Spot the difference

Two right wing papers reported on the same thing last week, with less than identical approaches, and less than identical outcomes.

On 3 July, a statement by Ed Balls was announced that introduced new restrictions on benefit payments to families of terrorist suspects, with measures to ensure that none of the money ended up transferred to the suspects themselves. The Hansard record of that is here, and you can see exactly what the statement said.

The Mail doesn't seem to have covered the story and neither does the Sun (although they might have and I haven't managed to find it using the search engines), but the Telegraph and the Express both did. Let's see if you can guess which headline goes with which paper. No cheating and following the links first. Ready? Here goes:

'Benefits stopped to 'al-Qaeda' families'
'Fury as state benefits go to suspects on UN terror list'

Like you needed to cheat anyway! The Express one even starts with the word 'fury' and drops some very important information, for flip's sake! What other clues do you need?

Now, this isn't a case of two papers from opposite ends of the political spectrum putting their own unique spin on things. Both are right wing, but one has more of a commitment to telling what actually happens (despite stories like the infamous 'hot cross buns' story).

I don't think I need to go through the Express article point by point this time - but briefly:
  • The headline and opening sentences omit the fact that benefits are paid to family members of the suspects, not directly to the suspects themselves.
  • The largest bit of fudging in the article is this:
  • Under the rules, a suspect’s wife can claim benefits only under a special licence. The Government admits that household finances are “generally pooled” and that any family income is likely to be available to the terrorist suspect. But, it says, safeguards will prevent the money being misspent.

Which is incredibly disingenuous. The paragraph is constructed to make it look as though the Government has admitted that suspects' families 'generally pool' their money under the existing rules (the ones Ed Balls announced a week ago that the paper ignores as if they don't exist), but they don't do that at all. The current rules have been introduced precisely to stop that happening. It's like accusing someone with a broken arm of not bothering to get it in plaster because you've got a picture of them getting the plaster put on.

It's possible to guess the Express's reason for reporting things in this way. The one thing the Express includes that doesn't appear anywhere else is a set of figures for how much is being paid to these families, which the paper claims is £64,800 between four families. Now, we don't know how many mouths this enormous sum is supposed to be feeding, but that would make £16,200 per year per family, which is well below the average national income. And the people involved are only suspects.

It isn't clear whether this figure refers to the amount the families were receiving before their Child Benefit and tax credits were suspended, the interim figure the Government are paying the families while it waits for a decision from the UN over paying them a basic allowance covering the cost of living, or what. It's unlikely to be the final amount they'll be expected to end up paying, but we don't know. I suspect it's the former.

The reason I suspect that is that the paper has deliberately fudged it's reporting of the new restrictions. If this were the sum being paid after they were introduced, I doubt the paper wouldn't make more of the fact - along the lines of saying 'Fury as new Government 'restrictions' pay £65,000 a year to terror suspects'. Since the paper pretends the restrictions don't exist at all, I think it'd be a safe bet that the figure they have is for how much the families were receiving.

Still, one point in the paper's favour is that it allows dissenting comments on the 'Have Your Say' section, so it allowed that one comment through from me. Got it in a bit late though, so it's doubtful it will make any difference.

In happier news, the Express is in trouble with the PCC. The story's behind a subscription wall, so here's the jist:
The Daily Express has been forced to publish a second apology for an inaccurate story after burying its original apology.

Today the paper ran an apology on page nine after printing an apology on page 33 of a previous edition of the paper, a move that angered the Press Complaints Commission.

The PCC deemed the Express's first apology, about a story concerning a council changing its Christian prayers, inadequate.
Although this fills me with glee, I can't help but wonder what the difference is between the Mayor's complaint here and the MCB's complaint from earlier this year.

And you can still read the nonsense article online. I haven't been able to find an apology anywhere there.

I'm fed up with this paper and the goons in its comments. I think my next post will be about something else.

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