Image: The Sun newspaper cover
The Sun
Front page of Wednesday's Sun newspaper.
updated 9/30/2009 8:06:42 AM ET 2009-09-30T12:06:42

The Sun is setting on Britain's beleaguered Labour Party.

Saddled with an unpopular prime minister and battered in the polls, Labour now has the hostility of Britain's biggest-selling tabloid newspaper to deal with.

"Labour's Lost It," The Sun newspaper said in a front page editorial explaining why it was now endorsing the opposition Conservatives after backing Labour for more than a decade.

"After 12 long years in power, this government has lost its way. Now it's lost the The Sun's support too," the paper's Wednesday edition said against a picture of a grim-looking Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The tabloid's verdict is bad news for Brown, who is fighting hard to stave off an expected election defeat next year. His left-leaning party has slipped to third place in a poll for the first time since 1982 — behind both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Battered by a scandal over the lavish expenses claimed by lawmakers and squeezed by an increasingly deadly war in Afghanistan, Labour faces an uphill fight to win in the next national election, which must by law be called by June.

The Sun's endorsement may make things harder. The popular paper's circulation fluctuates around 3 million, and politicians have often tried to curry favor with the paper's powerful proprietor, Rupert Murdoch — who also owns The Times of London, The News of the World and controls satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting.

Support eroding for Labour
The Sun has backed Labour since 1997, when a young Tony Blair won the British premiership, so the paper's switch is an ominous sign for Brown supporters. Labour's energy minister, Ed Miliband, said his party would have an easier time of things if the The Sun stayed on his side.

Video: One-on-one "I suppose I take an old-fashioned view about this which is that people decide elections, not newspapers, and let the people decide," Miliband told the BBC's "Newsnight" program. "It is not that I am not bothered — I want as many people as possible to support us and it would be better if The Sun was supporting us."

According to an Ipsos MORI poll published Tuesday, the Conservatives had the support of 36 percent of those surveyed, the Liberal Democrats had 25 percent and Labour had 24 percent.

Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,003 people by telephone between Sept. 25-27. Survey samples of such size usually give a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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