Magical powers employed to confect a Labour row that never happened
On page 4 today, a curious little story appears: ‘Harman moves to put the knife into Burnham’s leadership bid’.
Sounds like big news. Tell me more.
“Harriet Harman yesterday appeared to call on Labour supporters not to back Andy Burnham as the next leader of the party.
Miss Harman, who took over as interim leader in the wake of Ed Miliband’s resignation, urged people not to vote for the candidate ‘who makes you feel comfortable’.
Mr Burnham, the favourite to be elected leader, has repeatedly been criticised as the ‘comfort candidate’ and ‘simply another Ed Miliband’.”
‘Repeatedly been criticised’ by whom? No source is given.
And that ‘appeared’ in the first line is delicious!
Harman’s full quote, given later in the story, was vague and boring enough to be acquitted of the charge of referring to any particular candidate.
Yet somehow, the Telegraph knows she had someone in mind, and who that was, and published a story saying so, based on ‘repeated criticism’ by… well, we don’t know who.
Is this news?
After Harman’s quote, the story goes on to say: ‘Mr Burnham responded that he opposed the Tories’ cuts to tax child tax credits despite Miss Harman’s claims Labour would support them.’
Burnham was responding to Harman’s position on child tax credits, not to her remarks about ‘comfortable’ candidates.
The story makes it seem as though he opposed the cuts in response to Harman’s non-criticism of himself! This is very misleading.
Yes, he ‘responded’ to something she said in a BBC interview – just not the thing the Telegraph chose to highlight.
So first the paper claims to know the mind of Harman, then it uses this to confect a row where none exists, mixing it up with a genuine row about tax credits.
If that wasn’t enough, the story ends with this:
A source close to Miss Harman said: “Harriet is not endorsing any candidate. Her comments were not about Andy.”
So for anyone who reads to the end, they’ll find the story is pure speculation, contested by the person whose mind the paper ‘appears’ to have read.
The Telegraph has run bizarre attacks on Andy Burnham before.
But how can the Telegraph justify publishing speculation as news?
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter
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