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Wednesday, July 31, 2013 

This is our last gasp.

There's been a lot of snarky comment on the Sun's deeply odd wrap-around front page, and for good reason: it makes those splashes the Independent used to run look subtle.  THIS IS OUR BRITAIN it screams, and it might mean something if it wasn't just a promotional exercise to inform the paper's readers that, err, they're now going to be charged to access the paper's website and apps.  To be fair, as a commenter points out over at the New Statesman, it's difficult to draw pictures of non-material things, so what we get instead is an amalgamation of the centrepiece of Danny Boyle's (deeply overrated) Olympic opening ceremony and a lot of err, stuff pasted on the top of it.  There's the Shard, that famously British eyesore, a Routemaster, naturally, a power station, Mr Bean, the Queen's head peaking over an S, and well, every other cliche and landmark you can think of.

Taken altogether, it comes across as being spectacularly insincere. Is this an idealised Britain, or is it the Sun's Britain? It is of course lovely to think of a field that is forever England, or Britain, but when the vast majority of us live in urban areas rather than out in that green and pleasant land, planking everything down in something resembling Elysium is just a trifle odd. The Sun is nothing if not an embodiment of national stereotypes, despite having been born in the 60s, but even if this it's meant to say we might be changing but our values aren't, it just seems lazy and hackneyed. Obviously that's never bothered the paper in the past, yet you might have thought that under a new editor and to encourage readers to pay extra for what they used to get for free they would have gone that extra mile.

More pertinently, the Scottish edition, while keeping much of the editorial, goes for a cleaner and sharper look. The less said about A NEW DAWN the better, but it doesn't make your brain hurt from just looking at it. As Stuart Campbell also notes, the Scottish edition drops some of the harsher language from the statements on politics, in particular on welfare. The paper's stance on benefits and immigration can be summed up in that they're in favour of both for those they deem deserving and are against for everyone else.  Labour also gets it in the neck repeatedly despite the paper saying they're not slavish supporters of any party: who knew that a "culture of entitlement exploded" under the last government which destroyed entire communities, or that they papered over the cracks in education while standards fell measured against the rest of the world.

The problem the Sun faces is that it simply isn't as influential as it once was.  Whether down to the defenestration of Rebekah Brooks as chief executive of what was News International and the whole phone hacking scandal, or changes in the way politicians now attempt to engage the public, the Sun almost certainly comes behind the Mail as the first port of call for the Tory side of the coalition.  Rather than attempt to fight back, the paper has instead gone down the paywall route.  Paywalls can be viable if you provide content that isn't available anywhere else, as the FT has demonstrated; even with the new "not quite Sky Sports" programming promised for subscribers, it's difficult to see exactly what the Sun will have that other free sites won't.

One positive is that regardless of its execution, it's at least a change to see the Sun provide a picture of the country that has some sort of relationship with reality.  A bit of a difference with the paper under the aforementioned Brooks:

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