Yesterday, here in the United Kingdom, tabloid newspaper, The Sun, caused a huge stir by shifting their allegiance from Gordon Brown’s Labour Party, to David Cameron and his Conservatives.
The Sun is, sadly, Britain’s biggest selling newspaper, and I do not use the word “sadly” here because I fear that this shift in allegiance will therefore sway the majority of the newspaper-reading public into voting for the Tories come the 2010 General Election; I use the word “sadly” because The Sun has long been a knee-jerk, reactionary, and right-leaning organ, and the fact that more people in this country read that garbage than any other newspaper, is just hugely depressing to me.
That The Sun has shifted its support from Labour to Conservative, should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the paper’s owner: Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch – the man who’s FOX NEWS channel in the United States is the most reprehensible abuse of the concept of journalism in the whole of human history – is an unabashed conservative ideologue, and he has long used his influence and power as head of the all-encompassing media monolith, News Corporation, to spread his right-wing poison all around the world. Indeed, The Sun, only ever first pledged its support to the Labour Party back in 1997 after the formerly socialist party underwent a cynical values-changing transformation and mutated into the election-winning beast we have come to know as New Labour.
As you may be aware – having lived through the past twelve years of New Labour rule – the Labour party voted into power in May of 1997 was a very different party, ideologically, from the Labour party of old. Instead of giving workers a better deal, strengthening unions, and further democratizing the nation, it continued the trend of Thatcherite privatization and free-market neo-liberalism that it had previously opposed, continued selling arms to dictators around the world, took benefits away from the poor whilst increasing welfare for the rich, and waged unnecessary and arguably illegal wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and, throughout its entire time in office, Iraq (daily bombing of the no-fly zones leftover from the 1991 war, continued under Labour long before the 2003 invasion, not to mention the murderous UN Sanctions the Labour Party endorsed).
In other words – The Sun only supported the Labour Party, when the Labour Party became the new Conservatives.
Not only were New Labour the new Conservatives in 1997, but the Conservatives themselves, at that time, had become an unelectable mess – much like the Labour Party of today. As always though, this claim of being “unelectable” was not for any of the appalling policies the Conservative Party had promoted over their eighteen years in power, but for more superficial reasons – a public sick and tired of the same old faces and scandals, allegations of “sleaze” and abuses of power…
We stuck with the Tories through their Poll Taxes and Falklands War, we let them denationalize British industries, pour bombs down on Iraq and terrorize the miners, we let them smash up the unions and take away our jobs…but when they started having sex with prostitutes, or trading in cash for questions, then we decided it was time for a change.
There were so many sound political reasons to oppose the Tories from 1979 to 1997, but we chose the “Lewinsky Objection” instead; which is exactly what we are doing today with the Labour Party!
Since 1997, New Labour have let down its core supporters in any number of ways. They’ve broken promises, they’ve committed war-crimes, they’ve marched us into a global recession and they’ve part-privatized nearly every public institution you can think of…but that is not why people are sick of the Labour Party in 2009.
They are sick of them because of the expenses scandal (despite the fact that this scandal involved Conservative MPs too); they are sick of them because they don’t like Gordon Brown (on a purely aesthetic level – not because his economic policies as chancellor got us into this financial crisis and helped bankroll the disgusting war on terror, but because he’s “boring”); they are sick of them because Jacqui Smith’s husband watched a porn film or two, and because, after yet another decade of political disappointment, it is easy to lash out at whoever is in power and hope the grass might be greener on the other side (even if all the evidence points to it only ever getting worse!)
So the same thing that happened to the Tories in 1997 is now happening to New Labour in 2009: we are sick of them, but we don’t really know why; because we never spend the time to stop and think about the real causes for our growing hostility and unease, and let the media tell us why we’re angry instead.
What do I really want from my government?
What is it about the past thirty years of Conservative and Labour Party rule that has really let me down?
What is it that this country really needs.
Enter Rupert Murdoch – there to answer those questions for you without you having to think about it. Politics is hard, let’s leave the heavy lifting to the experts…
Once Murdoch starts framing his own ideological position as the people’s ideological position, then that vacuum of ideas and sense of confusion in the public’s perception gets filled: they hate the government because there’s too much bureaucratic red-tape; they hate the government because they’re taking too many taxes; they hate the government because they’re letting all those foreigners in; they hate the government because they’re not putting drug-dealers and petty criminals in jail; they hate the government because they’re not letting billionaires like Rupert Murdoch make as much money as they can…
In 1997, New Labour retreated away from the left of their party, the nation was sick and tired of the Tories, and so The Sun backed Labour – the most electable right-wing choice that was going at the time.
As the years went on, New Labour proved their worth to the people at News Corp; they not only sounded like they had turned over a new leaf politically, they had – UK domestic and foreign policies under Labour differed in no significant way from the Conservative policies of the previous eighteen years.
The people – The Sun’s readership – however, were happy, because, as New Labour screwed them over financially and sent their children off to die (just as the Tories had done), it was done via a brand new narrative – and with a cast of new faces – that differed from their Tory predecessors in enough ways to make it feel like change.
These weren’t Tory cuts – they were Labour cuts.
These weren’t Tory wars – they were Labour wars.
What’s more, the Labour Party were wise enough to throw the public the odd necessary bone – a bit more money into public services here, a little more support for unions there. In the good-cop/bad-cop routine of one-party systems masquerading as multi-party systems, the good-cop neoliberals of New Labour had to continue the appearance of change in order to maintain a continuity of right-wing policies in matters of the economy and national security.
So the right-leaning Sun, supported the newly right-leaning Labour Party until – as had happened before with the Conservatives – they started losing their support with the public. Once that happened, the paper merely resorted back to its roots and repositioned its unchanging support for right-wing politics by backing the seemingly more electable Conservative Party, now that Labour are on the ropes.
The important thing here is that whilst the name of the party behind which Rupert Murdoch’s mouthpiece has pledged its support has changed a couple of times over the past thirteen years, the policies which he and his paper support have always remained staunchly the same.
Murdoch wants his readers to vote the way that he would: right-wing. The real question needs to be why the British Public continue to repeatedly buy into it: why do we vote for the same failed and disastrous policies election after election – whichever party is selling them –and put up with the same betrayals and violations decade after decade without ever re-examining our core political values and questioning why our available political choices in this country are so limited?
Perhaps, the answer lies in the fact that The Sun remains our most widely read newspaper?
With Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda machine shouting loudly at the majority of people each day, is it any wonder that they soon start mistaking the illusion of change for the real thing; and the illusion of a change in the paper’s political allegiance, as real news?