Media Watch: Biased Sun and Express forget Labour in lavish budget coverage

Tory papers sacrifice ethical journalism to the cult of George Osborne


And so it came to pass, that a man appeared in a doorway with a red box. And the man did open the box, and visited great signs and wonders upon the people of Britain, such as a tax cut for middle-class voters, and a penny off the price of beer. But of the £50billion of spending cuts to vanquish the devil deficit, the man was slow to speak…

You’ve probably had enough of the messianic coverage of George Osborne’s mediocre and deceptive budget today. But while the coverage has been voluminous, some of it still managed to leave something out: the Labour party.

First, the coverage. The Daily Mail’s front page has the chancellor’s beaming face mocked up as the sun, (‘shining on savers’), as if this millionaire cuts merchant was the source of all light and heat on the planet.

The Sun itself has Osborne dancing with joy, shaking his money-taker in a curious inversion that sees the chancellor’s backside shine out of the Sun.

(Osborne apparently likes the front page, calling the Sun ‘geniuses’.)

Daily Mail's budget front page

Meanwhile, the front page headline in City AM, the bankers’ freesheet, trumpets ‘Osborne’s election gift for young and old alike’, which calls to mind the old Christian song: “Jesus loves the little children / all the children of the world…”

It’s perhaps little wonder in this spirit of ‘praise George and pass the ammunition’ that some of the press should forget there is an opposition party at all.

A chief offender is the Sun, whose four pages of budget coverage, plus a page of comment and the rump-page story mentioned above, makes no room for a response from the Labour party, save for one tiny 15-word quote from Ed Miliband at the end of one story.

Otherwise, the Labour perspective is nowhere to be found in the Sun‘s news stories even in paraphrase, though there are some passing references to the party:

“Delivering a powerful blow to Labour‘s cost-of-living crisis attack, Mr Osborne… […]

“In his most political Budget so far, he also carried out a series of manoeuvres to outfox Labour. […]

“…blocked Labour’s claim that state spending levels would be cut to those of the 1930s – leaving them instead as they were in 2000. The blueprint received a warm welcome from business leaders…”

And so on. There is however a small story about ‘hapless Ed Miliband’ being ‘mauled for having two kitchens’ by the Prime Minister, a cartoon of Osborne crushing Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls with a wrecking ball, and the headline: “Eds you lose: chancellor unveils tax cuts to see off Labour”.

Eds you lose! It hardly seems worth having an election now, does it, since the Sun has already declared a winner?

Outside the blink-and-you-miss-it quote from Miliband, Labour’s response is missing from the Sun‘s news stories. However, it’s not true to say the Sun completely neglects the Labour party’s response. Labour’s position is featured in the Sun‘s leader column. But like this:

“…how did Ed Miliband respond? He simply didn’t believe it. He didn’t think voters should either. Indeed, he’s banking on everyone who hasn’t had a pay rise since the recession thinking Osborne just invented this good news. […]

“He bizarrely claimed the chancellor had ‘a secret plan’ to wreck the NHS. As Osborne lifted yet more low-earners out of tax, Miliband repeated his tired absurdity about the Tories being a front for hedge funds…

It was desperate, depressing stuff.”

Shame they left these details of Miliband’s response out of their news coverage, where they would have been spared the disparaging adjectives.

Even worse is the Daily Express, with no quote or paraphrase from Labour whatsoever in its print stories, plus only negative references to the party in its commentary.

Daily Express budget front

The Times was no less warm about the saintly Osborne, (front page headline: ‘The comeback king’), but at least it included criticism from Ed Balls on its front page about ‘extreme’ cuts Osborne is planning, and a page on Labour’s claims about the NHS in it’s election supplement.

Even the Mail, it its typically bombastic 14 pages of coverage and comment (leader column headline: ‘Budget that makes Labour irrelevant’), has a long quote from Ed Miliband in its front page story, as does the Telegraph.

So what’s the Sun’s excuse? The pro-Labour tabloid the Daily Mirror has several quotes from Osborne, and includes the position of the Tory party, while clearly opposing it.

The IPSO editors’ code of conduct (basically the old PCC code) allows for the press to be partisan, and good thing too. But it’s standard practice in journalism to fairly represent the views of people or organisations being criticised in a story.

It seems the Sun and the Express are willing to sacrifice this on the alter of the cult of Osborne, son of man, who came to deliver us from evil, as the daily scriptures have foretold.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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