It's The Sun Wot Won It

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Front-page of The Sun from Saturday 11 April 1992.

"It's The Sun Wot Won It" is a "notorious" headline that appeared on the front-page of The Sun on Saturday 11 April 1992, and has since become a political catch phrase in the United Kingdom,[1] and is regularly cited in debates on the influence of the press over politicians and election results.[2]

Origin[edit]

The headline referred to The Sun's contribution to the unexpected Conservative victory in the 1992 general election.[3] What influence the newspaper had on voters in the narrow Conservative victory is unclear, but in the leading up to polling day, the newspaper led a campaign against the Labour Party leader, Neil Kinnock, which culminated in the election day headline, "If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights". This was to deter voters from electing Labour, as opinion polls during the three years leading up to the election had mostly predicted that it would end in a hung parliament or a narrow Labour majority. The Sun had encouraged its readers to back the Conservative Party at the 1979 general election.[4]

Even some Tory MPs acknowledged that The Sun contributed to their election triumph. Kinnock himself blamed The Sun for his failure to win the election, though he also admitted that he had been half-expecting to lose the election even before the article was published.[5]

Later use[edit]

Variations of the headline are frequently used in the UK media during elections. The phrase was used again by many political commentators after the 1997 general election when The Sun switched sides and supported Labour's new leader Tony Blair, who won the election by a landslide. However, unlike in 1992, opinion polls throughout the inter-election period had consistently suggested such a result was likely.

In 2004, it was said to be The Guardian "wot lost it" for John Kerry in the US presidential election, after the newspaper started a letter writing campaign to voters in Ohio urging them to vote for Kerry; the state went for George W. Bush.[6] In the 2008 London Mayoral election, it was supposedly the Evening Standard 'wot won it' for Boris Johnson.[7] Also in 2008 The Sun used a variation of the headline for a debate at the Oxford Union over the Page 3 girl claiming 'It's Sun's girls wot won it'.[8][9]

On 6 May 2010, an altered version of the anti-Kinnock headline appeared in the centre pages of The Sun featuring Labour prime minister Gordon Brown and the words "If Brown wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights" next to an image of Brown's head in a lightbulb.[citation needed] The Sun had announced its backing for the Tory opposition (led by David Cameron) the previous year.[10] The election saw the Conservatives gain the most seats but fall short of an overall majority, needing to agree a coalition with the Liberal Democrats in order to form a government.[11]

The headline "will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights" was paraphrased during the News International phone hacking scandal to refer to the closure of the News of the World.[12]

In April 2012, giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch described the Sun Wot Won It headline as "tasteless and wrong" and reported giving the then-Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie "a hell of a bollocking."[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ J. Curtice (September 1999). Was it the Sun wot won it again? The influence of newspapers in the 1997 election campaign (pdf). Centre for Research into Elections and Social Trends. Retrieved 4 May 2008. 
  2. ^ a b Rupert Murdoch: 'Sun wot won it' headline was tasteless and wrong
  3. ^ Douglas, Torin (14 September 2004). "Forty years of The Sun". BBC News. Retrieved 4 May 2008. 
  4. ^ Peter Chippindale and Chris Horrie Stick It Up Your Punter, London: Pocket Books, 1999 [2005], p.73
  5. ^ Douglas, Torin (21 April 2005). "Could it be the Sun wot wins it again?". BBC News. Retrieved 4 May 2008. 
  6. ^ Ian Burrell (8 November 2004). "Lady Antonia of Clark County". London: The Independent. Retrieved 4 May 2008. 
  7. ^ Tim Luckhurst (4 May 2008). "So was it the 'Standard' wot won it?". London: The Independent. Retrieved 4 May 2008. 
  8. ^ "It's Sun's girls wot won it". The Sun. 25 April 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2008. 
  9. ^ Purves, Libby (30 April 2008). "The Sun shines bright at the Oxford Union's Page 3 girl debate". Times Online (London). Retrieved 4 May 2008. 
  10. ^ Naughton, Phillipe (30 September 2009). "Labour fails to conceal its anger after The Sun switches to support Conservatives". Times Online. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  11. ^ Alberici, Emma (22 May 2010). "Diary". The Spectator. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  12. ^ Wells, Matt (15 July 2011). "Les Hinton sacrificed, but the worst is yet to come for News Corp". The Guardian (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 19 July 2011.