The Mail parrots claim that women are 'the real winners from living wage', but ignores tax credit cuts
How should newspapers report speeches by politicians?
Let’s take a story from today’s Daily Mail as a case study. It previews a speech by Tory chancellor George Osborne, in which he asserts that women make up two thirds (65 percent) of those who will benefit from his national living wage.
The Mail slavishly repeated the claim in its story, headlined: Women ‘are real winners from living wage’.
What the paper doesn’t mention is that Osborne completely ignores the impact of his other measures, notably scrapping tax credits. (Tax credits are not mentioned in the story.)
As the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies said last week, the loss of tax credits and cuts to welfare cancels out any advantage the national minimum wage would provide, and actually leaves millions worse off financially.
This will disproportionately affect women, as did previous cuts in the last parliament.
As women’s charity A Fair Deal for Women reported in May 2015, one in four women in the UK are in low-paid or insecure work.
The UK has the sixth largest male-female pay gap in the European Union, according to Eurostat.
And the Office of National Statistics says women earn on average 19.1 percent less than men.
In other words, all the damage Osborne’s budget will do to working people will hit women much harder.
It’s one thing for the brass-necked chancellor to stand up and claim he is helping women when he is hurting them.
It’s another for a national newspaper, often hostile to the government, to swallow this lie and regurgitate it untarnished by inconvenient facts.
So, how should newspapers report speeches by politicians?
A speech of any substance by a politician is surely newsworthy, but papers should beware of letting politicians dictate the news agenda.
When covering a speech, papers ought to scrutinise what is said, checking it against the evidence to provide readers with an accurate picture.
Very often, though, if the papers like the politician, party or policy, they will simply act as stenographer for said politician.
Today’s Mail story is the latest example of the contradiction between its populist tone and the elitist interests it serves.
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter
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