British media outlets have attacked Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn throughout his tenure. Lies, spin, distorted facts – you name it, they’ve done it. One of the major lines of attack they used against Corbyn was the party’s spending plans under his leadership. Outlets led the public to believe that, should they give Corbyn control of the country’s finances, we’d be ‘bankrupt‘. This smear landed with many voters.
But did these outlets themselves believe what they were selling to the public? Well, the Daily Mail‘s front page on 12 March suggests not. Absolutely 100% not.
The ex-banker who’s now the UK’s chancellor, Rishi Sunak, delivered the budget on 11 March. It was widely hailed as a big-spending, “shock and awe” economic package by the press. Some financial professionals disagreed. Meanwhile, analysis shows it’s the better off who will benefit most from the splurge:
Who benefits from this budget? “In total, the poorest 10% of households might stand to gain by around £40 per year on average, while the richest half of families will benefit by more than £200.”https://t.co/xNAU4KvtKh
— Rebecca Long-Bailey (@RLong_Bailey) March 11, 2020
Nonetheless, the British press was undeterred from its efforts to praise the Conservatives’ plans. The Daily Mail went with the headline DR FEELGOOD TO THE RESCUE and carried a cartoon of the ‘new Tory star’ dressed as a doctor handing out cash.
However, this isn’t the first time the Daily Mail has covered big spending plans by politicians. Because it reported on Corbyn’s plans for the economy, too. Helpfully, someone has put coverage on this side by side with its swooning coverage of Sunak:
spending while labour: bad
spending while conservative: good pic.twitter.com/NRn6tvlVMy
— Adam Smith (@adamndsmith) March 12, 2020
So both plans involved hefty spending. In fact, the spending the Daily Mail detailed in the article on Sunak’s budget far exceeded what it reported Corbyn planned to spend. Yet the outlet said Labour’s moderate plans would “bankrupt UK” but that Sunak was ‘rescuing’ the country.
It wasn’t just the Daily Mail, either:
Funny, when Jeremy Corbyn's Labour promised similar spending plans, they were variously described as communism, Marxism, Militantism, unrealistic, uncredible and the longest suicide note in political history. And those were just the views of "moderate" Labour MPs. https://t.co/gHj0hsfm5m
— Rebecca Long-Bailey's Amsterdam Doobie (@WarmongerHodges) March 11, 2020
“Idiots, fools and dupes”
So there you have it. The media’s attacks on Labour over its spending plans weren’t about the economy. They were about Labour. Like so much of the reporting on the party under Corbyn, they were about keeping a transformed party – which had abandoned its neoliberal, Tory-lite principles for ones grounded in equality, justice and socialism – out of power.
These moments are difficult for the media, though. How do you convince the public that something you’ve told them is so bad is actually really good? It’s a challenge, as writer Michael Rosen pointed out:
The big issue of the day is how many people can the media get into a studio to explain to us idiots, fools and dupes that this kind of government spending is good, nice, and lovely but Labour's government spending was horrid, bad and smelly and if they were in power, evil.
— Michael Rosen (@MichaelRosenYes) March 11, 2020
Can they convince people that two plus two equals five? Let’s hope not. But then again, stranger things have happened – like the 2019 general election result, where millions voted against their own interests.
Featured image via Sky News/YouTube and Kerry-anne Mendoza
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