Daily Mail misrepresents Harman’s international development comments

Yesterday's Mail on Sunday misrepresented Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman's comments on international development and remittance, reports Chris Tarquini.

In its latest ideological attack the Mail on Sunday has criticised Harriet Harman for supposedly encouraging welfare recipients to send their money abroad. The Labour Party deputy leader and shadow international development secretary was falsely accused by the Mail of ‘praising hero immigrants who send welfare handouts home’.

Whilst speaking to a diverse range of voters from various national backgrounds in her Southwark constituency, Harman cited her supported for foreign aid and ‘remittances’. This involves people sending money abroad, which often supports relatives in need.

People who work hard so they can send money to help often impoverished family in different countries is commendable, but the Mail instead took a different angle.

In an article claiming to be news the paper described Ms Harman’s proposals as ‘radical’ and argued that she was specifically sympathising with foreign born workers who claim benefits in the UK and send the money abroad.

In reality the comments by Ms Harman were merely echoing the sentiment that people who earn money should be helped to send it to needy family abroad if they choose to do so. Despite the fact that to some extent this would involve those who claim benefit engaging in the practice, that was not the focus of her statement that was misrepresented by the right wing paper.

Ms Harman has since stood by her remarks, commenting:

“There are many people in my constituency who come from Africa and work and study and bring up their families here. Many of them also send money back to their village in their country of origin.

“We should respect and encourage that. International development is not just something done by governments. Some of these families will be receiving child benefit and tax credits to which they are entitled. Charitable generosity has never been confined to the well-off.”

Remittance is vital to many people in developing nations and constitutes a large percentage of the income for citizens in many of those countries. Clearly not only is this an effective way to supplement international development but a matter of personal choice for the individuals who choose to send their money abroad. To argue supporting this progressive policy is encouraging immigrants to ‘send welfare handouts home’ is disingenuous and outright media manipulation at its worst.

Following a question from The Sun newspaper at his press conference this morning, Labour leader Ed Miliband also clarified his deputy’s statements:

“Harriet has said, and I agree with this, that you know  benefits are designed for people in the United Kingdom, that’s the basis on which our benefits system was formed and that’s the right thing to do and there’s no question of encouraging people to send benefit money abroad.

“What Harriet was talking about is a number of people in this country who have families abroad who’ve been here maybe for some generations who are working hard, paying their taxes and who are sending small amounts of money abroad and that’s what she was talking about, she wasn’t talking about encouraging people to send benefit money abroad.”

Unsurprisingly the details were not checked by many in the right-wing echo chamber. In her column today in the Daily Mail, Melanie Phillips accused Ms Harman of “man-bashing feminism”, a campaigner against ‘the entire male sex’, and of engaging in “extremism”. The Mail, accusing others of extremism…

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.