Rupert Murdoch likes a winner. He’s the Sun King, not King Canute. Which means it’s going to be very interesting to watch how his outlets’ editorial lines evolve as the election draws closer, on IR and all the other hot-button issues.
Murdoch also has his own interests to protect. But don’t we all? If his outlets are out of pace with public opinion, they lose audience share. That damages Murdoch’s interests, too.
Remember how his most famous paper, The Sun, was forced to do a reverse ferret – to use its own parlance – after the “It was The Sun wot won it” front page that followed John Major’s hollow victory in 1992?
The Tories’ decline continued. The Sun had been out of step with public opinion. It lost readers. Legendary editor Kelvin Mackenzie departed not that long after.
Three years later, New Labour leader Tony Blair was addressing the annual get together of international News Corp execs.
Virtually every media outlet in New South Wales was violently hostile to the Iemma government six months out from the election campaign.
As the polls continued to point to a Labor win, however, Liberal leader Peter Debnam became the object of their ire. The NSW media – Murdoch’s outlets included – drifted with the tide. They didn’t try to trying to turn it back. There was a brief flare up in the last 48 hours of the campaign – hostile, despairing editorials directed against Iemma – but that was it.
Neville Wran famously reminded Bob Hawke in his messiah days about how Australians really think. “If the greedy bastards wanted spiritualism, they’d join the f-cking Hare Krishna,” he said.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, voters back the political party they think will do the most for them.
Most Australian voters appear to think John Howard has given them security, but they also seem to think he’ll soon be moving on. That means they’re thinking about change. They’re thinking about Kevin Rudd. They’ll watch the Labor leader closely over the next six months as they gradually come to a final decision.
So will Rupert Murdoch.
Disclosure: Christian Kerr takes Rupert’s shilling.