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Speculation over Sun after Murdoch invitation to Howard

LONDON - Opposition leader Michael Howard has been invited by Rupert Murdoch to give the keynote speech at a global conference he is hosting next month, giving rise to speculation that The Sun could once again back The Conservatives.

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Howard will give a speech to News International executives in Cancun, Mexico, after being personally invited by chairman Murdoch, reports say.

The editor of The Sun, Rebekah Wade, has close ties with New Labour and her partner Ross Kemp, the former 'EastEnders' star, is a long-time Labour supporter and friend of former Downing Street spin doctor Alastair Campbell. However, Wade is also said to be friendly with Howard's press secretary Guy Black.

The red-top has been a staunch supporter of the Blair government, backing it all the way over the war in in Iraq and in regards to the Hutton Report but there are reports that Murdoch is concerned about plans for an EU constitution.

Whether or not The Sun is about to switch sides again the invitation is a feather in the cap of Howard, who has taken control of the Tories after Iain Duncan Smith's disastrous period of leadership.

The Sun supported the Tories from Margaret Thatcher's successful campaign to become Prime Minister in 1979 right through the 1980s, before proclaiming it had switched to back Labour in the run-up to the 1997 general election. It stayed loyal to Labour for the 2001 election.

Labour will now be loooking to The Sun again as it prepares to go to the polls to ask the public for a historic third term in office next year.

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