Perhaps the least surprising event of the election campaign happened last night. The English Sun endorsed David Cameron and the Conservatives, while the Scottish Sun endorsed Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.
Given the deliberate public position Ed Miliband has taken in attacking Rupert Murdoch, this was almost inevitable. Frankly, Labour probably have more chance of being endorsed by Norman Tebbit than a Rupert Murdoch publication in this campaign.
As we begin the final week of the election campaign, we can expect to see more newspapers and magazines declare their official election endorsements. So far there have been no surprises. The New Statesman gave their endorsement to Labour yesterday, albeit as begrudging and anti-Ed Miliband an endorsement as they could, and today the Financial Times and Economist have both endorsed another Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government.
Looking across the media landscape, it is unlikely that there will be any significant surprises in terms of endorsements.
Most of the major newspapers are right-leaning and will endorse the Conservatives (UKIP-supporting Desmond publications aside), while left-leaning publications such as the Guardian and Mirror will endorse Labour (with the odd plaintive noise towards the Greens perhaps). More centrist publications such as the FT are leaning towards the Conservatives, but command less influence in terms of voter numbers anyway.
In an election campaign where the media coverage has become so polarised, this should surprise no one. Instead it should raise the question, do the endorsements actually matter anymore? Many voters will be aware of media bias and will have already factored this in to their decision-making. There is also a strong aversion to the messaging and bias of the ‘media establishment’ in a large section of the electorate that support fringe parties such as UKIP.
This election campaign has seen constant comparisons to the election in 1992. We are often told that it was in fact the Sun “wot won” that election for the Conservatives. With the decline of newspaper sales, the rise of alternative online voices, and the disillusionment of many voters with the establishment, it seems unlikely that a newspaper endorsement will have the same direct influence in 2015.
However, in an election that is still too tight to call, and where polls are suggesting that there are still up to ten million undecided voters, we should not be completely dismissing the importance of these endorsements.
The media narrative is still a crucial vehicle for parties to get their message across to swing voters. These endorsements can act as a key reinforcement for these messages.
Ultimately, in such a tight election, if any of these endorsements secures a few hundred extra votes in the right marginals then that could have a direct impact on who ends up in Downing Street.