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Has this been timed to cause the maximum damage?

September 30th, 2009

Will the Sun’s move dispirit the party even more?

Labour’s big remaining hope as it entered the conference season was that Brown’s speech would exceed the low expectations and provide the platform for some sort of recovery.

Last year the PM’s “no time for a novice” phrase caught the mood of the time and for the final quarter of 2008 Cameron’s Tories were on the back foot.

A lot was riding on being able to do the same again – a prospect that looks a lot more challenging following the news that Britain’s biggest selling daily paper is to throw its weight behind the Tories.

It had been clear for months that the Sun would decide this way – but it’s the timing, a few hours after Brown’s big speech, that will magnify the damage.

For what this does is to change the whole dynamic of the media coverage which in the main had not been too bad. It will, I believe, have an impact in the polls if only to contain the Labour conference surge that we had seen in the tracker surveys.

For all the Labour movement hates the Sun almost everybody is painfully aware of its influence and the part it played in undermining Kinnock in 1992 and then John Major in 1997.

And how dispiriting for the delegates who’ve travelled to Brighton in the hope that they could return to their constituencies energised with a fresh determination to fight the coming battle.

The Sun’s move is a deliberately timed body-blow that will have a big impact.

UPDATE 5AM: I’ve just opened my emails to discover that just after I had gone to bed the Sun sent me a copy of the front page featured above. This is the first time that any newspaper has ever done that which has allowed me to reproduce a much more detailed picture on the site.

Mike Smithson