The Sun spins Osborne’s £7bn loss into £14bn ‘profit’ in RBS sale coverage

The Tories could do anything to the economy and the press would eat it up


The Sun has carefully maintained a pro-Conservative party sheen in reporting the government’s sell-off of its stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

The sale will leave the public, who bailed out the bank to the tune of £45 billion after the financial crash, with a £7 billion loss.

But chancellor George Osborne’s magical ability to conjure money from the air has provided the Sun with its news angle:


Taxpayers will make a surprise £14 billion profit from the financial cirsis, George Osborne has revealed – as he unveiled a risky early sell of of RBS.

[…] a Rothschild report has revealed all the re-privatisations [of banks] will end up bringing a net £14 billion gain.”

The Telegraph’s coverage of the same story tells us more about this £14 billion:

“This RBS loss, however, will be more than offset by profits made on the ongoing return of Lloyds bank to full private ownership, as well as other government interventions, such as the sale of Northern Rock mortgage portfolios and the fees on liquidity support for numerous banks at the height of the crisis in 2008.”

In other words, the £14 billion has nothing whatever to do with RBS. The government has sold the bank at a loss, but made money from the sale of other banks.

This doesn’t ‘offset’ the loss – imagine if RBS had been sold for more money. Then net profit would be more than £14 billion.

The Sun’s report, nearly matched in other papers, chooses to lead with the irrelevant £14 billion and mention the RBS sell-off loss as a sideshow.

Yet again the paper acts as a propaganda sheet for the government, of the kind it rails against in its editorials.

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

Read more: 

Sun mocks ‘Red Andy’ on petrol price. But Cameron didn’t know the price of bread

Daily Mail’s Femail mag warns of a ‘march of feminist bullies’


Sign up for our weekly email by clicking here.

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.