Great Britain

A look back at our campaigns over 50 years and how our generous readers have raised £100m fighting for the little guy

BRITAIN’S biggest newspaper has readers with the biggest hearts.

Today, as The Sun ­celebrates its half century, we can reveal our generous readers have donated around £100million to help those in need.

Not only have you dug deep into your pockets, you have also changed the lives of millions of people by ­fighting for the little guy.

For 50 years The Sun has stood by a pledge made  in our very first edition to  be a virile, campaigning newspaper.

On November 17, 1969, we vowed: “The Sun cares. About the quality of life. About the kind of world we live in. And about people.”

Today, a huge sign in our London Bridge headquarters reminds staff that The Sun “sticks up for the little guy”.

Because of you, our ­millions of loyal readers who have supported The Sun over the years, we can use our clout to change the world.

‘Right wrongs’

Ex-Editor David Dinsmore says: “The real power of ­journalism is to champion unfairness, right wrongs and put neglected subjects back to the top of the agenda on behalf of readers.

“The Sun is the best in the business. We always talk about ‘our loyal army of readers’ and that’s because, when mobilised, they are a force to be ­reckoned with.

“With the paper in the ­vanguard,  the readers fill out petitions, give ­generously to charity appeals and knit blankets in their thousands.

“It is this combination of fighting for the things readers care about and fighting alongside those readers that makes The Sun such a force.

“No government or organisation  can afford to ignore The Sun in full campaign mode. It was never The Sun Wot Won It. It is the combination of The Sun and the readers that wins it.”

In 50 years The Sun’s generous readers — who, in 2017, had an average income of £19,722 — have donated around £100million to charities large and small.

Right from the start Sun readers have cared deeply for our Armed Forces.

In the early Seventies you donated a small fortune to buy televisions for the thousands of troops stationed in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

Feature writer Amanda Cable remembers the paper receiving a letter in February 1991 from the mother of a young soldier fighting in the first  Gulf War.

The concerned mum revealed how the sweltering Iraqi desert turned freezing at night, making the troops’ hands so cold they struggled to hold on to their guns.

So The Sun called on readers to Knit A Mitt For Our Brave Boys, using a knitting pattern hastily reprinted from a women’s magazine.

Amanda says: “Sackloads of mittens knitted by the readers arrived in the Gulf — but they all had no thumbs. A vital line had been missed out of the pattern in the paper. Happily, some soldiers wore the mittens on their feet as socks!”

If readers responded generously to our brave troops, they donated even more to campaigns for kids.

In 2015 we asked readers to knit for premature babies in the UK and children who had lived through natural disasters worldwide.
The response was beyond anyone’s imagination.

Former Woman’s Editor Dulcie Pearce recalls: “We had so many postbags of beautiful knitted bonnets and blankets there were genuine fears that the newsroom floor could collapse under the weight.”

Biggest in history

Some 20,000 blankets were taken to the British Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

This Morning presenter Holly Willoughby was among a host of stars who in 2015 supported the Sun on Sunday’s Santa Hospice Appeal to raise money for seven children’s hospices around the UK.

Your support for youngsters goes back years.

Ex-news reporter Shan Lancaster recalls how in 1982 we asked readers to donate halfpenny coins to keep open a specialist unit for children with brain injuries in Tadworth, Surrey.

Shan says: “Our readers donated £50,000 — a huge sum in those days — to the Give A Tiddler To Save A Toddler appeal, which saved the unit from closure.”

Two years later, when the halfpenny was phased out, Tiddlers For Toddlers raised £1.25million for children with cancer.

Ex-royal reporter Charles Rae, whose friend Leo Cohen had the idea for the campaign while undergoing chemotherapy, says: “It became one of the most successful appeals in history, with £1million donated in just ten months.”

By 1991 the “tiddler” was a 5p piece and readers raised £350,000 for cot death research after TV presenter Anne Diamond’s baby son Sebastian was found dead.

When the euro was introduced in 2002 we launched Change for Kids, asking readers to donate leftover foreign currency to help the NSPCC’s fight against child cruelty. You handed over more than £1million in just 43 days.

The following year readers gave £1.3million to Quids for Kids, to build schools in war-torn Iraq.

Readers swamped us with new toys for kids and pledged tens of thousands of pounds for children’s charities we supported in our 2016 Smiles At Christmas appeal.

And, when round £1 coins were phased out in 2017, you raised over £1million for the Royal British Legion with our Pounds For Poppies appeal.

Following the shocking photos of three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body being carried from the waves at Bodrum, Turkey, in 2015 our readers pledged £350,000 in  just 24 hours.

The total reached £1.2million  to help Save The Children prevent young refugees dying.

The Sun stands firm with readers against injustice. Our Baby P campaign, led by then-Editor Rebekah Brooks, was the biggest in newspaper history.

Toddler Peter Connelly was just  17 months old when he died after suffering more than 50 injuries while being monitored by social services.

More than 1.4million readers signed our petition to see Haringey council bosses, who failed the toddler, fired.

And Sun readers have the power to change the law.

We changed legislation on domestic abuse after our readers bravely highlighted the violence that goes on behind closed doors.

In 2015 The Sun’s Give Us Shelter petition persuaded the government to stop closing down women’s refuges.

But it was only two years later that  The Sun on Sunday had to fight a decision to withdraw housing benefits from women using shelters.

Because of the Save Our Shelters campaign — backed by Dame Julie Walters — the government was forced to guarantee the funding of refuges.

'Covered me in kisses'

Mum Mandy Thomas, who was nearly killed by a partner who tortured her with a blowtorch says: “Thank you for being the voice of vulnerable women and children.
“Alone, we cannot shout to the masses — but you did it for us.”

Housing benefit for users of short-term supported housing will remain in place to fund this accommodation — saving as many as half of existing refuges, for whom housing benefit is the main source of income.

The Sun on Sunday’s support helped a petition against the original decision to withdraw housing benefits from shelter users reach more than 175,000 signatures.

When Big Brother star Jade Goody died at the age of 27, 40,000 readers backed Jade’s Legacy, a campaign to lower the age for cervical smears.

The Sun’s health team also  won a fight to make the drug Herceptin available on the NHS for women with breast cancer.

And our Page 3 campaign in 2014 urging women to check their breasts, raised £1million for the Coppafeel charity.

Thanks to No Time 2 Lose — an awareness campaign run by Sun Online last year, the government agreed to extend bowel cancer screening to the over-60s in England.

This year Sun Online — in conjunction with the Co-op — launched Stamp Out Slavery to highlight the plight of modern slaves working in car washes, nail bars and farms.

Our modern slavery video has had more than 1million views and the Home Office has now scrapped the time limit on support for slaves.

In June this year, former Prime Minister Theresa May acknowledged The Sun’s You’re Not Alone campaign to stop suicides when she agreed to fund mental health experts in school.

We also help readers fight the grasping and the greedy.

When jockey Frankie Dettori won all seven races on British Champions’ Day at Ascot in 1996, some bookmakers tried to get out of paying accumulators by claiming each race was a single bet.
Claude Duval, The Sun’s Punter’s Pal, took up the case on behalf of readers to racing’s then governing body, and won.

Claude says: “Bookmakers were trying to skive out of it. One old girl from Gateshead won £86,000. She covered me in kisses so we went round to the nearest boozer to celebrate with champagne.”
Consumer rights have been an important part of the paper since Day One.

'Already struggling'

Writer Val Hudson — at 5ft 2in known as Little Val the Shopper’s Pal — campaigned so successfully in her weekly column, Counter Spy, against food industry fiddles that The Sun is credited with forcing shops to display food sell-by dates.

Fifty years later, Daniel Jones,  The Sun’s 6ft 7in Mr Money, is still fighting for consumers.

He launched Stop The Credit Rip-Off to cut extortionate interest rates and fees charged by rent-to-own firms and doorstep lenders.

Just nine months later, in December 2018, the Financial Conduct Authority announced it would force lenders to cap credit charges, saving hard-pressed families £23million a year.

And The Sun persuaded the government to abandon a 3p per litre rise in duty on petrol and diesel in 2012 after our readers complained.

Ever since, thanks to our Keep It Down campaign, fuel tax has been frozen, saving money for motorists and boosting Britain’s economy by an estimated £100billion.

The same year, Chancellor George Osborne “listened to Sun readers” and ditched plans to put VAT on hot pies and pasties.

The Sun’s  Editor at the time, Dominic Mohan, remembers: “It was going to hit our readers who work as builders or van drivers and buy hot food from Greggs most lunchtimes.

They were already struggling. You had a privileged government and few of them had eaten a pasty from Greggs before.”

Another out-of-touch Chancellor was Philip Hammond.

Only a week after The Sun’s Fight Van Scam campaign was launched in 2017, he was forced to abandon plans to hit 2.4million self-employed workers with a £240-a-year rise in National Insurance.

When disaster strikes, Sun readers always want to help.

In 1987, 75 readers on one of our France For £1 promotions were among the 193 passengers and crew who perished when the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry capsized.

Our devastated readers pledged £1.3million to the Zeebrugge Disaster Fund.

Sun Agony Aunt Deidre Sanders was on a family holiday in Sri Lanka when the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami claimed the lives of 230,000 people.

Deidre recalls: “We thought we were going to die. Three months later I returned, with photographer Arthur Edwards, and met a family whose shack next to the hotel had been completely washed away. We raised money to build them a home on the coast.”

The Sun is always creative in its campaigning. Between 1998 and 2003 we published millions of Books For Schools tokens for readers to collect.

Sun PR chief  Lorna Carmichael took our double-decker bus to schools all over the UK to give away a total of five million books.

She says: “Some of the children looked at their books in absolute wonder. They could not believe somebody was giving them something. That book would be their most treasured possession.”

And this month  we have relaunched the campaign and will be giving away millions more books to schools all over Britain.

In 2003 an angelic blond-haired, three-year-old boy called Kieran was one of eight children  in care  who appeared on Page One of the paper with a headline PLEASE BE OUR MUM AND DAD.

Ward sister Joanne Underwood saw Kieran’s picture and was so moved that she and husband Ray adopted the little lad.
In tears, Joanne said: “Thank you my Sun for my son.”

Kate McCann, mother of missing Madeleine, launched a campaign  for a Child Rescue Alert system in The Sun.

In September 2015, it was announced that 36million Facebook users would receive alerts whenever a child goes missing in the UK.

Personally, I will always cherish the moment The Sun handed three-year-old Matthew Tildesley back to his mum, Antonia.

At her wits’ end, she had turned  to her favourite newspaper for help when Matthew was abducted by his father and taken to Spain, out of the jurisdiction of British courts.
For six months we battled to bring the little boy back to his mum.

When mother and son were finally reunited in 1992, Antonia said:  “The Sun did what no one else could do, I’ll never forget it.”

Ex-Editor Dominic Mohan says: “I believe The Sun is a real force for good. The paper has changed the world and British society.
“It doesn’t get anywhere near enough credit for that.”

Mike Ridley joined The Sun in 1987 as  a reporter in Glasgow before becoming City Editor and then Features Editor. He is now a staff feature writer.