With public reaction to the Sun hatchet job on Pa Broon not turning out as Rupe and his troops had expected, it seems that the Tories are trying to distance themselves from their new best friends: Dame Pauline Neville Jones has gone on the Beeb’s Question Time to comment adversely on the behaviour of the Murdoch attack dogs. Problem is, they can hardly intervene in Sun editorial policy, and it would require a higher level of diplomatic skill than Young Dave possesses to tell Rupe that, if that’s the kind of support he can expect, he’d rather not have it at all.
Thus Brown has come out of this rather well, although he would not have volunteered to be put through the mangle in this way. Making his demeanour yet more sunny, a rare thing nowadays, has been the comfortable Labour win in the Glasgow North East by-election, made necessary by the stepping down of former Speaker Michael Martin. Speculation on a shock defeat has long disappeared, and even the thought that the majority would dip below four thousand was wide of the mark: it was twice that amount.
There has already been much predictable reaction: Tory supporters brushing off the result as another of those “non stories” – for which read “stories that bring news we don’t want to hear” – and the SNP wondering what might have been. As if. Next will be the froth merchants spreading the “postal ballot fraud” drivel that they sent round after the last Labour by-election win.
Now all eyes will be on the next few weeks’ opinion polls: if there is significant movement away from the Tories and towards Labour, expect Young Dave and his team to start worrying about what the next Sun entry into the world of knocking copy will bring. Of course, he could tell his new friends at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun about all his plans for Government. The problem there is, first, he needs to actually have some, and second, that gives Big Al and Baron Mandelson of Indeterminate Guacamole the chance to rubbish them (no encouragement needed there).
But if Dave doesn’t help the Sun fill its pages, he risks the potential backfiring of their next batch of knocking copy. Decisions, decisions.