Britain's biggest-selling daily newspaper, the Sun, has decided to back Labour at the coming general election.
Red means good news for Labour
The Sun made its decision known by sending a plume of red smoke from a chimney on the roof of its London HQ - a cheeky homage to the papal election.
The Sun has backed Labour at the last two general elections, but the move will still be a boost to Tony Blair.
And it may surprise some as many of the issues the paper has raised have been taken up by the Conservatives.
In a clear parody of the Vatican's ancient method of announcing it has chosen a new pope, earlier in the day the Sun said it was "on the verge of an historic decision".
"The newspaper's executives have assembled in secret to debate which political party the newspaper will back at next month's general election.
"To mark the momentous meeting, a chimney has been erected on the roof of the paper's east London headquarters. A plume of black smoke confirms the discussions have begun.
"The smoke will turn white to signal a decision has been reached. The announcement of which party The Sun chooses to back in the election will be made by the smoke turning either red, blue or, in the event of a miracle, yellow."
The Sun's political editor Trevor Kavanagh said the newspaper had decided to back the Labour Party because they had delivered on the economy.
But he said that the support was "not a blank cheque" because they still had a few grumbles with the government.
The asylum system was a "shambles" and too little action had been taken on hospital superbugs, he said.
He added: "We feel at this point in the political cycle we would not be in touch with our readers if we backed the Conservatives."
Does a newspaper's endorsement make a difference to the way you vote? Send us your comments on the form below.
You have to laugh at the way the Sun puts itself on a pedestal as the voice of ordinary British people, still a bit of pre-election tradition. The funniest thing is the way the Sun makes out like their editorial team has agonised over the decision, when most likely one call from Mr Murdoch and that was it!
Rob, London, UK
If this country follow what the Sun says then they will get the government they deserve
William Gibson , Bristol
An amusing publicity stunt, and it has worked a treat. This is why the Sun is the best selling tabloid - good marketing. Personally I wouldn't hang it on a nail in the privy, but I did chuckle at the red smoke gag. Will it make any difference to the result on 5 May? I think not since the Tories seem intent on electoral suicide by having rubbish policies.
Anyone who needs papers like the Sun to dictate you they should vote for shouldn't be allowed the right to vote.
Graham Pike, London, UK
I think The Sun has shown itself up. They agree with the Tories on most issues and with Labour on very few. They have cynically backed Blair because they don't want to back a loser. Or as Trevor Kavanagh spun it: "We would not be in touch with our readers". "The Sun Wot Won It"? Wot rubbish.
Alex Tait, London, UK
"The newspaper's executives have assembled in secret to debate which political party the newspaper will back at next month's general election." Is this code for, "the editor sat at his desk waiting for Rupert Murdoch to phone him from abroad to tell him to back Rupert's friend, Tony"? I think we should be told!
James, Edinburgh, Scotland
It's funny how most of the replies here feel able to speak for tens of thousands of Sun readers. I think we should give the electorate a bit more credit, even Sun readers.
Eliot Coxon, London
Oh, what a surprise! Has the Sun reached this decision following a detailed policy analysis, or through gleaning casually at the polls and simply deciding to back the obvious winner (then no doubt claim "It was the Sun wot won it"). I suspect many of the Sun's editors have recently swapped their Arsenal shirts for Chelsea ones too.
Alan, Southampton, UK
Anyone who believes that the media doesn't affect the way they vote is only fooling themselves. Very few voters obtain all the party manifestos and make decisions based entirely on their contents. All information provided by the media is edited, and therefore biased in some way. And how does Dean Cope propose to implement his idea that the media 'be made to report from an impartial perspective?'
Jacob Stanley, Cambridge, England
Anything that gets people out to vote is fine by me.
Pete Nightingale, Reading UK
The election campaigning and what the newspapers say is a complete waste of effort. It is only when people have no money in their pockets will they switch their vote. At the end of the day, the issues on immigration, dirty hospitals, crime, etc are only sidelines to the true issue (as if you want, you can easily turn a blind eye to those issues) the true unavoidable issue is cash in your pocket.
William Fillingham, Wisbech, Cambs
It's a giggle, nothing more and nothing less; but the biggest giggle is how Conservatives always trumpeted the Sun as the reason Kinnock lost, but now, as in the last two elections pooh-pooh it, because it backs Blair. If Blair gets back, it will be for one reason only..."It's the Economy, stupid!"
Barry Lowry, London UK
I am not sure that the Sun will make much impact this time, too many people feel let down by the Iraq War and by broken promises!
TF, Dorset. UK
It is very worrying that the Sun does, or thinks it does have such an influence on the electoral outcome. In my view, the people who run this paper are bigger manipulators and scare-mongerers that the government itself. In a perverse way, the Conservatives winning this election would do a great deed in helping to shatter the Sun myth. I hope people have the foresight to look beyond this newspaper and make their own judgements based on no media influence.
Neil Jenkinson, London
I expect the people whose vote is affected by this also say they are cynical and sceptical of politicians. Try applying the same principles you apply to politicians to the newspaper you read.
Steve, Suffolk, UK
Trusting a newspaper is like a parent showing a child only what they want to show to keep them blissfully ignorant, for goodness sake people make up your own minds.
Jagbir, Hayes, Middlesex
Personally it does not, but sadly it makes a difference to many people. The likes of the Sun will make a big difference on how many of its readers vote. The paper can be completely one sided, and the people who read what the paper says believe everything it writes.
David Gammie, Glasgow, Scotland
The Sun will always back the party which it thinks will win the election and the polls would suggest Labour will get a third term. However I believe they will get egg on their face this time when the Conservatives win the election. After all just 8 days ago the Sun said "Howard rightly identifies four crucial issues worrying voters: Dirty Hospitals, crime, lack of discipline in schools and uncontrolled immigration." (Tuesday 12th April 05)
Doesn't make the slightest bit of difference to me - I am quite capable of deciding for myself based on issues rather than propaganda. I don't think the Sun is the reason for the last two landslides!
Paul, Nottingham, UK
The endorsement doesn't affect my decision but it certainly does have a major impact around the country. I have long held the belief that the Sun - quite amazingly - decides who runs the country. The Sun may appear to be an adult comic but it is owned by one of the most powerful media moguls the world has seen.
John Walsh, Southend, England
The endorsement of a newspaper should not make a difference to the way people vote, however too many people take people are making their minds up by only reading from the one source. Newspapers should be made to report from an impartial perspective. The newspapers are only looking after their own agenda, and have too much power on issues of importance to so many people.
Dean Cope, Newcastle-under-Lyme
None of it makes a blind bit of difference how I vote. Always vote tactically (Lib Dem) in vain attempt to dislodge Tory. I support Labour government.
Mark Wood, Market Harborough Leicestershire
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