‘It’s the Sun wot won it,’ crowed Kelvin MacKenzie with characteristic chutzpah on the front page of Britain’s best-selling newspaper after Neil Kinnock had crashed to defeat in the 1992 general election. As the nation went to the polls, the Currant Bun featured the Welsh Windbag’s head inside a 40-watt bulb, under the headline, ‘If Kinnock wins, will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights.’ When the Tories were returned to office, Kelvin was quick to claim the credit.
Well, up to a point, Lord Wapping. The Sun has a voice, but it doesn’t have a vote. In truth, it was the Sun’s readers wot won it, just as they had in every other election in modern times. During the 1980s they backed the Thatcher revolution, which transformed their lives, respected them as individuals, freed them from trade union tyranny and put money in their pockets.
By 1992 the Tories had run out of steam and had replaced the Iron Lady with a leader for whom the term lacklustre might have been minted. The good times of the Eighties were a distant memory as interest rates soared and the property bubble burst. All those who had bought their council houses suddenly found their homes worth less than their mortgages. Black Wednesday was just a few short months away.
And yet, and yet…. As a columnist on the Sun, my postbag provides a pretty accurate insight into the mood of the readers. In 1992 they were sick of the sight of the Conservatives but couldn’t bring themselves to make the great leap forward to Labour, especially under the buffoonish leadership of Kinnocchio.
Some commentators see the defining moment of that campaign as Labour’s Sheffield rally. It was meant to be Kinnock’s Martin Luther King ‘I have a dream’ moment. Instead, it was more like the assassination of MLK — except that Kinnock turned the gun on himself.