LBC ‘suggests being a Labour Party member is as important as eating’, in absurd attempt to stitch up MP

Radio station accused of 'surpassing gotcha journalism' and relying on 'false equivalency', with suggestion that charging prospective party members a premium rate to join Labour is the same as forcing destitute benefits claimants to call 55p a minute line for food money.

LBC has attempted to equate Labour’s policy of charging prospective members 55p a minute to enquire about joining the party with the Tories’ use of expensive 0345 numbers for destitute benefit claimants, chasing money they need for food and shelter. 

The shouty London-based radio station – which until recently employed rightwing commentator Katie Hopkins, who was fired for using Nazi-like language to call for a ‘final solution for Muslims’ – tried to stitch up Labour MP Debbie Abrahams live on air this morning, derailing a discussion on the Tory’s unethical use of the premium rate phone lines.

In a poor attempt at ‘gotcha journalism’ – which has been called-out online for relying on a ‘false equivalency’ – host Jim Diamond asked the Oldham East MP: “If the 0345 numbers are so bad, why does the Labour Party have that number for you to sign up. If you want to join the national Labour Party, you have to call on 0345.”

But people on social media were quick to point out that ‘no one is going to starve as a result of being unable to join the Labour party’.

The debate came after Jeremy Corbyn yesterday criticised the government’s lack of ‘humanity’ for expecting people on Universal Credit to pay an average of £3.30 to call a helpline.

Many people entitled to the benefit face lengthy delays in claiming.

Abrahams, who has been campaigning on the issue, tweeted an article this morning about a woman who was forced to sell all her furniture after administrative problems left her waiting eight months and having to make ten applications for universal credit.

While the Conservatives are forcing people applying for the benefit or facing delays to call the expensive line to chase money they are entitled to, and which they need to pay for basic necessities, Labour offers out an 0345 number to people who wish to pay to join the party.

Abrahams appears to have been caught off guard by Diamond this morning.  She responded: “I don’t know. I think you make a very valid point. I had no idea about this and yes, we need to get our own house in order as well.”

But the consensus online is clear, with dozens of people taking to Twitter to angrily point out that LBC were certainly not making a valid point, and in fact likening wanting to join a political party with needing to eat is offensive and misleading.

Interestingly, LBC Radio also lists an 0345 number on its Twitter profile for people who want to call the live show.

Charlotte England is a freelance journalist and writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.

4 Responses to “LBC ‘suggests being a Labour Party member is as important as eating’, in absurd attempt to stitch up MP”

  1. Pascal

    Unfair using the name of the radio station which also has James O’brien amongst other liberal thinking presenters.

  2. Michael

    Any how, I believe you can still join the Labour Party online. I did.
    Oh, forgot. I think it was Joseph Rowntree Foundation said that 16 million people either do not have access to a computer, or don'[t know how to use one well enough to claim Universal Credit on line.

  3. Will

    Sounds like the desperate grabbing of political “Brownie Points” to me. Pathetically childish of LBC to act like that.
    Is this really the level that broadcasting has reached?

  4. Ian

    The point is, 0345 numbers are not premium rate and never have been.

    The 03 range of numbers came into use in 2007. Ofcom rules in place since that time mean that a call to an 03 number, any 03 number, is charged exactly the same as whatever the caller already pays for calls to 01 and 02 numbers.

    The normal way we pay for calls these days, in fact, since around 2004, is to call using an inclusive allowance or call bundle. These allowances cover calls to UK geographic numbers starting 01 and 02, non-geographic numbers starting 03 and, in many cases, UK mobile numbers starting 071 to 075 and 077 to 079. This applies on landlines and on mobiles, both on contract and on pay-as-you-go.

    Landline providers offer Unlimited Anytime calls for around £8 per month. Mobile providers offer unlimited calls and texts on contract for around £10 per month. On pay-as-you-go, a top-up of around £15 or slightly more secures unlimited calls and texts for one month. These charges are set entirely by the caller’s phone provider.

    So where did the 55p per minute figure come from? It turns out that on a Vodafone mobile contract if the caller has already used all of their inclusive call allowance for the month and then carries on making calls, Vodafone will charge those additional calls at 55p per minute. This is a rare and exceptional charge. Most people stick to their allowance.

    Charts that show call charges often show the whole range of charges that may be encountered. If the chart fails to mention inclusive call allowances, or fails to point out charges that occur in exceptional circumstances, the reader may end up being misled as to what is normally paid for calls.

    The Labour party, along with LBC and many others, uses 0345 numbers because they are cheap to call and included in allowances on landlines and mobiles, including on pay-as-you-go. Where an 0345 number is used this is a number that replaces a previous premium rate 0845 number. Since 2007 all users of premium rate 084 and 087 numbers have been given the option to move to the cheaper matching 034 or 037 number. Very many organisations have, correctly, made this move.

    However, in the case of UC, calls made when starting a claim can be very long. It is therefore a good idea for this particular helpline number to be changed to a free-to-caller 080 number.

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