Some are ascribing this to the overwhelmingly positive response outside of Westminster to Davis's decision to resign and re-fight his seat on a civil liberties platform. I think that's certainly a factor, and the Sun doesn't want to be seen to be on the wrong side of public opinion, but I also think that it was a daft idea from the start. We know that this was mooted at Rebekah Wade's birthday party, attended by both MacKenzie and Murdoch himself, where doubtless all were well lubricated and tired and possibly emotional, and that MacKenzie then first let slip about it on the This Week sofa which he'd gone straight to from the party, without necessarily being given the go-ahead by Murdoch in anything beyond platitudes.
Firstly it was a strange idea because as we know, Murdoch always wants to back the winner, and one thing's for sure, MacKenzie was not going to win, and going by his completely feeble arguments on This Week on why we shouldn't be afraid of either the state or the police, no one outside of the Monster Raving Loony party circle was going to be convinced. Secondly, how MacKenzie was going to be funded was always going to be difficult: Murdoch himself can't because he's a foreigner, the Sun can't be seen to be funding any candidate, and it was always going to be something questioned as to where his money was coming from. Thirdly, even if Davis has told the Cameron tendency to sit and spin and royally annoyed them by his stand, running a candidate directly against Davis on the measure which they've opposed is not going to make them more amenable when the Sun is likely to be shortly sucking up to Dave and co as the election looms into view. Fourthly, part of the reason as to why Andy Coulson, former editor of the News of the Screws was appointed as Cameron's chief spin doctor was to attempt to woo the Murdoch press which had previously been incredibly sniffy about him. It still is, but it's hard not to believe that Coulson will have been dispatched to attempt to reach some sort of agreement with his old friends so as not for both sides to fully fall out.
More importantly, Murdoch and others at the Sun, when not thinking through alcoholic stupor, would have realised that it set a rather silly precedent. If the Sun is so certain that it is on the side of the public in all its fiercely expressed views rather than the politicians it so lambasts, why doesn't it put its money where its mouth is and formerly stand candidates at general elections? The fact is that it isn't that certain, that its campaigns which it starts and often so frighten politicians are often over-egged and given figures of support from its readers which are unrealistic, and above all, it's lazy. Running a campaign would take effort which certainly doesn't show itself in the pages of its newspaper, and what's more, there's no more certain way to annoy your readers than to keep permanently talking about how you're right and great and that you must pledge complete allegiance to the brand.
Probably most importantly, someone reminded both MacKenzie and the newspaper of that toxic word: Hillsborough. All that was needed was for any of the groups associated with that disaster to turn up at a canvassing, or a debate which would undoubtedly have been held, and all the unpleasantness of MacKenzie's refusal to apologise and the Sun's constant flagellating that will never appease the rightly aggrieved would have been brought back to the surface.
Hence there wasn't a single word published in the paper itself of MacKenzie's apparent fledgling candidacy. After the mauling which Davis received in the paper in Friday's leader, the mood completely changed over the weekend. Today the real ideological power behind the paper, Trevor Kavanagh, called him an "ego-driven maverick" but admitted he had a stuck a cord. Even more amazingly, and signalling the paper has done a full reverse ferret, there's probably one of the biggest attacks on the paper's own repeated leader line that has ever appeared within its own confines tomorrow courtesy of Fergus Shanahan, which will be incredibly handy whenever the paper reminds us again if we have nothing to hide we've got nothing to fear:
Three myths are peddled by Davis’s opponents.
The second myth is that weary old chestnut: “If you’ve nothing to hide, why worry?” That’s what German civilians told each other as they looked the other way while the concentration camps were being built.The third myth is that there is massive public support for 42 days.
Of course, there's the usual Sun idiocy we've come to expect about executing "terrorist murderers" when most of them will either be dead or want to be martyred anyway, but this is pretty incisive stuff for a paper which usually has no truck with any of these woolly ideals. Even more astonishing is this bit earlier on:
Davis has hit the nail on the head. We HAVE allowed ourselves to be browbeaten by fears of Islamic terror attacks into abandoning too many of our freedoms — something I have said for months. Many Sun readers agree with me.
But Shanahan's own leader line doesn't; it wants to give away even more freedoms. Although as the leader line is directly decided upon by Murdoch himself, Shanahan isn't likely to have done anything to alter it.
All these reasons for MacKenzie rolling his tanks back however though don't hide that most of all, the decision not to stand for something the Sun and he so believe in is cowardice. Davis stands up to be counted, and the Sun sits down. If this really is a victory for the overwhelming opinion being expressed online, then it's something worth celebrating and cherishing. New Labour and the Sun: united in their weakness.