistent: “Change” is Labour’s one-word slogan this campaign and the throughline of everything Keir Starmer and his shadow ministerial team have said and done in the past five weeks.

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After fourteen years of Conservative government, Starmer thinks he can persuade voters — whether enthusiastic or begrudging — to give the other lot a go. And with one uniquely influential sub-section of society, Starmer’s powers of persuasion are proving remarkably effective: the media, the press, the commentariat, the fourth estate, the chattering classes — whatever you want to call them — are lining up behind Labour.

In recent days, The Sunday Times, The Economist and The Financial Times have all urged voters to back Keir Starmer’s party. The titles, which have all previously endorsed the Conservatives, last backed Labour in 2005 — i.e the last election Starmer’s party won.

“Britain now needs a radical reset”, The Sunday Times said in its leader column over the weekend. The “Conservatives have in effect forfeited the right to govern”, it added.

The FT advances a similar argument: “Much of the country hankers for a fresh start. Labour should be given the opportunity to provide it.”

The Economist, meanwhile, is damning in its analysis of Conservative misrule, arguing Labour has the best chance “tackling the biggest problem that Britain faces: a chronic and debilitating lack of economic growth.”

But the deluge of media support for Labour doesn’t stop there. The Independent has unambiguously backed Labour this time around, after recommending tactical voting to deny Boris Johnson a majority in 2019. (In 2015, the title endorsed a second term of the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition.) The Independent says of Labour’s one-word “Change” slogan: “It could not be more succinct, nor better capture the mood of the nation as we face the future.”

Scotland’s The Daily Record has also endorsed Starmer’s party, having not explicitly backed any single outfit at a general election since 2010. On top of this, somewhat less surprisingly, Starmer has also won the support of The Guardian, The Observer, The Daily Mirror, The Sunday Mirror and The New Statesman. (In 2019, the NS endorsed tactical voting against the Tories but called Jeremy Corbyn “unfit to be prime minister”).

That said, the usual suspects in the conservative-leaning press are standing by Rishi Sunak’s beleaguered party — including The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and The Daily Mail. It is worth stressing, however, that the support emanating from these typically true-blue papers is semi-enthusiastic at best.

In terms of endorsements, the two notable holdouts are The Sun and The Times, conservative-leaning Murdoch titles that have been the subject of much speculation this campaign — to which the recent conversion of The Sunday Times, also a Murdoch paper, has only contributed.

Winning the support of The Sun, which has backed the Conservatives for the past 15 years, would be seen as a symbolic prize by Keir Starmer’s team.

As such, speaking over the weekend, Labour’s election campaign co-ordinator Pat McFadden told LBC: “We always welcome endorsements, I think they matter. We have changed, broadened our appeal. You can’t win by just speaking to people who already agree with you. I would like The Sun to endorse us but it’s a decision for them.”

All this said, it is worth stressing that if Labour wins the election on 4 July as is widely expected, it won’t be because of its press backing. After all, in this age of declining newspaper consumption, any decision from The Sun — the most read newspaper in the Murdoch group — to detach itself from the tarnished Tory brand may register less highly with voters than Sir Elton John’s call for a Labour government.

But like any observer of events, newspaper editorial boards can see the direction of travel and their endorsements will only strengthen the “Change” narrative at this election’s core. Collectively, Fleet Street’s support for Starmer amounts — at the very least — to another striking sign of the times for Rishi Sunak et al.

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