Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 14:34 UK

The politics of UK newspapers

A day after Gordon Brown did his best to launch a Labour fightback, the Sun newspaper announced it would not back the party in the next election. Here, paper-by-paper, is a guide to the political leanings of the big daily papers.


Circulation: The latest available figures - which are for August - show daily sales of 3,128,501.

Sun front page in 1997 supporting Tony Blair

Political allegiance: After being one of Mrs Thatcher's biggest cheerleaders the paper supported Labour at the 1997, 2001 and 2005 elections. The latter was seen as a close call, given Labour's falling popularity. In 1992, the Sun backed the Tories and ran a sustained campaign against Labour leader Neil Kinnock. When the Conservatives snatched victory, the paper declared, "It's the Sun wot won it".

Verdict on Brown's speech: "Nobody can doubt the dedication of Gordon Brown," but they also cannot disguise Labour's failures. The paper accused Mr Brown of rewriting the history of the past 12 years and painting an "absurd caricature" of the Tories.

Daily Mail front page 2001

Circulation: 2,171,686

Political allegiance: Right-leaning with traditionally conservative values, it backed the Tories in 2005 and was highly critical of Tony Blair. However, before that it had often supported him and his New Labour project, including at the 2001 election. The Daily Mail appears more likely than not to back David Cameron at the next election, although it has welcomed some of Mr Brown's policies - rethinking 24-hour drinking and super casinos, for instance.

Verdict on Brown's speech: His speech "was finely crafted and confidently - even passionately - delivered" but short on budgetary detail. The Mail's editorial also asked a question which hinted at its own party loyalties: "Are we to have another five years of big-state welfarism - or a fiscally responsible government that will make self-reliant families the bedrock of its social policy?"


Circulation: 1,324,883

Political allegiance: Avowedly Labour supporting throughout its history, the Mirror has campaigned strongly for the party in all recent elections and poured scorn on the Tories. It is likely to be the only paper Mr Brown can rely on for unambiguous support next year.

Verdict on Brown's speech: "Gordon Brown is a prime minister we can all be proud of," it declared. "Britain is a far better country than the rundown state inherited from the Tories" and Conservative claims to the contrary are "ludicrous". Mr Brown's policy commitments show Labour is "the only choice" for voters who care about issues like schools, housing and pensions.


Circulation: 886,814

Political allegiance: In 2005, the paper veered between promoting apathy and encouraging engagement. On one day it offered a window sticker saying "NO POLI-TITS! THIS HOUSE IS A CANDIDATE-FREE ZONE!" - and on another, told voters they must go out and take part, regardless of the party they chose. Given that it seems to have written off Mr Brown already, a Tory stance looks likely in 2010, especially as the Star shares many of the values of its sister paper, the Daily Express.

Verdict on Brown's speech: "Goodbye, Gordon" said the editorial, claiming Mr Brown "was in bullish mood, promising 'to change the world'... but he is still doomed". He may have got a standing ovation, but his speech was "just a defiant death rattle", the paper added.


Circulation: 814,087

Political allegiance: In recent decades it has been seen as Conservative through and through - known as "The Torygraph" to readers of Private Eye. Stayed loyal to the Conservatives in the last two elections, when others didn't. Hugely critical of Labour and Gordon Brown. Its pages have not been uncritical of David Cameron, but it is expected to champion him at the next election. It was a strongly Liberal paper in its early days, so much so that it used to describe Gladstone as the "People's William".

Verdict on Brown's speech: "Tired ideas from an exhausted Labour party," the paper said. "He talked endlessly about change, but his overriding message was that a fourth Labour term will be little different to a third Labour term - and who wants that?" Highly critical in almost every way, the Telegraph made it clear who it thinks will win in 2010.


Circulation: 730,234

Political allegiance: Switches of owners have altered its political outlook over the past few decades but it backed the Conservatives in 2005 and has been increasingly critical of Labour since then. Its comments about Gordon Brown suggest it will campaign enthusiastically for David Cameron next year.

Verdict on Brown's speech: In one word, damning. It called Mr Brown "a monstrous politician" and his efforts to reach out to the British middle classes "a giant and cynical con". The Express all but nailed its colours to the Tory mast, stating that Brown's plan for Britain "is a fate our nation must be spared from".

The Times' front page in 2001

Circulation: 576,185

Political allegiance: Supported Labour in 2001 for the first time in its history and did so again in 2005. However, it backed the Tories at the European elections in June and Boris Johnson for London mayor, both of which may indicate a shift in support. Like the Sun, the Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Verdict on Brown's speech: "Gordon Brown misses his moment", said the paper's leader. There were a few "electrifying" moments at the beginning, but he went on to ignore three main areas of concern - the country's fiscal deficit, the collapse in faith in the political system and Afghanistan. The paper said it was still convinced that Labour could make no political progress with Mr Brown as leader.


Circulation: 395,845

Political allegiance: During the 1980s, the FT backed Margaret Thatcher and her monetary policies. But in recent years has aligned itself with Labour and supported the party in 2001 and 2005. At the last election, its pre-vote editorial was titled, "Why it is not yet time for change" - although polls later showed that more FT readers voted Tory than Labour. The paper has also been supportive of Mr Brown specifically.

Verdict on Brown's speech: "The next British election might just turn into a contest," it said. Mr Brown's speech was "combative" and contained an "uncharacteristically succinct crescendo of the achievements of the past 12 years". The paper said with a degree of optimism that there was "material here to take the fight to the Tories".

Guardian newspaper

Circulation: 311,387

Political allegiance: Left-leaning, with a readership largely split between Labour and Lib Dem voters. Columnist Jackie Ashley said last year that the paper's stance at the 2010 election would not come from the editor, but be "the result of vigorous debate within the paper". It is traditionally a Labour paper, although its endorsement in 2005 was somewhat lacklustre. It has also called on the party to kick Brown out and so would struggle to credibly endorse it next year if he is still in charge.

Verdict on Brown's speech: He's "holding out for hope" but the speech was "not enough to break through to the future". His lavish promises - and little talk of how to pay for them - did not sound like a man "once wedded to prudence". There were some decent ideas, like a bigger role in banking for the Post Office, but there is still the mind of a whole country to change.


Circulation: 187,837

Political allegiance: Takes a centre-left stance, but does not traditionally associate with any one party, hence its name. If it does take a view in 2010 it is probably more likely to back the Lib Dems - or even a hung Parliament - than support Labour or the Tories.

Verdict on Brown's speech: "Labour has a route map, but does it have enough time?" the paper's leader asked. It was a "pugnacious" speech, but some of the new policies were "depressingly knee-jerk". It will be hard to turn things round in just a few months from such a low base of popular support.

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