I have never disliked the Sun as much as I dislike the Mail. I’ve always believed the latter to be more dangerous because its readers think it’s a proper newspaper. I don’t think Sun readers make that mistake.
Nor do I believe they pay much attention to its voting instructions. I remember that, in its Thatcherite heyday, an independent poll of readers revealed that most assumed the Sun was a Labour paper, which must have been both reassuring and disconcerting for the Labour Party at the time.
How a paper allied to what was nominally a party of the left might have delivered a verdict such as it did on Hillsborough is hard to imagine. That was in the days before Kelvin MacKenzie was re-invented as a loveable curmudgeon. His lies about Liverpool fans managed to shock without being surprising. The Sun had long been a vicious bag of hate and fiction. It continued to be so when it did start to support Labour.
Neither did the Mail or Express lighten up on travelling people or refugees when they fell in love with Tony Blair. The fact that they are read by so many people and that the country is not overrun with lynching parties must mean that, despite my second sentence, not all their readers take them seriously.
This is not to say the ‘quality’ right‑wing papers are covered in glory. The Telegraph is okay, so long as you know that a belief that the army should run the country informs even the punctuation, and that many of its readers use the word ‘abolitionist’ pejoratively. But the high-end News International papers are impossible to take seriously. The Kim family must passionately envy the Murdochs, wishing they got such an easy ride from the Pyongyang Times. No, it really is called that.
Jeremy Hardy is a comedian and writer who regularly appears on BBC Radio 4's The News Quiz and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.