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.

20 Responses to “The Sun spins Osborne’s £7bn loss into £14bn ‘profit’ in RBS sale coverage”

  1. swat

    Thats why we need to keep the Govts hands off the BBC, the only impartial News Media outlet in the country.
    They must not introduce commercialisation into the BBC; neither must they sell it off.

  2. robertcp

    Why do us lefties have to be so negative? It is good that the nation will make a profit from saving the banking industry in 2008. It shows that Labour made the right decision in 2008.

  3. Cat

    The Right Wing Press trying to conveniently ignore something that will make their party look bad- shock!

  4. David Lindsay

    George Osborne should be made heritably liable, by primary legislation, for the loss to the State from the privatisation of RBS. And of the Royal Mail, come to that. That is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Any Conservative majority of less than 100 is really a hung Parliament. They hate each other that much. The present majority is a very great deal less than 100.

  5. Sammy01

    You think the BBC is impartial?

  6. Torybushhug

    I recently sold my RBS shares, the future for large banks doesn’t look very promising, best to cut my losses now just as Govt has concluded.

    Investors take a calculated loss all the time and focus their energies and resources in more fruitful endeavour.

    It’s the ignorant populist line to claim this all amounts to a needless profligate loss.

  7. Jacko

    Only someone who knows nothing about markets -that’s you Adam Barnett- would write something as naive and juvenile as this. It’s simply laughable.

    This is what you’ve said:

    “If a person sells every item in his portfolio at a profit, he will make more more money than if he sold some at at loss. For that reason he shouldn’t sell anything at a loss.”

    Actually Adam, this is not correct. Holding onto losers often results in the paper loss simply increasing and reducing the overall profit. One can maximize the overall portfolio profit by selling losers early. Secondly, portfolios can consist of mainly losers but still make money overall, due to the way they have been balanced and the magnitude of gains compared to magnitude of losses. It’s the fundamental basis of portfolio management. One uses the money from the sale of losers to re-invest in a new portfolio and make more money.

    So the Telegraph is absolutely correct in it’s statement.

    And you wonder why no-one trusts the Left on the economy.

  8. Keith M

    Is there any way of getting a prosecution – this is our money he!s stealing.

  9. Anthony Cavanagh

    What about the Sun story is that correct about RBS sell of making a profit, that is how the sun readers will read it. That is how i scanned it.

  10. Anthony Cavanagh

    Actually RBS lost all the money we invested into the bank, it was what £46 billion. Chump change i know.

  11. Anthony Cavanagh

    Not even the 46 billion RBS has lost. The amount the tax payer pumped in.

  12. robertcp

    My understanding is that the Government borrowed £46 and will get some of that back when it sells its stake.

  13. blarg1987

    it also depends on the time frame of the model used.

    Holding onto loss making assets for a few years will do as you say. Holding onto them for a few decades, which government can afford to do, is a different kettle of fish.

  14. Chrisso

    This is a non-story. The Independent and Guardian reported it too, albeit with less triumphalism. But the facts remain. The Labour govt bailout saved the banks AND brought about a profit to the taxpayer. That should be shouted out by the LFF.

  15. Cole

    Osborne just did it for ideological reasons (along with privatising large chunks of the NHS). And of course the coalition flogged off the Post Office at a ludicrously low price. Who knows if they were conned or were trying to enrich their mates?

  16. LondonStatto

    Two words: Daily Mirror.

  17. tome

    the funny thing is he doubled our national debt..

  18. Malcolm Martyn

    you could have applied this logic to the sell off of the post office for cheap only to find out later it is now making huge profits for its new tory owners…. it all remains to be seen but is as we all know likely just another scheme to disburse assets to tory donors

  19. AntonioSColon

    111111Ultra Income source by leftfootforward Find Here

  20. Patrick Nelson

    No I don’t wonder, noone trusts the Left on the economy because the Tories dominate the media discourse. As for trusting the Tories with the economy ho ho ho.

Leave a Reply