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On The Sun, Obama in Copenhagen and Alistair McGowan on the loo

Posted on 1 October 2009 | 10:10am

Just did the start of Nicky Campbell’s phone-in on Five Live, and it was interesting that Nicky had to scour around for a few pro-Sun messages amid all the negative texts and calls coming in.

I said doing interviews yesterday that there was something very old-fashioned about the way The Sun handled its latest switch. It was a good marketing coup, and got lots of attention for the paper and its perceived significance, but as Sun journalists wandered around Brighton from microphone to microphone, the comparison was being made with the behaviour of trade union barons back in the old days.

The difference is that a newspaper cannot deliver the support of its readers in the way the barons could cast their block votes. A reminder of my favourite stat from yesterday’s blog – support for Labour among Mail readers rose from 1997 to 2001.

I understand the paper focusses today on lots of people who backed Labour in 1997 and now are backing the Tories. But pretending the world has gone from black to white overnight hits the credibility of the paper.

We also need to challenge the constant assertion that Murdoch only backs winners. Er … Obama?

… Talking of which, why the opposition to President Obama going to Copenhagen to make a plea for support for Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics? Talk to anyone involved in the decision to give the 2012 Games to London and you will soon learn that Tony Blair’s presence and persuasive skills amid the final deliberations helped swing the last few votes our way.

Republican opponents of Obama – who seem opposed to anything he does – say he is President of the US not Mayor of Chicago and he should not be leaving other pressing issues for this. But a decision like this would have short, medium and long-term consequences for the whole of the US.

Some Democrats are saying he should not be going to Copenhagen in case Chicago doesn’t win, in which case he will lose political capital. But so what? It will be quickly forgotten. Leadership is sometimes about risking your capital to make something happen that might not happen without you using that capital.

So good luck, Obama. Hope you win again.

Finally, a word on last night’s Chain Reaction on Radio 4, in which I interviewed actor, writer and impersonator Alistair McGowan. Fair play to the Beeb for keeping in my crack about David Cameron. Alistair said he found it impossible to do Cameron, because ‘all that comes out is an upper-class whisper.’ I suggested that the problem was he didn’t stand for anything. Cue applause. Good point well made say I.

Sadly, the editor had to make a few cuts and one of the bits that went was Alistair moving effortlessly from Sven to Fabio Capello in the same sentence, by putting a bit of Italian into the Swedish lilt and then straining as though he were sitting on the loo. Perhaps it was the wrong side of the watershed, but it was funny.

And as the earthquakes and the tsunami hit the Samoan Islands, I was taken by Alistair’s observation that the most important thing we can all do, as well as cut our own carbon footpri

nt, is nag away at others. I think my family think I nag enough, but I was in full-on lights off mode after my hour or two with Mr McGowan.

  • Jane A

    Two thoughts on the whole Sun hysteria.
    In all the carry on of the last 24 hours the best comment I heard was on R5 this morning, saying that surely the Sun might have waited to see what exactly he had to say on those things before coming out for Cameron. There’s a wide divide between “Labour’s lost it” and “Cameron’s got it.”
    Floating voters, the non-tribals, will vote on personality not policy, and whim rather than record. They “fancy a change” in the way some people opt for a different holiday destination one year. If The Sun influence somne of them, so be it. Just as many will be turned off by a paper attempting to sell in a party as will be swayed by it, or equally put off by Cameron’s swagger and arrogance.

  • Paul MArsh

    Very good point you made at the end of your Five Live talk, which had not occurred to me but ought to be occurring to the BBC – namely that Murdoch allied to the Tories is a dangerous alliance facing the BBC. I know you had your troubles with the BBC but the Labour government at least understands its significance goes beyond commerce. I agree it is odd they follow the Sun ploy so happily

  • Cassie Pearson

    Loved the Chain Reaction show. What a talent to have to be able to go from one voice to another, almost mid-word at times. You should do more interviewing like that. You seemed to get a lot from him.Agree about Obama … nothing ventured …

  • Charlie Reynolds

    It is fascinating that both the Sun and the Telegraph have not gone out of their way to support Cameron as yet. He has avoided the easy temptation for an easy lurch to the right. Good on him. Respect as they say. The Sun is right that Labour has lost it, but they are slow on the uptake as usual and just following public opinion. It is to Cameron’s credit that no dodgy dealing has been done to secure him a ‘we back tony’ message. I hope he sticks to this for the sake of the country.

    It is bizarre watching the labour party get angry and resentful towards the Sun when they have been supported by the paper for over 10 years! Do you think any rational person is not going to notice the hypocrisy?

    As for not getting a fair deal from the media – remember John Major in the mid 90s? I don’t recall you complaining then. I recall all the stories about a broken britain and the gap between rich and poor getting wider and boom and bust and the shame of children leaving school unable to read or write………. Isn’t it incredible how much success the labour government has had in all these areas over the last 12 years! The fact is that the media spin on Major was not accurate, the spin on Tony Blair was not accurate and the spin on Brown is sadly deadly accurate because it is based on a man who goes around saying he has ‘saved the world’ and that he backs alistair darling (ahem).

    The only 2 people who are hated more than Brown are yourself and Tony Blair. I think it is only right you get involved in this election so we can vote the whole lot of you into history. You have failed Britain, let’s see if someone else can do better.

  • olli issakainen

    Yesterday´s debate was almost as exciting as when Claretgunnergirl presents her Friday News on BBC´s 606. Hopefully it will continue in this way also today.
    I got latest interesting books of Karen Armstrong and Richard Dawkins from England, but have not had time to read them because of Labour conference. (And Melvyn Bragg´s In Our Time book is just about to arrive, too.)
    This morning I watched first AC on The Daily Politics and then listened to his Chain Reaction chat show. Alistair McGowan´s detective series “Mayo” was shown here few years ago, and I enjoyed it as well as the chat show very much. Then I noticed that some one had commented on my yesterday´s post on this site. So these texts are really being read – hopefully it is not the government that´s doing it!
    About the Sun, again. Some Finnish newspapers have gone neutral in their support, but I can´t remember any switching their party alliance altogether.
    As for the coming election, I think the key issues will be FISCAL POSITION, CONFIDENCE IN POLITICAL SYSTEMS and AFGHANISTAN. The key question for Labour will be whether it still has APPETITE FOR POWER.
    Must end now, a repeat of Spurs v. Burnley is on our tv soon.

  • Nick

    @ A.C

    If Gordon Brown is such a decent bloke and all round asset to the British people, why did you have to edit out just about every reference to him from your diaries “The Blair Years” ?

    Are you saying one thing in public, and another in private? I think we should be told.

  • Alfie

    There was a bloke on after you in the phone in who talked very nicely of how well he had done by the NHS for a recent heart operation. It is the kind of story we hear all the time in our real lives yet which barely ever gets reflected in the media. I just hope the public are sensible enough to ignore all the shouting from the press and make their own minds up. I try to. I used to vote Tory. Stopped in 1997. Don’t intend to start again on anyone’s say so, especialy not Murdoch

  • Nick

    @ Alfie

    But I don’t understand what that caller’s succesful operation has to do with a.such bogus, gushing gratitude and b. a link to the Labour Government ?

    When Labour supporters [those that are left] go into a shop and buy a bar of chocolate, do they then send an e mail to Cadburys to thank them for it, and then kneel in front of the shopkeeper and pay homage to him for serving it ?

    I genuinely don’t understand this gushing gratitude for services that we are paying for.

    Sorry..most of us are paying for.

  • Charlie

    It was not always thus:
    @AC Diaries-The Blair Years.
    … As soon as TB finished the Q & A session I took him to one side and said I had some good news. I said you remember in 1994 when I said we should try to get the Sun on board and you said you weren’t sure it was possible, well, they are. He thought it was good news in its own right, but was good in the effect it would have on the other side’s morale. I tipped off Mike Brunson at ITN. On one level, it was ridiculous that it should be seen as a big event, but the reality is that is exactly how it is seen. I felt it was a fruit of three years’ hard work, and there will be many more.

  • Alina Palimaru

    For all those who keep saying that the Sun’s announcement distracted attention from PM Brown’s speech… well, that’s all that really was… a minor distraction. The Sun’s move was met with derision (at best!) in US papers… in most reports it seems that it didn’t even matter. As such, I expect its impact to be marginal. Personally, I dislike the practice of papers becoming such obvious political players…it is redolent of city political machines in the late 19th century NY, Philadelphia, Chicago… Whatever happened to their role as watchdogs?!

    I agree with Alastair that Obama has a legitimate reason for lobbying aggressively for the Olympics. Personally, I am not a big fan of Chicago, but may the best win. As you say, the economic and political implications of the Olympic bid are enormous, and a President must be crazy not to try to capitalize on this… As for the Republicans constantly saying “No” to anything Obama is doing… “No” is not a policy or a valid position… it is instead a sign of a party in crisis that is running out of fuel everyday, and I seriously doubt that the DeMints of the Party will be able to save it.

  • Max

    Your comment about the Conservatives on Radio 4 was a cheap shot. Bit disappointed really, thought you were above that.

  • David Kingston


    People gushing about their heart operations is what demonstrates Labour’s successes. Others can keep banging on about the NHS failing but the reality is that people can gush about their heart operations because they are not dying on year long waitng lists. Remember, waiting lists were the big NHS issue in the 90s. These have been effectively tackled by Labour, so critics move the goalposts and claim that waiting lists are not as important as clinical need. Critics of Labour’s successes will always play up problems to portray a system in crisis.

  • Alan Quinn

    “Labour’s failed on education”. The Sun.
    I’m just in from a governors meeting at my local primary school where the fantastic work the SureStart centres were doing around here plus the great work the local youth centre does.

    All under threat by the tories. The old ones are still the best. They know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.

  • Charlie Reynolds

    I think I have died and gone to hell! Apparently Tony Blair will become president of the EU if Ireland votes yes. What have we all done to deserve this?! It will be a disaster for europe. The people of europe being ignored yet again by their leaders. Iraq war anyone?