The Sun hopes to back both winning horses by splitting UK election support

Chris Boffey is a former news editor of the Observer, Sunday Telegraph and the Mirror and onetime special adviser to the Labour government.

To the uninitiated, the decision by the Sun to advise its readers in Scotland to vote SNP and those in the rest of the UK to put their cross against the Tories seems schizophrenic and ,if not that, downright hypocritical.

They may be partially right but this is a plan worked out by Sun editor David Dinsmore and Rupert Murdoch up to a year ago. Remember last September when the publishing world waited to see which way the Scottish and UK editions of the Sun would go on the issue of Scotland becoming independent?

At that time it was widely expected that the tartan Sun would tell its readers to vote "yes" and break up the union. As it was the Sun sat on the fence and advised them to just get out and vote. This was derided in some quarters but Dinsmore and Murdoch were looking at the bigger picture and towards the general election.

They knew it was inconceivable that the Sun could call for the break up of the Union and still back the Tories on May 7. One would have been a divorce the other is a difference of opinion.

The Sun, unashamedly, is hoping to back both winning horses and in doing so keep Labour on the opposition benches. There has been a lot of blood under the bridge since Murdoch backed Tony Blair and not all of it personal.

Ed Miliband is too red for Rupert and stood up to him over phone hacking and whilst many of Murdoch's advisers think David Cameron ineffectual he is offering a referendum on Europe.

It is not the first time that the Sun in Scotland has advised readers to vote for the nationalists but looking at the front page of the Scottish Sun which has Nicola Sturgeon dressed as a Star Wars figure you do have to pinch yourself to remember that she is not standing in this election. No one can vote for Nicola Sturgeon.

The flaw in Murdoch's thinking is that in the event of Cameron not winning enough seats to form even a coalition government there could be a Labour coalition with former SNP leader Alex Salmond sitting in the cabinet if he wins his seat in Scotland.

This issue will probably be raised in the special edition of Question Time with the three main party leaders but if the Duchess of Cambridge gives birth to her and Prince William's second child everything will be drowned by baby coverage...aah.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.