Battle lines are being drawn. Battle buses are being primed. Battle cries are being issued.

A general election is coming and that means fertile ground for debate, division, and – yep – disinformation.

Nowhere is that clearer than in the papers.

The nationals in England have long been loyal to their political favourites, but there are examples of when the lines have been blurred – most famously when the Murdoch-owned Sun abandoned its trad Tory allies and came out for Tony Blair’s New Labour in 1997.

With Labour looking odds on this year, is a similar thing likely to happen again? Or are the leading papers’ usual affiliations still in place? And, while we’re at it, what’s been the editorial attitude to outliers like the Reform Party?

Here’s our take of what’s happening – and what’s likely to happen – across print and online titles this election year.

Quality / Traditional broadsheet

1. The Times

The typically centre-right Times has historically endorsed the Tories, but it’s notably cautious this time around. While it’s not overtly backing Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party either, it’s not shied away from reporting the strong lead Labour have enjoyed in the polls since 2022. Yes, the paper’s described Labour’s manifesto as ‘a policy vacuum’, but a spate of articles on Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves’ business-first approach suggests potential, if cagey, support.

2. The Financial Times

Known for its international focus on business and economic news, the Financial Times has a centrist, liberal stance. Like many others, its approach to the election almost gives off the vibe of a fait accompli, with Labour already all-but returned to office. As such, analysis has largely been geared towards Labour’s spending plans and the fiscal chains the new government are likely to find themselves in, rather than speculation over who will win.

3. The Guardian

Left-leaning, socially progressive, a big backer of the Labour Party over the years, and yet… The Guardian hasn’t been slow to criticise Starmer’s stance on various issues, particularly the conflict in Gaza and the party’s U-turn on green investment. The volume of articles on Labour’s likely victory and a generally positive tone suggests support is still strong, however.

4. The Daily Telegraph

Both small c and big c conservative, the Telegraph has long been the Tories’ de facto in-house journal. Its mood, then, in the build-up to an election which could see heavy Tory losses, is introspective, even gloomy. Analysis has focused not on whether the Tories will lose, but by how much, and how they will recover post-polls. They’ve also been side-eyeing new right-wing upstarts the Reform Party, with Tele commentators arguing the Tories need to copy Reform’s immigration stance to avoid losing even more seats.

Middle market

5. The Independent

The online-only title generally sits somewhere on the centre-left, so unsurprisingly its coverage of the election has been broadly supportive of Labour. Positive profiles of the likes of Wes Streeting and Angela Rayner point to the Independent’s backing of MPs who will likely make up the cabinet should Labour win. Headlines have tended to be critical of the current government, while the paper’s recent explainer of who the Reform Party is might have been detailed, but it also wrote off their chances of winning any seats.

6. The Daily Mail

Solidly and unswervingly conservative, the Mail has forever been the voice of Middle England. So it’s probably not surprising that it’s shifted some of its support from the ‘slumping’ Tories (in the Mail’s own words) to the anti-immigration Reform, with a cache of articles backing Richard Tice’s new party and focusing on growing numbers in the polls.

The paper’s columnists continue to swipe at Labour, with deputy leader Angela Rayner a particular target for her ongoing tax issues.


7. The Daily Express

A long-time Tory supporter, right-wing tabloid The Daily Express is another title giving Reform plenty of airtime as the election looms. Again that’s unsurprising given the Express’ trad anti-immigration stance and its backing for Brexit – both central to Reform’s philosophy. But more surprising is the number of negative articles aimed squarely at the Conservatives – suggesting the paper’s support has shifted firmly to Reform.

8. The Sun

Still the best-selling tabloid in Britain, still populist and right-wing, it’s long been thought The Sun holds the key to election success. Hence why its shift from Tory to Labour in 1997 held such resonance. For now loyalties appear to still be with the Conservatives, with plenty of positive personal coverage of ‘Rishi’, as the paper calls the PM. In contrast, it’s been fairly quiet on Labour – Angela Rayner’s tax story aside – compared to famous past attacks on former Lab leaders like Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn.

9. The Daily Mirror

The Mirror is arguably the country’s last remaining left-leaning tabloid and, with Labour in pole – or should that be poll – position, its election coverage is notably bullish. Opinion pieces are expressly negative towards PM Rishi Sunak and the current government, while there’s unequivocal support for Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour. It’s also not been afraid to attack Reform, with articles focusing on accusations of racism among its members.

Our papers political leanings influence the types of stories they pick up even outside of election season, so it’s really important to understand them.

When planning your PR and your public affairs for this year, take into account timing of the election with your campaigns. Also, try to gauge how those on either side of the political spectrum would interpret your story, and pitch it accordingly.

If you’d like any help with your media relations during election year…

Get in touch.

Katie Chodosh Screen

Written by Katie Chodosh, Head of Media Relations at Definition