This week, Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun have decided to let all those households that choose not to have anything to do with this singularly unpleasant rag know what they have been missing, with a special issue commemorating Englishness, or rather, what the Murdoch press define as Englishness. Thus millions of free copies are being delivered by post.
Sadly for the Sun faithful, not everyone wants to have the paper dumped on the doormat, especially those living on Merseyside, where the infamous “The Truth” issue, coming in the wake of the Hillsborough stadium disaster, precipitated a boycott of the paper that still endures, despite the hacks eventually apologising. But no party leader wants to antagonise the press, if they can avoid it.
So it was that Mil The Younger dutifully posed – as Young Dave and Corporal Clegg had already done – with the souvenir issue, and almost immediately suffered a barrage of condemnation for his trouble. Very few Labour supporters seemed to understand the no-win situation in which the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition found himself, given the difficult relationship between Murdoch and Labour.
Eoin Clarke tried to be thoughtful: “Ed Miliband is a good man. He has the right solutions for the UK. But he has made a mistake posing with the Sun. He must apologise, soon”. Mark Ferguson had no such qualms: “I’m disappointed and confused by this photo” he told, before signposting a link to the contribution to the debate authored by Himself Personally Now.
That this is not a straightforward matter was suggested by Steve Rotheram, the MP whose constituency includes Anfield: “Ed will make a statement on the matter. He never meant any offence, but in my opinion it shouldn’t have happened in the first place”. Sunny Hundal pointed out “The Sun would have attacked Ed M for not posing for pic, so it’s lose/lose” before asking the question many will want answering.
“But they will attack him constantly anyway. Why bother engaging?” to which the answer might include factors like the degree of hostility – Miliband will have heard from Neil Kinnock what happens if you don’t engage – and, the real elephant in the room, the Royal Charter on press regulation, which was finalised in his office at Westminster, although not over takeaway pizza.
Miliband almost certainly is still looking at playing the long game on that one. And, in case anyone thought Clegg got a free pass, he didn’t: as Ross Hawkins pointed out, “Leader of Lib Dems in Liverpool Richard Kemp calls on Clegg to apologise for posing with a copy of yesterday’s Sun”. The Lib Dems ran Liverpool council from 1998 to 2010. Some of them might like to see a way back for the party.
Politics and Murdoch is never straightforward. Nobody should pretend otherwise.