28 July 2008

When Is A Democracy Not A Democracy?

I got a lot of stick a few months back for saying it was...
a bad day for democracy when Livingstone lost in London. This was misinterpreted (probably deliberately) as meaning that I only thought it was democracy if my side won. That was not what I was saying at all. In a free and fair election whoever wins is good for democracy, but could the London election be called free and fair when the London press was more one sided than North Korea's media?

The Left does best when democracy is strong and I really don't think the Left can ignore the right-wing bias of the media any longer.

What has changed since 1997? It is no longer just the national media that is 80% Tory but the local press which used to concern itself with reporting the 'local facts' now spins bad news like a Daily Mail on acid. This is not surprising as Northcliffe Media (owned by the Daily Mail) now owns so much of it. It's purchase of Trinity Mirror's local press output strengthening it's hand.

From the Evening Standard in London, Express & Star and Evening Mail in the Midlands or the Yorkshire Post in Leeds and Argus in Sussex, the people are now fed a diet of Daily Hate even at the local level. Even the free news-sheets Metro, Lite and londonpaper are owned by the few media moguls who really run this country. Not for effect did Harriet Harman recently emphasise the importance of reading the press in the morning before she does anything else.

The advent of the internet is supposed to change MSM dominance and it has helped get the left-wing message across, but it remains marginal when most of the blogosphere just amplifies what they read in the press. Rather than diminishing, the power of the Sun and the Daily Mail has increased.

The media will always reflect it's paymasters whether advertising, taxation or licence fee. The BBC is best placed to represent the public, the press will always represent big corporations that dominate it's advertising revenue. Big corporations will always want cuts in public spending. Remember that tax cuts have to be paid for, if you don't benefit directly by Tory cuts in the top rate of tax or in IHT then sure enough you will end up paying more in VAT or other taxes. Cuts in education, public transport and the NHS will affect all but the very richest for at least some part of their lives. And who knows when you might need the welfare safety net. If these don't provide a decent level of coverage, you know what propaganda sheets to thank.


  1. Neil, you are missing the point. Out of £600 bn annual gummint spend, only about half of it is spend on NHS, welfare and education. The rest is spent on bribes, crap and make-work schemes for potential Labour voters.

  2. Mark, 58% to be exact (66% if you include housing and personal social services).

    When you factor in that most right-wingers want to spend MORE on defence and crime (another 10% of the budget) and always end up 'unintentionally' spending more on welfare (as they increase unemployment), then you can see why Tory governments tend to not reduce this total amount, no matter how much they give in tax cuts to those earning 40k plus. The Tories have a poor record when it comes to efficiency savings no matter how well they spin the opposite.

    I do agree with you that the government could spend less and distribute more (hence our mutual support for the citizen's basic income idea) but overall I think taxes should go up to the levels in other EU countries (from 43% to 50% of GDP). It doesn't seem to have damaged their economies and their public services are better - these things matter most to the poorest.

  3. "about half" = 58%, thanks, call it 66% if you will. Stick on another 5% of GDP for 'core functions' (police, defence) and that's still barely 70%. Even if you doubled police and defence, that gets you to 76%...

    ... which is why the MW manifesto includes reducing public spending by a quarter.

    And what do the Tories have to do this? I'm not a big fan of them either as you well know.

  4. MW: So thats 3/4 then! Anyway, what the Tories have to do with all this is that if you reject Labour you get Tory - that unfortunately is all the choice we have. You can say how much you hate both parties, but in the end surely you cannot deny we make a choice. As someone on the left I choose Labour, you may vote elsewhere but I would guess ultimately the Tories would be your choice out of the two. Am I wrong?

  5. "not quite as bad as the other lot" is hardly a ringing endorsement.

  6. Mark: Doesn't make it any less true a statement though does it?

  7. Moving back... isn't some enormous % of the local press owned by GMG? In which case, why aren't they pushing a lefty agenda...?

  8. John B: GMG is small fry compared the Daily Mail Group which owns papers right across the UK (and Europe). GMG papers are mainly based in the Manchester area and also has some local papers around Reading and Slough. Curiously enough Manchester is a Labour stronghold with no Tories and Labour has done well in Reading and Slough as well.