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Keir Starmer has risked the wrath of Labour members and supporters, especially in the party’s Merseyside heartlands, after indicating that he would welcome an endorsement from The S*n newspaper.
Speaking with Channel Four News last night, the Labour leader said he was determined to “engage” with media outlets which have been historically opposed to Labour and the party’s progressive principles.
One of Starmer’s first acts after winning the Labour leadership contest in April was to pen a column for the notoriously right-wing, pro-Tory Daily Telegraph – and, in last night’s Channel Four interview, the Labour leader declared that he was keen to move forward in this direction in order to change the party’s historically fraught relationship with the largely right-wing UK media.
When asked if he would be “happy to see The S*n endorse the Labour Party” – a newspaper which has been entirely boycotted in Merseyside and is widely despised by Labour members due to the paper’s extreme right-wing stances and outright racism – Starmer refused to criticise the paper, and even indicated that he would welcome such an endorsement, stating:
“I want as many people to endorse the Labour Party as possible. It’s not actually about those endorsements. The question is whether more people can be persuaded to have trust in the Labour Party. And trust is the critical thing at the moment.”
"You can't lose an election as badly as we did in December and carry on as if everything is fine."
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says "trust is the critical thing" for voters – as the party looks to rebuild in areas where they lost ground in the last election. pic.twitter.com/fpSDUJkVgI
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) August 14, 2020
However, back in January, when asked about the paper during a Labour leadership hustings in Liverpool, Starmer proudly declared that he “certainly won’t be giving any interviews to The S*n during the course of this campaign” – a statement which was warmly welcomed by the Merseyside crowd.
Yet, just hours after this statement at another Labour leadership event, Starmer responded to a similar question about whether he would engage with the right-wing newspaper by saying:
“Well, let’s get to be leader first, and then you can come back and ask me again.”
And now, following Starmer’s indication that he would welcome an endorsement from the Murdoch-owned outlet, Labour members and supporters are unsurprisingly outraged:
@Keir_Starmer remember what you said about the sun when you came to Liverpool for the leadership debate? So why didn’t you say “no” when you where asked if you would want the sun endorsement?
— Becky (@LfcBecky) August 15, 2020
This is what he’s after pic.twitter.com/8BTt1utYWE
— SUSAN SIMPSON #NeverTrustaTory (@smartysue) August 14, 2020
— Becky (@LfcBecky) August 14, 2020
— Cameron 1876 (@JagsFanCG) August 14, 2020
So you'd be happy for The Sun to endorse Labour?
Here's a clue @Keir_Starmer the answer is NO.
— James Clouting (@james_clouting) August 14, 2020
Before his landslide election victory in 1997, the then Labour leader Tony Blair infamously courted Rupert Murdoch in the hope of winning an endorsement from The S*n.
However, after winning the endorsement of the newspaper and the subsequent General Election in a landslide, Labour appeared to capitulate to their wealthy backers by tacking to the right and reneging on many of their left-wing pre-election promises.
Given his latest u-turn on The S*n, many Labour members will undoubtedly be worried that Starmer may be planning to emulate Blair by ditching the party’s progressive policy platform in order to court the right-wing, billionaire-owned media.