Former PMs hail The Sun as the people’s paper celebrates its 50th birthday today – The Sun

PRIME Ministers and stars in showbusiness and sport have come together to wish The Sun a happy 50th birthday.

Today it is exactly five decades since the launch of our tabloid edition and famous faces have shared fond memories of Britain’s best newspaper.

Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron and Tony Blair joined a list of celebrities including Take That’s Gary Barlow, footie ace Ian Wright and fitness guru Joe Wicks with birthday wishes.

Boris Johnson said: “Many congratulations. Well done, my Sun. It’s always a joy to read what you have to say about sport, the news, Dear Deidre.

"It’s a fantastic publication and here’s to another 50 years of holding ­politicians to account.”

David Cameron hailed our campaigns and charity work, singling out the Millies, our ­Military Awards.

He said: “As The Sun marks its 50th anniversary, it can rightly celebrate its achievement in standing by our service personnel and finding this way to honour heroism.”

Theresa May said: “The brilliant subs at The Sun, the people who craft the puns that bring the paper’s headlines to life, are perhaps the best-kept secret in journalism.


"But alongside a sense of fun is a hard-hitting, fearless newspaper.

"One that, for 50 years, has been tireless in holding the powerful to account.”

Tony Blair commented: “I always say to ­people in politics, read a tabloid if you want to know how to get to the heart of an issue and say it in language voters can relate to. Congratulations to The Sun on its 50th birthday.”

TV’s Piers Morgan said: “The Sun was, and remains, the heartbeat of Britain for millions of working class people, and I enjoy reading it every day.

"It’s the same old irreverent paper it always was — breaking stories, making us laugh and getting everyone talking.”

Today as we hail a half Sun-tury at the heart of British life, we shine a light on the excitement and chaos of creating that first iconic paper. The launch of the tabloid Sun on November 17, 1969, was an earthquake on Fleet Street.

Rupert Murdoch had bought the News of the World the previous year and wanted a daily paper to print on his presses, which were idle from Sunday to ­Friday.

The goal was simple, to challenge the Daily Mirror which was seen as too “establishment” and out of touch with young people.

For £600,000, Murdoch bought The Sun, a failing broadsheet selling some 850,000 copies a day.

He reinvented the paper as an irreverent, populist tabloid, packed with sport, sensational exclusives and sex as well as all the news of the day presented in a fun way.

He hired Yorkshireman Larry Lamb, 40, as editor.

Murdoch brought forward the launch date and there were no dummy runs as the staff scrambled together edition No1 in Bouverie Street, off London’s Fleet Street.

It cost 5d and was 48 pages at a time when 32 was typical.

The first front-page story was a confession by racing trainer Roy Pettitt that he was doping his horses.

Later, in the composing room, the story created another headache.

The lead typeface for the new Sun had only arrived from Chicago 48 hours before launch.

And there were only three Es available for the main Page One headline.

It was originally going to read Race Horse Dope Sensation but the word Race had to be axed.

Earlier, Editor Lamb had written the first Sun Says column, ­setting out the aims of the paper, which we still stand by.

He wrote: “The Sun cares. About the quality of life. About the kind of world we live in. And about people.

“This newspaper will not be ­produced for the politicians or the pun­dits. It will be produced for you.”

From Day One, big names were in The Sun.

There was an exclusive interview with Prime Minister Harold Wilson, issuing a dire warning about Tory spending plans. We supported ­Labour back then.

Man United legend George Best, a huge star, had a regular column.

The Sun went on tour with the Rolling Stones in the US.

Our two-page spread showed the Stones by the poolside with a naked girl.

The rest of the paper was packed with sex and sensation.

Valley Of The Dolls author Jacqueline Susann’s titillating best-selling book The Love Machine was serialised by our team of female writers, the Pacesetters, and billed “as the book every woman wants to read”.

A fashion page “for women who believe there is more to life than washing up” featured Undies For Undressing.

The back-page lead was a story that would dominate the headlines for years — football hooliganism.

The paper was packed with adverts which show how life has changed in 50 years.

There were full-page ads for ­cigarettes and leaded petrol.

The model on Page 3 was clothed.

The following year the topless phenomenon began.

For more than 40 years, Page 3 girls including Vivien Neves, Sam Fox, Linda Lusardi, Kathy Lloyd, Suzanne Mizzi, Rosie Jones and Rhian Sugden became household names.

Producing the paper often involved 18-hour shifts.

Murdoch pitched in with Lamb and Deputy Editor Bernard Shrimsley as “stone subs”, slicing up copy to place on a page.

Excitement was everywhere — and the paper reflected it. Lamb called it “the Cinderella of Fleet Street”.

Murdoch said: “It’s bloody chaos but we are getting a paper out.”

At the Daily Mirror, then selling 4,250,000 a day, executives held a party the night of The Sun launch with dead sunflowers on the table.

Their chairman Hugh Cudlipp allegedly sneered: “That’s no threat to anybody.”

In just three days, our sales had doubled to 1,650,000.

And by 1978, The Sun had overtaken the Mirror and went on to dominate the market.

Today The Sun is still Britain’s best-selling paper and in 2012 we launched the paper you are reading today, The Sun on Sunday.

When the News of the World closed in July, 2011, there was ­speculation The Sun would produce a Sunday edition.

More than seven months went by then on Feb 20, 2012, the Monday paper announced: “This is NOT the weather forecast . . . The Sun Next Sunday.”

Staff had just six days to produce a new paper from scratch.

The first inkling came on the Sunday just a week before the launch. Then-Editor of The Sun Dominic Mohan was summoned from watching his son play football to an emergency meeting at Murdoch’s London apartment.

Dominic recalls: “I thought, ‘blimey, am I getting fired?’

“When I arrived, Mr Murdoch said, ‘I want to launch The Sun on Sunday. Next Sunday. Do you think you can do it? Launch in less than a week?’

Just like at the launch of The Sun, Murdoch rolled up his sleeves and was at the centre of the operation, even selling advertising himself, as well as having a view on how the new paper should look.

The editorial staff secured a world exclusive interview with Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden about the traumatic birth of her second daughter, Hollie, and the first edition of The Sun on ­Sunday was ready to roll.

Straight away The Sun on Sunday became a best seller and — thanks to you, our fantastic readers — we have stayed there ever since.

Celebrity congratulations

  • Gary Barlow: "Wishing The Sun a very happy birthday. 50 today! To all the team there, many happy returns."
  • Ian Wright: "You can’t believe the buzz when I was asked to join the biggest paper. Happy 50th my Sun, I love ya!
  • Piers Morgan: "The Sun was, and remains, the heartbeat of Britain for millions of working-class people."
  • Karren Brady: "Becoming a columnist is one of the best things to happen to me. It’s an honour to be part of The Sun family."

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