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The Sun-SNP dance is about helping Cameron not Salmond, or Scotland

Posted on 8 April 2011 | 8:04am

There is a very interesting little dance taking place in Scotland at the moment between Alex Salmond’s SNP and Rupert Murdoch’s Sun.

Not obvious bedfellows you might think, but it looks increasingly likely the Sun will come out for the Nationalists, or certainly personally endorse Salmond, in advance of the Scottish elections next month.

The paper has regularly been splashing on celebrity endorsements for the SNP, and is even organising a ‘business breakfast’ for the First Minister, something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago when the Sun’s front page showed a big rope and a big headline ‘Vote SNP today and you put Scotland’s head in the noose’.

So has the Murdoch Empire changed its view of Nationalism? Of course not. But it knows what David Cameron wants out of this election, and that is not a Labour win. The Tories know they have no chance in what is a two-horse race between Labour and SNP, and of those two, they would prefer Salmond to Labour’s Iain Gray. That is another very good reason to vote for Iain Gray.

On many aspects of policy, there has always been far greater closeness between the Tories and the SNP than Salmond would like his more nationalist-inclined supporters to think. It has been noteworthy how his attacks on the Tory government, despite the massive cuts they are making, have been far less strident or consistent than those he made against Labour under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

In any campaign, on balance you’d probably rather have newspapers broadly supportive than pouring bucketloads of bile all over your head. But Labour should take heart from the fact that during the last general election the Sun shouted far more loudly for the Tories than they are even shouting for the SNP now. And the Tories secured one solitary seat in Scotland.

So whilst Salmond mayh be tempted to grin even more broadly when the Sun finally endorses him, he will be a little fearful of the insight many Scots will hold that they’re doing it to help a Tory government in Westminster, not because they care too deeply what happens in Holyrood.

‘Vote Salmond, help Cameron’ does not strike me as the kind of slogan he needs right now. But the Sun may be about to give it to him whether he likes it or not.

  • Yonks

    Time to tip the Scots out of the UK! They cost the English a fortune, receive disproportionately high returns from the exchequer and are basically a pain in the bum!
    The United Kingdom hasn’t been this disunited for 400 years and it isn’t going to improve short term!

  • Chris lancashire

    Wrong analysis Mr Campbell. The Sun has concluded, quite rightly, that the Tories don’t stand a chance in Scotland. The Sun and Murdoch back winners. They have concluded that the Nationalists will win. No great Murdoch-Tory conspiracy.

  • Anonymous

    I fail to see the logic in this article. It says that Cameron would be more concerned at a Labour victory in Holyrood than an SNP one? but fail to explain why. Cameron does not seem to be especially phased by the Labour opposition in Westminster so why would he be worried by a Labour Government at Holyrood? as to his view it would just be more of the same and from a place where he gets almost no support anyway. No what would get Camerons attention is the return of an SNP Government in Holyrood as he would see that as a threat to the Union.

  • marymot

    I keep trying to find out what Mr Salmond has done for pensioners in his 4 year spell at Holyrood. He claims to have frozen the Council tax which saves people in a Band A house approx £15 per Year nowhere near as much as those in a
    Band F house (confirms your comment about SNP & Tories?)

    He doesn’t mention that Council tax changes are made by local councils and that in the 10 years to 2007 SNP councils had among the highest rate increases in Scotland. Instead he will say as he did on Question Time that during the time Labour-Liberals were in government Council Tax went up by 60%— tho’ even that is questionable. So don’t be surprised if I don’t lap up all his manifesto
    promises—-they’ve been broken before.

    One more thing, he reminds us that he has abolished prescription charges and indeed he has — for 9% of us — the rest of us already had free prescriptions.
    However does this not mean that things like cough bottles, pain killers, bunion pads, etc costing less than £3 (our previous charge ) will now be free. Not everyone will take advantage of this but many will and this could lead to heavier costs for the NHS

    Could it be that the SNP is good at at least one thing—spinning?

  • dagi

    I vehemently dislike the SNP and all that it stands for, but I recognise that Salmond is a canny politician who has been acting very cleverly of late.

    Abolition of prescription charges and a commitment to avoid tuition fees, will I suspect help to secure another term for the nationalists.

    I’m not a Conservative supporter at all, but I’d much prefer a resurgence in Scotland of the Tory party than to see the SNP continue to prosper. Of course the dye is cast as far as the Tories are concerned and it’s difficult to see them ever coming back north of the boarder.

    I suspect the SNP will continue to govern Scotland for the next four years and the strain in relations between Scotland and England will only increase, which is somewhat depressing.

  • James

    I totally agree with you Alastair. As a Scot it has been clear to me for some time that the Tory supporting Sun would support anyone in Scotland who could rival Labour.

    Up here no-one is stupid enough to vote Tory and the SNP clearly have a chance at keeping Labour out of power. It is the Sun at its cynical worst, but Alex Salmond just laps up the attention.

    On another issue, I do hope you are working behind the scenes to get rid of Ed Miliband. Your words during the leadership debate were so prophetic:

    “If Labout wants to feel good about itself and lose the next election, they should vote for Ed.”

  • Mabozza Ritchie

    The only good thing about Thatcher’s legacy imho was it absolutely destroyed the Tories in Scotland.

  • Dave Simons

    The Sun and Murdoch backed the Tories at the last UK General Election. The Tories were not winners – they had to get bolstered by the LibDems, who were not backed by the Sun and Murdoch. Come to think of it, who were the winners? Definitely not a sizeable proportion of the UK Electorate.

  • Jacquie R

    Speaking of Murdoch, can I go off course and drive you all crazy again with another plea to stop him taking over BSkyB?

    This week, and not for the first time, John Prescott said in the Lords that Hunt’s decision on BSkyB should be halted until after the criminal investigation into phone-hacking. Tom Watson and a few Labour back benchers have been saying the same. But, to my knowledge, the shadow cabinet have continued to obey the Baldwin edict to not link between BSkyB to phone hacking.

    We are now a couple of weeks away from Hunt’s decision, which looks all set to give Murdoch what he wants. Labour really need to pull out all the stops but shadow culture secretary, Ivan Lewis, seems to be putting up a pretty poor show. By anybody’s standards, a criminal investigation should be ample reason to halt the takeover. When will he say so?

    There’s more on this on our blog at http://democracy fail.word – including Lewis’s recent letter to Hunt. He makes some good points, but not enough of them.

  • Duncan Phipp-MacIntyre

    Salmond the salamander slithers for the Sun…
    Forked-tongued, he is perfidious throughout every pore of his person.

  • Dave Simons

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think salamanders have forked tongues.
    Can I suggest a modification?

    Salamander Salmond
    slithers in the Sun,
    oozing charm for Murdoch,
    in hopes he’ll soon have won.

  • Quinney

    Perhaps the Sun could ask Salmond at heir next love in ifI the “arc of prosperity” still visible across Scotland?

  • Euan Armstrong

    Salmond is the only politician in Holyrood that actually seems to have a personality. At least until George Galloway gets in…

  • An Duine Gruamach

    “On many aspects of policy, there has always been far greater closeness between the Tories and the SNP than Salmond would like his more nationalist-inclined supporters to think. It has been noteworthy how his attacks on the Tory government, despite the massive cuts they are making, have been far less strident or consistent than those he made against Labour under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.”

    You’re totally missing the point. Of course he would attack Labour more stridently – they are his main opposition in Scotland.

  • Anonymous

    Like the Labour / Sun dance was anything other?

    Labour have lost Scotland, it’s something you have to just get used to.

  • The problem with that synopsis is that Grey has thus far proven to be as much good as a chocolate fireguard – as yesterdays demonstration proved. Not First minister material.

  • Skristmanns

    what about the basic question facing scots – Independence ? and no prospect of a Tory govt any time soon thereafter ?

  • Robinson Thomas

    ” But it knows what David Cameron wants out of this election, and that is not a Labour win.”

    Unfortunately for you and your dark arts this election is about Scotland not about the Labour Party. It is NOT a rerun of the Westminster election of 2010 and therefore your dog whistle politics will not have much effect outside West Central Scotland.

    Bear in mind that many people in Scotland now regard the Labour Party as the “Red Tories” and closer to the Tories than the SNP are.

    But you know all the above and are just spinning as usual are you not?

  • Not in my Name


    If what you are saying is true, doesn’t that only beg the question: why aren’t the other papers in Scotland supporting the SNP? Could it be because most of the other papers in Scotland are supporting Labour and always have done? In the interests of balance, surely you should have drawn your readers attention to this, and to the extent to which the Scottish MSM are lined up against the SNP?

    Speaking of balance, haven’t you also overlooked the fact that Labour was happy to accept the endorsement of Murdoch from 1994, all the way through to 2009? To the best of my knowledge, neither Salmond nor anyone else in the SNP has met Murdoch or any of his senior representatives to discuss this issue. I wonder if someone like you, from your former exalted position in the Labour party, could provide us with an educated guess of how many cordial meetings there were between Murdoch and Blair/Brown between 1994 to 2009? I’m happy to start you off with a ballpark figure: say fifty?

  • Keaton

    “In any campaign, on balance you’d probably rather have newspapers broadly supportive than pouring bucketloads of bile all over your head.”

    Yes, AC, you “probably” would. “On balance”. Which is why the purpose of your existence for ten years was to ensure that papers such as the Sun remained on-message.

  • Paul

    Hello Mr Campbell, sorry I’m not accusing you of this, but I think it’s downright metropolitan arrogance for people to treat the Scottish elections merely as some sort of stepping stone for the Labour party to get back into 10 Downing Street.

    It’s a Scottish election, fought on Scottish issues, and I’m sure that people will come out and vote SNP in their droves without a single thought about David Cameron, Nick Clegg or David Miliband, because what will they know that the Tories and Lib Dems have no chance of winning and Alex Salmond is a much better person to be First Minister of Scotland than Iain Gray is. Whether that will be enough for the SNP to be able to form the next Scottish Government we will have to wait and see. But I’m sure that whatever happens in a few weeks time, next Westminster election, Scotland will overwhelmingly vote Labour as always happens, so although this defies reasonable explanation really you have nothing to worry about there.

    I suspect that David Cameron would rather have a Labour victory with Iain Gray as First Minister, since basically Gray does not come across as having his own mind, would be much more easily influenced by Westminster and dare I say would be a “puppet” leader. Also Cameron would absolutely want to avoid the risk of being the last UK Prime Minister, with risking Scottish Independence or major transfer of powers to Holyrood happening under his watch.

    Although I would certainly take the Sun’s endorsement with a very large pinch of salt (Murdoch doesn’t do these things without an ulterior motive) especially given his past form, it is good to finally see parts of the main stream media in Scotland beginning to reflect the true state of public opinion in the country more accurately, instead of all just blindly supporting Labour as has been the case for so many years.

  • Not in my Name

    Something else that needs to be acknowledged are some of the reasons behind the swing to the SNP (in this Scottish election), in spite of the near universal hostility of the Scottish press to the SNP.

    Notwithstanding the general perception of the SNP’s competence over the last four years and the sterility of Scottish Labour’s ‘nationalist bogeyman’ arguments, Scottish Labour is attempting to turn the Scottish election into a vote on the Tories at Westminster. Unfortunately for Scottish Labour, more voters in Scotland are, at last, catching up with Scottish Labour’s disingenuousness here. After all, it’s only twelve months ago, in their campaign for the British general election, that Scottish Labour told voters that the only way to keep the Tories out in Scotland was to vote Labour. Last May, some 42 per cent of voters in Scotland foolishly bought this line, voted Labour and Labour duly won 70 per cent of Scottish seats at Westminster in 2010. As we now know, Scotland will be governed by the Tories for the next four years and perhaps (significantly) longer.

    Older voters in Scotland will be reminded of a similar democratic deficit/effective disenfranchisement in Scotland in the 1980s and 1990s under the Thatcher and Major governments. What seems to be happening, to at least some extent, is that more older voters and many younger voters in Scotland have cottoned on to the fact that, for Scottish Labour, years if not decades of Tory governments at Westminster are a price worth paying to keep Scotland in the union. More voters in Scotland are recognising that this is too high a price, hence the increase in support for the SNP.

    Added to this, neither British nor Scottish Labour have a clear sense of direction or any purpose left other than being ‘anti-Tory’, but more voters in Scotland have come to understand, precisely because of their bitter experience of British general election results, that the only way to guarantee that the Tories never govern Scotland again is by supporting the SNP and Scottish independence. That’s why Scottish Labour’s only hope in this election is to try to convince enough of their core vote that, although their votes for Scottish Labour were wasted in 2010, somehow it will be different this time.

    Scottish Labour are not a serious threat to the Tories at Westminster for the simple reason that, as has been proved in 2010 as well as in the general elections in the 1980s and 1990s, even if every single voter in Scotland had voted Labour it wouldn’t have kept the Tories out at Westminster. Hence, David Cameron understands that the best way to keep the union together is for the Scots to keep voting Labour and for England to keep voting Tory or Labour. If nothing else that secures the conservative (with a small ‘c’) consensus in ‘British’ politics. Finally, given that Scottish Labour have criticised the SNP throughout the last four years for “picking fights” with Westminster, there can be few voters in Scotland left in any doubt as to which political party will best protect the Scottish people from the Tories at Westminster, and it isn’t Scottish Labour.

  • “That is another very good reason to vote for Iain Gray.”

    ANOTHER reason? Hilarious article.

  • Franwhi

    Talkng of the SNP-Sun dance reminds us that it takes two to tango
    You’re administration did rather a lot of tangoing with the Sun and its proprietor as I remember and ‘m sure you choregraphed quite a bit of that yourself.
    Whether and whatever the Sun does in its caprice is neither here nor there.
    Many Scots feel badly let down and betrayed by both London and Scottish Labour and little more than election fodder. As a Scot I lived through the long years of our democratic deficit up here when we voted Labour but got Thatcher / Major time and time again. Since devolution things have changed and we’ve grasped the new possibilites. Yes we’re still left leaning but we didn’t leave Labour rather Labour left us. Last week your man Ian Gray literally ran away from a group of anti-cuts protesters in Glasgow first into a Subway sandwich shop then hotly pursued by said protestors into a black cab to be whisked away from the “people”. We didn’t struggle for devolution to get this – we deserve better. We deserve more courage and political imagination from those seeking our vote in the Scottish election. That’s why I’m a Labour convert to Alex Salmond and the SNP – as are a growing number of Scots who were lifelong Labour supporters. We never invited the Sun to the “dance” but they want to get in step with us – not the other way round

  • Anonymous

    That facile argument doesn’t wash any more, Alastair.

  • “But Labour should take heart from the fact that during the last general election the Sun shouted far more loudly for the Tories than they are even shouting for the SNP now. And the Tories secured one solitary seat in Scotland.”

    Well that’s a basket full of bollocks right there. David Dinsmore the editor of the Scottish Sun refused to back the Tories at the last General Election. Not remember his touching support for Stephen Purcell the gak infused Labour leader of Glasgow City Council?

    Really Campbell, if you’re going to pontificate on Scotland you should really do your homework.

  • It’s not supposed to make any sense soosider, it’s just one of these manufactured facts that Labour politicians create every now and then and hope that with frequent unchallenged repetition people will begin to think it is true.