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Keir Starmer is an enemy of the free press

The Sun has endorsed a man who persecuted its own journalists.

Fraser Myers

Fraser Myers
Deputy editor

Topics Free Speech Politics UK

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On the eve of this summer election day, the Sun has come out for Keir Starmer.

The tabloid’s endorsement of the Labour leader has understandably raised eyebrows. And not just because of his politics. After all, this elite Remainer and human-rights lawyer sits firmly on the wrong side of the culture war for the Sun’s Brexit-backing, anti-woke readership. Far stranger is that the Sun is surely aware of just how big a threat our presumptive next prime minister poses to press freedom.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the liberty to publish and be damned hangs in the balance at this General Election. Labour has repeatedly threatened to subject the press to state regulation. What Labour has floated would represent a level of government intrusion into what journalists are allowed to print not seen since the late 17th century, when Crown licensing of newspapers was abolished and the modern free press was born.

Although it does not appear in Labour’s manifesto, Starmer’s frontbenchers have consistently vowed to reinstate Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. This law’s aim is to cajole dissident news media to sign up to a state-backed regulator, using the threat of legal blackmail. Publishers that refuse to sign up would be forced to pay the costs of anyone who decides to sue them – even if the publisher wins the case! Section 40 was passed in parliament in the wake of Lord Justice Leveson’s show trial of the tabloid media, although it was thankfully never enacted by the Tories and was recently abolished by the Media Act 2024. The incoming Labour government could soon look to revive this menacing, draconian law. Perhaps in a second term.

What’s more, Starmer himself is an avowed enemy of press freedom. As director of public prosecutions in the 2010s, he showed an alarming determination to drag journalists through the courts. He led the persecution of 30 reporters who were arrested and charged under Operation Elveden – most of whom worked for the Sun, as it happens. They spent years on police bail, their careers were left in tatters, and some attempted suicide. Not one was ever convicted of any crime. The police operation began in 2011 and the last journalist was cleared in 2016. This was a witch-hunt against journalists you would expect to see in China, and our soon-to-be PM was the witch-finder general. To this day, Starmer has refused to apologise for this grotesque abuse of state power against the press.

The Sun’s eve-of-election editorial essentially presents the Labour leader as the least-worst option available – as the only credible choice, following the exhaustion of the Tories. But this ignores just how authoritarian Starmer keeps showing himself to be. He may be a man of few principles, but his instincts are consistently, unabashedly authoritarian. A Labour victory tomorrow would be a dark day for press freedom.

Fraser Myers is deputy editor at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on X: @FraserMyers.

Picture by: the Sun.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Free Speech Politics UK

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