The Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun are well known for their wilful hatred of the EU. It is also not news that the paper consistently, and stridently, took a not just Eurosceptic, but Europhobic, stance in the run-up to last June’s referendum on Britain’s EU membership. What might not be widely known is that the paper’s campaigning went so far that it had to register as an official Leave campaign group.
We know this only through the reporting of the Guardian and Independent - not even Press Gazette has thus far touched the story - which has revealed that “The Sun spent more than £96,000 publishing a pullout poster backing Brexit, forcing its parent company, News Group Newspapers, to register as an official leave campaign group with the Electoral Commission”. So blatant, they couldn’t get it past the Electoral Commission.
There’s more: “The poster featuring a union flag and the words “BeLEAVE in Britain”, which had appeared on an earlier front page, was published just a week before the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU … Editorially the paper was one of the most vocal backers of leaving the EU, but the double-page spread fell under the Electoral Commission’s rules regulating campaign spending because it was designed to be displayed, even though the money was reported as a payment from NGN to itself”.
And yet more: “The cost of the poster made NGN one of the largest spenders among 48 groups who had their campaign finances revealed by the Electoral Commission on Tuesday, all but two of which spent under £250,000 … The only organisations on the list spending more than NGN were the pro-remain Global Britain Limited, and leave backers Grassroots Out, Veterans for Britain and fashion student Darren Grimes, who ran the youth-focused group BeLeave” (that excludes Vote Leave and Britain Stronger in Europe).
As the Independent told, the kinds of stuff the Sun published which didn’t have to be declared included a less than totally impartial editorial in which the EU was described as “greedy, wasteful, bullying and breathtakingly incompetent in a crisis … Outside the EU we can become richer, safer and free at long last to forge our own destiny - as America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many other great democracies already do. And as we were the first to do centuries ago. If we stay, Britain will be engulfed in a few short years by this relentlessly expanding, German-dominated federal state”.
Nor was the infamous “QUEEN BACKS BREXIT” considered as political campaigning, although that is rather obviously what it was - apart from the headline being totally untrue, of course. And why did the Sun do this? The Independent again. “Mr Murdoch has long been vocal in his opposition to the EU. When questioned as to why, he reportedly once said: ‘That’s easy. When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice’”. And now they’ve admitted the political campaigning.
If only the Sun, and the rest of the Murdoch empire, would have the backbone to stick around and own up when everything goes belly up, which it is already showing every sign of doing. Sadly, the words of Stanley Baldwin, “What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”, are still true. Murdoch wants to meddle. But not carry the can.