“The working-class have spoken” declared UKIP leader Nigel Farage in light of the news that Britain had decided to leave the European Union. With all his glee and David Cameron’s shame, I couldn’t help but notice what I consider to be the reality: Rupert Murdoch, owner of the bestselling tabloid newspaper The Sun, had spoken. Ahead of the national referendum Murdoch, a committed Eurosceptic proclaimed his opposition towards the EU claiming. ''When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice’, he told the Evening Standard’s Anthony Hilton. Consequently, he enabled The Sun editors to publish a plethora of Eurosceptic stories with attention grabbing headlines. “The Queen Backs Brexit” and “BeLEAVE in Britain” dominated its constant flow of front page endorsements essentially calling for Britain to be great again. This resonated deeply with The Sun’s audience who are more than accustomed to the paper’s distain for the EU.
Since 1990, The Sun has relentlessly opposed integration in Europe. Most famously publishing the front page headline “Up Yours Delors” deriding Jacques Delor, the former president of the European Commission, it has since gone on to produce a number of stories emphasising how the EU open boarders policies facilitates an influx of what it calls economic refugees. Blaming the immigrants was a easy way to galvanise the support of those who struggle with unemployment and benefit cuts religiously reading the paper. Such spin provided ammunition for a slew of stories in the run up to the referendum, giving credence to the out campaign without having to the state the facts.
Throughout the “in/out” campaign activity, critics noted how quiet Murdoch remained. But why would he make a statement when his newspaper could on a larger scale? “Staying in will be worse for immigration, worse for jobs, worse for wages and worse for our way of life...To remain means being powerless to cut mass immigration which keeps wages low and puts catastrophic pressure on our schools, hospitals, roads and housing stock” an article read. Meanwhile Murdoch was busy lunching with MEP Nigel Farage, the mouth-piece of the out campaign, following his previous endorsement of the far-right party leader whose “electoral support reflected public opinion”.
It’s worth noting that Murdoch also owns The Times who fervently argued for Britain to remain. But this effort seemed rather contrite on Murdoch’s end. Readers of The Times, traditionally, are more able to develop their own opinion on political matters Sent from my iPhone
In the case of Brexit, Murdoch encouraged his readers of The Sun that the remain campaign was “made up of the corporate establishment, arrogant europhiles and foreign banks”. But isn’t Murdoch’s media empire a corporate establishment? David Cameron and Tony Blair can credit their days at 10 Downing Street to Murdoch’s support as much as Nick Clegg and now Jeremy Cobyn can accredit their downfall to the media moguel’s agenda. Such factors are easily missed in the height of campaign activity especially when the newspaper you’re reading acts as the voice of the people. In a bid to maintain his power within the UK political system, Murdoch aligned The Sun with the common man to wage a war of us against them.
And then came Thursday 23rd June. “Britain leaves the EU” read the 5am Guardian alert. As the London commuters made their way into work with a bitter taste in their mouths, The Sun headquarters were busy again. Not celebrating the success of their leader’s decision but back peddling on all the propaganda it spread over the course of a month. A somber article published in the depths of its website answered one of the most important questions of the result: how will leaving the EU affect your wallet? A list of consequences included benefits slashes, a rise in unemployment and a fall in wages by 4% were explained at The Sun’s level of depth. “Why didn’t you tell us before?” exclaimed angry readers claiming they were conned by their newspaper. But all this information was available during the campaign it just required a simple search.
Each argument outlined in the article was part of the remain campaign The Sun so avidly dismisses as scaremongering. Nothing new was presented and thus shouldn’t have come as a surprise. And although the article was filled with ifs and buts, its uncertainty reflected that of the gambled votes to leave. Brexit therefore was another working example of Murdoch’s power within British government. The unelected Australian may be a public figure married to a model but remains one, if not the most powerful man in Britain. When asked how he felt about the tumultuous result while golfing with Donald Trump on the American presidential candidate’s Scottish golf course, he called it “wonderful”. Leaving the EU was like a “prison break…we’re out”. Murdoch remains in, British politics at least.