As Baronness Scott mentions on her new blog, Rebekkah Wade, editor of the Sun, recently talked to the House of Lords select committee on communications, which asked a few interesting questions about the political stance of the Sun and who sets it. There is not yet a written transcript of their exchange, but here is a video of it, which the committee’s homepage has made available:
She states that her views are well known to Murdoch, and that they are very much involved in why she was appointed:
Wade: I’ve worked for Mr. Murdoch since I was.. um, well, for 18 years, and 12 of those years, I’ve either been an editor or a deputy editor, so I think it would be fair to say that before any appointment, you know, he knew me pretty well – any senior appointment. Erm… In that way he would be aware of my views, both social views, cultural views and political views.
What stood out for me, though, was just how much she visibly virulently dislikes the Lib Dems. Twice in the following exchange she goes out of her way to make digs at the Lib Dems, and she makes it quite clear by omission that in the 2005 election she had no intention of giving fair coverage to the Lib Dems:
Chair: When it comes to an election, who decides who you’ll support, is it Mr. Murdoch or is it you?
Wade: Well, if I can.. I’ve been editor for a couple of elections, but if you take the 2005, where the Sun in the end backed Tony Blair, famously with the Vatican chimney on the top of Wapping and we announced that there’d be blue or red smoke – I can’t remember whether we had any yellow smoke even ready but anyway… sorry, apologies to the Lib Dems…
In the run-up to the election, I was very careful to give, um, the Labour party and the Conservative party equal opportunity to show their wares, so to speak, in the Sun, so Sun readers could make up their own mind, seeing, you know, very fair coverage of both sets of policies. In the end however… I would.. I talked to.. I did talk to Mr. Murdoch, of course; I mean, Mr. Murdoch is a lifelong newspaper man, he’s also lived through political change, both here and in America and Ausralia, his advice is always exemplary and… and good, but at the same time I also spent a lot of time talking to Trevor Kavanagh, who was the political editor at the time, and his deputy at the time George Pascoe-Watson, who has now taken that role, and Les Hinton, erm, our exectuive chairman. You know, I.. I.. the way I edit the paper, I do seek advice and I.. I think I’m actually very lucky to have a traditional proprietor like Mr. Murdoch, and.. and that was.. coupled with I’ve always had Les Hinton there as well, who as you know was a journalist. So.. yes I.. yes I do seek advice from them, and yes it is a.. um.. a consensus… issue, but… I… wanted to back Tony Blair, I voted for him, and, er… that’s what happened.
Chair: But when, I mean, when it comes to it, I mean cutting through all that, I mean when it comes to it, if Mr. Murdoch said, in your editorship, um, you will back Labour or you will back Conservatives, that’s actually what you’d do?
Wade: If Mr. Murdoch told me to back the Lib Dems I’d resign. Em.. I can’t imagine that he would.
Chair: I think we’re probably agreed on that.
Wade: Um.. sorry, Lib Dems… I’m going to be nice about the Lib Dems a bit more later on.
Well, I’m still making my way through the video, but I’m yet to find the promised bit of being nice to us. But what I find interesting about the bits quoted above is just how obvious in her body language and tone of voice her dislike of our party is. It clearly goes far beyond a simple intellectual disagreement. I wonder why?
I can’t really be arsed to type out any more of their exchanges, but it’s notable in the exchange above and in plenty of other answers she give that she is very conscious of exactly how she portrays her relationship with Murdoch. I have included in my transcript a lot of her hesitations and rephrasings, not because I want to make her seem stupid, but to emphasize those points where she is being especially careful about what she is saying. Uniformly, she is incredibly careful not to suggest areas of policy input from Murdoch, even when directly asked for an example of a disagreement she has had with Murdoch; on that occasion, she makes a very awkward and transparent attempt to make the whole thing into a joke about the relative seriousness of reality TV programmes.