by Stephen Tall on May 1, 2010
So today the Guardian officially, and surprisingly, came out in support of the Lib Dems for the coming general election. Most of us who are resolved to ‘Keep Calm & Clegg On’ are happy to recognise that newspaper endorsements – certainly by left-of-centre newspapers – do not swing elections.
But, equally, it would be wrong to dismiss the Grauniad’s conversion to the Lib Dem cause as irrelevant. For a start, it is the first time since 1974 that the paper has unreservedly supported the party. That alone is a real fillip to activists.
It’s good for morale, therefore. But it is also good for credibility. For a long time, a newspaper endorsement for the Lib Dems has been the Cinderella at the ball. The Indy has let us get our hands all over it but never allowed us to go all the way. The Guardian has flirted but made sure we keep our hands to ourselves: until now. Now, at long last, Nick Clegg’s party is being taken seriously.
And then there’s this. At the last estimate the Guardian’s readership totalled some 1.15 million. Today they will all be reading that they should, in their paper’s opinion, vote Lib Dem. Does that mean they will? Of course not. Just as putting up a Lib Dem poster doesn’t guarantee your neighbour will vote for the party either. But it does mean they’ll see you support the party. Which does mean they will, in turn, think about whether they might also.
It’s silly to over-estimate the importance of newspapers at election time. But let’s not dismiss their endorsements either. In effect, the party just gained over a million new poster sites. That makes me happy, at any rate.