For most of my life there’s been a fourth force in British politics. If you knew nothing about Britain, but studied a cross section of popular newspapers, you would get the impression that we were rather a different nation. Our newspapers are, on the whole, more right wing, authoritarian and insular than the average Brit.
No newspaper illustrates this better than The Sun. And never was it worse than under the editorship of one Kelvin MacKenzie. He wouldn’t deny it either. In one famous quote in the early eighties he said:
You just don’t understand the readers, do you, eh? He’s the bloke you see in the pub, a right old fascist, wants to send the wogs back, buy his poxy council house, he’s afraid of the unions, afraid of the Russians, hates the queers and the weirdos and drug dealers. He doesn’t want to hear about that stuff (serious news).
He presided over controversial front pages like the ‘Gotcha!’ celebrating the sinking of the Belgrano and the front page which insulted the Liverpool fans in the wake of Hillsborough.
He also claimed that the Sun’s attacks on Neil Kinnock in 1992 handed the victory to the Tories. But to this day the Murdoch press exerts an unhealthy influence on British politicians. Mudochs opposition to the Euro would make any politician think twice about advocating membership (five economic tests not withstanding) and one wonders whether governments are required to get the Sun’s approval for any major new policy.
Now MacKenzie is threatening to run against David Davis claiming that he would back 420 days detention without trial, let alone 42. But at least for once the Murdoch Machine would have to face the electors, instead of telling us what we think.