The Sun puts Cameron on notice as it fails to back the Tories

For the first time in its history, the paper refuses to endorse any party for the local elections.

"It is my job to see that Cameron f****** well gets into Downing Street". So the Sun's political editor Tom Newton Dunn is said to have declared in 2010. But three years on, the paper isn't so well disposed to the Tories. Rather than casting its vote for Cameron's party, the tabloid has chosen to abstain. Its leader states:

The Sun is not going to tell you how to vote today

From our very first paper, 44 years ago, we have always remained politically independent.

We have never served any set party — and we never will.

Sometimes we endorsed Labour or the Tories at election times.

But today, as 18 million people have the chance to elect new local councils, none of the big four deserves our support.

Tories, Labour, Lib Dems and yes, even UKIP, have all proved beyond your trust.

It adds that while the Conservatives "should be the best at getting value for your pound", too many of their councils have "defied the PM's demand to freeze council tax for struggling workers. That is unacceptable". 

After Rupert Murdoch's recent meeting with Nigel Farage, the paper praises the UKIP's leader's "plain talking" but goes on to say that "little of it really stands up as proper thought-through policy" and asks: "how can you trust a chaotic mob that mistakenly puts forward so many fruitcakes and extremists?"

Just like some of those who will vote UKIP today, the Sun is likely to return to the Conservative fold before 2015 but the leader is a notable warning to Cameron. The paper is furious at his decision to cave in to Labour over press regulation and dismayed by the weakness of Britain's economic recovery. The leader that follows its non-endorsement is a typical example. 

David Cameron said the Tories were on the side of "start-ups, go-getters, risk-takers".

“What drives us mad,” the PM declared, “is the bureaucracy, the forms, the nonsense getting in our way.”

Yet two years on, small businesses – the lifeblood of Britain – are still being strangled by red tape.

It’s no wonder one in three fail within their first three years.

As they die, so does the recovery.

The days when the Sun had any significant influence on the outcome of general elections are over (if they ever existed) but a refusal to endorse the Tories in 2015 would still be viewed as a significant blow to Cameron. Two years out from the election, the paper has served the PM a warning: don't take our support for granted.

Rupert Murdoch holds up a copy of The Sun on Sunday as he leaves his London home on February 26, 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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With the BBC Food’s collection under threat, here's how to make the most of online recipes

Do a bit of digging, trust your instincts – and always read the comments.

I don’t think John Humphrys is much of a chef. Recently, as his Today co-presenter Mishal Husain was discussing the implications of the BBC’s decision to axe its Food website (since commuted to transportation to the Good Food platform, run by its commercial arm), sharp-eared listeners heard the Humph claim that fewer recipes on the web could only be a good thing. “It would make it easier!” he bellowed in the background. “We wouldn’t have to choose between so many!”

Husain also seemed puzzled as to why anyone would need more than one recipe for spaghetti bolognese – but, as any keen cook knows, you can never have too many different takes on a dish. Just as you wouldn’t want to get all your news from a single source, it would be a sad thing to eat the same bolognese for the rest of your life. Sometimes only a molto autentico version, as laid down by a fierce Italian donna, rich with tradition and chopped liver, will do – and sometimes, though you would never admit it in a national magazine, you crave the comfort of your mum’s spag bol with grated cheddar.

The world wouldn’t starve without BBC Food’s collection but, given that an online search for “spaghetti bolognese recipe” turns up about a million results, it would have been sad to have lost one of the internet’s more trustworthy sources of information. As someone who spends a large part of each week researching and testing recipes, I can assure you that genuinely reliable ones are rarer than decent chips after closing time. But although it is certainly the only place you’ll find the Most Haunted host Yvette Fielding’s kedgeree alongside Heston Blumenthal’s snail porridge, the BBC website is not the only one that is worth your time.

The good thing about newspaper, magazine and other commercial platforms is that most still have just enough budget to ensure that their recipes will have been made at least twice – once by the writer and once for the accompanying photographs – though sadly the days when everyone employed an independent recipe tester are long gone. Such sites also often have sufficient traffic to generate a useful volume of comments. I never make a recipe without scrolling down to see what other people have said about it. Get past the “Can’t wait to make this!” brigade; ignore the annoying people who swap baked beans for lentils and then complain, “This is nothing like dhal”; and there’s usually some sensible advice in there, too.

But what about when you leave the safety of the big boys and venture into the no man’s land of the personal blog? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff and find a recipe that actually works? You can often tell how much work a writer has put in by the level of detail they go into: if they have indicated how many people it serves, or where to find unusual ingredients, suggested possible tweaks and credited their original sources, they have probably made the dish more than once. The photography is another handy clue. You don’t have to be Annie Leibovitz to provide a good idea of what the finished dish ought to look like.

Do a bit of digging as part of your prep. If you like the look of the rest of the site, the author’s tastes will probably chime with your own. And always, always, wherever the recipe is from, read it all the way through, even before you order the shopping. There is nothing more annoying than getting halfway through and then realising that you need a hand blender to finish the dish, just as the first guest arrives.

Above all, trust your instincts. If the cooking time seems far too short, or the salt content ridiculously high, it probably is, so keep an eye on that oven, check that casserole, keep tasting that sauce. As someone who once published a magic mince pie recipe without any sugar, I’m living proof that, occasionally, even the very best of us make mistakes. 

Felicity Cloake is the New Statesman’s food columnist. Her latest book is The A-Z of Eating: a Flavour Map for Adventurous Cooks.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad