Boycott campaign

Murdoch’s newspapers were subjected to a highly visible boycott campaign. People were urged not to buy them; newsagents were encouraged not to stock them; public libraries and educational establishments cancelled the four newspapers; Labour politicians, the Labour Party conference and union conferences refused access to scab journalists.

The boycott also meant asking people and organisations not to have any dealings with the company or its newspapers, including advertising. Murdoch’s legal team secured court orders very quickly against trade unionists boycotting News International work, labelling such measures as sympathy action and therefore illegal. The Post Office workers’ union was prevented from banning The Sun bingo cards. The company obtained a High Court ruling against three Labour-controlled London councils to stop them banning its newspapers in public libraries.  More than thirty other councils had imposed similar bans.

The boycott campaign was perceived by some strikers as the soft end of the dispute, more of a publicity drive than a serious effort to win back jobs and trade union recognition. Nevertheless it became a high profile feature of the struggle attracting widespread support by the general population. And the company obviously took it seriously: even a cheerful balloon-festooned publicity event in Leeds on a sunny day in support of the strikers resulted in arrests. 

Following successive boycott and solidarity days and events around the British Isles throughout the year of the dispute, the same message appeared all over the country. Badges, leaflets, stickers, funny money, mugs and T-shirts all proclaimed: Don’t Buy The Sun! 

The boycott remains a lifetime habit for virtually all surviving strikers and their supporters, as it does for the families of the Hillsborough victims still outraged by The Sun’s cruel and lying coverage of their loved ones’ deaths in the soccer stadium tragedy in 1989.