The Sun backs the Conservatives

Brown declares "it is people that decide elections" as the paper abandons Labour

Gordon Brown's attempts to lead a Labour fightback were dealt a severe blow last night after the Sun announced that it will support the Conservatives at the next election.

The newspaper's declaration came hours after the Prime Minister's keynote speech to the Labour conference in which he told delegates to "never give up" and "fight to win"

The paper said: "after 12 long years in power, Labour has lost its way and now it has lost us too".

From 1997 onwards the Sun had backed Labour at every general election and had always been a strong supporter of Tony Blair.

In an interview on GMTV this morning, Brown said: "It's the British people that decide elections. It's the British people that I'm interested in and it's the British people that I was talking about yesterday".

He added: "I think that Sun readers actually, when they look at what I said, will agree with what I said.

"Newspapers are entitled to their opinions. Obviously you want newspapers to be for you. But I've got an old-fashioned view. You look to newspapers for news, not propaganda. I don't think editorials will decide elections."

The Sun, which is Britain's biggest-selling daily newspaper, with a circulation of over 3m a day, has always sought to wield political influence. In 1992 the red-top famously declared: "It's the Sun wot won it" after supporting the Conservatives who achieved an unexpected victory against Neil Kinnock's Labour Party.

George Pascoe-Watson, the Sun's political editor, said that in 2005 the paper had "warned Labour that it had one last chance... to try and prove it was the right party for the country.

"We've now decided after four more years, particularly after the prime minister's... underwhelming performance in his conference speech, that it was time now to take a verdict and announce that verdict to the nation," he told the BBC.

"The prime minister failed to convince us he was the right man for the country. We feel it's time for a new leader."

The paper had been positioning itself to back the Conservatives for some time. In 2008 it endorsed Conservative Boris Johnson's successful bid to become London mayor and earlier this year it supported the Tories in the European elections.

The Sun recently installed former showbusiness columnist Dominic Mohan as editor but the decision to back David Cameron was taken by executives at the paper's parent company News Corporation, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch.