Tag Archives: newspaper

The British media support the Tory government – when they should be holding it to account

[Image: Before It’s News.]

What a travesty – but then, you will be well aware that the UK’s news media have been backing the Conservatives for many years.

There has been at least one other academic study in the last few years, showing that the media – and especially the BBC – predominantly support the Conservative Party in their news coverage.

Now, Loughborough University has analysed newspaper coverage of political parties during the first week of last year’s general election campaign.

It found that the Labour Party was overwhelmingly targeted with negative coverage, while the Tories were showered with praise.

What is your average, non-political person-on-the-street supposed to think?

Look at the state of this:

The study also showed that the most positive coverage of the Tories came from the highest circulation newspapers, with journalists at The Sun and the Daily Mail relied upon to write deferential, pro-government stories.

“The unweighted results show that only the Conservative Party received more positive than negative coverage across all newspapers,” the academics said in a summary of their research.

“In contrast, Labour had a substantial deficit of positive to negative news reports in the first formal week of the campaign.”

To give you an idea of the scale of the imbalance: the study weighted each news item on whether it contained a negative or positive implication for each party, scoring either -1 or +1 respectively, while balanced news items produced a 0.

The result:+4 for the Conservatives, and -91 for Labour.

At a time when the law demands impartial coverage.

The UK badly needs independent news coverage – or at least a restoration of the balance.

Fortunately, there are moves in that direction – such as the new Facebook page This is NOT the Corporate News.

But then, This Writer would say that – This Site is a contributor to that page. Look it up!

Source: British newspapers heap positive coverage on Tories while trashing Labour, study finds | The Independent

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Disabled man gets PIP back after newspaper story got DWP to change decision

Shaun Howard was lucky: he had family who managed to attract media attention after the Department for Work and Pensions stopped his Personal Independence Payments.

What about people who don’t have family members who can step in when the DWP picks on them?

Mr Howard, 29, has a condition called global development delay. He is unable to read or write, struggles to socialise and cope with everyday tasks, and lives in sheltered housing in Clacton.

His financial affairs are handled by an organisation called Essex Guardians, that helps people who do not have mental capacity to handle their own money.

He was called in by the DWP for a PIP reassessment last month, and a decision was made to stop his benefits.

Essex Guardians was told – but Mr Howard didn’t receive a letter and did not know his benefit had been cancelled until that organisation informed him.

The DWP didn’t even have the courtesy to let him know it had cut off his lifeline.

Fortunately for him, his parents spoke to a local newspaper and when the DWP realised its decision had attracted media interest, the decision was magically reversed.

A spokesperson said his case had been reviewed.

But would the DWP have reviewed his case and restored his payments without the attention?

Of course not.

This story has a happy ending.

But it also shows why we need to elect a Labour government, close down the DWP and built a better benefit system.

Source: DWP does U-turn after stopping Shaun’s benefits | Maldon and Burnham Standard

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Terrified Tories are running from media scrutiny

If the people of Peterborough return a Conservative to Parliament after this display, I would be very surprised.

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Fake news: Lib Dems condemned for campaign leaflets ‘imitating local papers’

You may be getting tired of this image, but it adequately describes the Liberal Democrat offer to the electorate.

This is awkward:

The Liberal Democrats are facing criticism over election campaign leaflets that look like local newspapers.

The party, led by Jo Swinson, has distributed material that mimics local papers as part of its election campaign leading to complaints from newspaper editors.

The Society of Editors has condemned the party for what it says “appears to be a concerted effort by the Liberal Democrats to mislead readers and voters”.

Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, suggested the move showed the party was taking a hypocritical stance on ‘fake news’.

He said: “It is ironic how it is often politicians who complain about fake news but then set out to at least blur the lines for readers – and in this case voters – by packaging their partial messages to ape independent newspapers.

“If political parties were genuine in their desire, often expressed, to both remove the effects of fake news and disinformation as well as support existing regional and local media they would take steps to ensure their political freesheets look markedly different to real newspapers.”

Indeed. This Writer received one through the door yesterday morning.

News from Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats, it thunders. When did Jo Swinson take ownership of the party as well as leadership?

And I wonder why Ms Swinson is being pushed as the bright beacon of the future, after her disastrous performances on the campaign trail and her disintegration in front of the BBC Question Time audience.

There’s a headline article about building a brighter future and a load of quotes from more and more people who are apparently backing the Liberal Democrats.

I’m willing to bet if I compared the quotes and the images with other Lib Dem election communications, I’d find the same things attributed to different images with different names. After all, they’ve done it before…

It’s all extremely propagandish and fake.

Still, at least it wasn’t a local leaflet ordering me to vote for them tactically, using a cleverly-inaccurate bar chart to convince me.

What a nauseating, patronising mob. Every time I receive one of their creepy leaflets I become even more determined to vote for someone else.

Source: Liberal Democrats condemned for campaign leaflets ‘imitating local newspapers’ – Manchester Evening News

Boris Johnson prompted a surge in racist and sexist attacks. He has to go

Racist and sexist: Boris Johnson.

Evidence from the monitoring group Tell Mama shows that Boris Johnson is a sexist and a racist who promotes sectarian violence against people of other religions.

This is the man who is trying to take the UK out of the European Union in such a way that he will be able to strip rights from particular sections of society and persecute as he pleases.

We know he is capable of it because we have witnessed the persecution of the sick and disabled, with thousands of people having their benefits withdrawn for no good reason, driving them to poverty and death.

Who knows what Dictator Johnson would do to other minority groups, given the chance?

He has to go. The sooner, the better.

Hopefully events in Westminster over the next few days will eject him.

If not, then we must find ways to push him out.

Boris Johnson’s comments on women wearing the veil led to a surge in anti-Muslim attacks and incidents of abuse, the monitoring group Tell Mama has said.

In its annual report, the group said [a] significant spike occurred in August [2018] after Johnson wrote a column referring to veiled Muslim women as “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”.

In the week following that article, Tell Mama said anti-Muslim incidents increased by 375% – from eight incidents the previous week, to 38 in the following.

Of the 38 anti-Muslim hate incidents, 22 were directed at Muslim women who wore the niqab, or face veil.

The group recorded a total of 57 incidents in the three weeks following the publication of the column by the former foreign secretary and current prime minister, 32 of which were directed at Muslim women. It said that between 5 and 29 August, 42% of the street-based incidents reported to Tell Mama directly referenced Johnson and the language used in his column.

Source: Boris Johnson’s burqa comments ‘led to surge in anti-Muslim attacks’ | Politics | The Guardian

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Jane Dodds: Another spamming leaflet – another pack of lies. Who’d vote Lib Dem now?

This bird is dead: The Liberal Democrats have shot down their own chances in Brecon and Radnorshire by annoying residents with false claims.

The latest stunt from attention-seeking Liberal Democrat spammer Jane Dodds is – surprise, surprise – yet another leaflet to clog up letterboxes in Brecon and Radnorshire, this time masquerading as a newspaper.

This is a common tactic by political parties in the run-up to an election; as long as they make it clear that it is an election communication on behalf of their organisation, it is permitted and perusal of the (very) small print on the front page does indicate this, if you get your magnifying glass out.

The propaganda starts at the very top of page one, with a claim that the Yellow Tories are “The winning team for Brecon and Radnorshire”. It’s a classic brainwashing/programming technique to make you think the LDs are going to win and encourage you to vote for what you’ve been told will be the winning side. Peer pressure – nothing more than that. But then the sub-headline says, “Your vote can make the difference this Thursday.” Why should it? This rag has already told us the LDs are “the winning team”. What a contradiction.

The headline itself, “Time for change,” is misleading. We’ve had either Liberal Democrats or Conservatives as MP here in Brecon and Radnorshire since 1979 and they have contributed nothing to improve lives here. Average wages are 25 per cent lower than nationally and the standard of living is similarly depressed. That is a failure by our representatives and the LDs must take their share of responsibility for that.

“Both opinion polls and bookmakers odds show a surge in support for hardworking candidate Jane Dodds as the best person to deliver the change Brecon and Radnorshire needs,” the text states. But it does not provide evidence to support these claims. And we already know Ms Dodds won’t be “hardworking” – her local policies depend on decisions made by other organisations like the Labour-run Welsh Assembly Government.

It goes on to say she has been “fighting for improvement in local healthcare” (nothing to do with her – it’s a devolved responsibility, handled by the Welsh Assembly Government) and “standing up for Welsh farmers” (the claim – elsewhere in the leaflet – that the Tories are planning to put a 40 per cent tariff on farming is not accurate, and of course with only two per cent of MPs in Parliament – or fewer – the LDs, with or without Ms Dodds, will have no effect at all on what happens).

A strapline running across the bottom of pages two and three states: “POLL LATEST: Labour are 150/1 outsiders – they can’t win on Thursday”. Again, the implication is that you should be voting for the candidate you have been told is most likely to win. This is completely at odds with democracy. The point of any election is for the electorate to vote for the candidate you think will do the best job.

Clearly, Ms Dodds won’t do the best job for Brecon and Radnorshire. This Writer doesn’t expect her to do any work at all.

On page four, we get rent-a-quotes from people we’re supposed to believe are members of the public who’ve been persuaded to vote Liberal Democrat. But at least one of them is known to This Writer as a card-carrying member of the Liberal Democrats. Are they all party members? The fact that just one of them belongs to that party shows that this is an attempt to hoodwink us.

Flip back to page two and there’s a quote from Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price AM, stating: “Putting party politics aside and delivering a pro-Remain MP for Brecon and Radnorshire is what is most important.” If you agree, vote for Labour’s Tom Davies. He supports another referendum, in which he will campaign for remaining in the EU. New Lib Dem leader Jo “let’s build a monument to Maggie” Swinson is on the record as saying that she would ignore democracy in order to push her own agenda.

No wonder a friend on Facebook said they had seen three new notices asking for no more “Jane Dodds spam”, while passing through Newbridge-on-Wye recently.

Ms Dodds is not telling you the truth, and neither is her party. She is spamming you with leaflet after leaflet in a bid to brainwash voters into supporting her in spite of the facts.

If This Writer had any influence, I would be saying that she is right in just one respect: You should send a message to the political establishment…

And the best way to do that is by voting for Labour’s Tom Davies.

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Right-wing press stories have backfired so often, people are creating their own spoofs

Lola Olufemi: When the Daily Telegraph published its retraction, she tweeted: “Small victories, hopefully I can get on with my job now.”

You couldn’t make it up – unless you worked for a right-wing rag like the Daily Heil or the Torygraph. And from now on, even if reporters at those organs try, they won’t be believed.

The Daily Mail blotted its own copy(book) with an article on “Our Remainer Universities”. Building on the revelation that Tory whip Chris Heaton-Harris had written to universities, requesting details of courses and lecturers dealing with the European Union and Brexit, the <ahem> paper asked readers to send in their own stories.

Apparently nobody in the editorial team stopped to consider the kind of responses they would get from respondents who are – not to put too fine a point on it – educated.

Nor did they expect the floodgates to open in quite the way they did. This Site has already published one professor’s response. Here are a few more, from a range of sources:

For those who cannot read images, Steve Peers wrote: “Dear Witchfinder General,

“I am writing to turn myself in as what your paper would consider a biased professor.

“I discuss the details of refugee law with my students, whereas your paper referred to the ‘problem’ of Jewish refugees ‘pouring into the country’ and depicted recent asylum seekers as rats.

“I ask students to look at EU and human rights laws on LGBT equality, whereas your paper referred to ‘abortion hope’ after a ‘gay gene’ was found.

“I discuss the risk that far right extremism poses to human rights, whereas your paper cheered ‘hurrah to the blackshirts’; and I outline the importance of the rule of law, whereas your paper shrieks that judges it disagrees with are ‘enemies of the people’.

“Despite all this, I can only dream of receiving the huge sums from the EU that your editor Paul Dacre has obtained.

“I can only salute your paper’s commitment to the truth, in spite of its many losses and settlements in libel cases and the frequent readers’ complaints it provokes.

“Yours sincerely,

“Steve Peers
“Professor of Law, University of Essex.”

“Aaron” wrote: “Good morning.

“I attend updog university, and we are being taught anti Brexit propaganda by our left wing professors. We are now made to gather in the study hall once a week and salute an EU flag whilst the professor slowly eats a croissant.

“Another lesson that is now mandatory is ‘brexit may not have been a good idea and blind patriotism is a foolish and extremely dangerous answer’. I think this is disgusting. If you keep saying it will be ok, it will be ok. We all know this. I once had a rabbit that got smashed to bits by a tractor and I said it would be ok and a few days later my dad got me a new rabbit.

“Please help me, there is no longer any room for bigots like myself at places of education and thought.

“Yours sincerely
“Aaron.”

https://twitter.com/davies_will/status/923483195361976320

From Will Davies: “Hi.

“I thought you might be interested in the behaviour of one of our lecturers. In a 2nd year module I take (‘Cultural Maxism and Masculinities’ – 15 credits) our lecturer declared that they were committed to ‘free speech’, but on condition that the speech was in a language other than English. My mate was determined to give an opinion on why Brexit was good, but was forced to stand at the front of the class explaining it in French, a language he doesn’t really speak.

“Happy to talk more.
“Will.”

From Tom Goodwin: “Hello,

“I wish to inform you that I have indeed experienced bias around Brexit at the University of Leeds.

“Only yesterday, I had a lecturer of International Communication show us a study which supposedly demonstrated that the wider international community believe that Brexit is a bad idea. I soon put him straight by showing him my curved banana and asking him whether or not this was the kind of thing that should be influenced by bureaucrats in Brussels.

“Needless to say, the spineless lefty had no response to my compelling argument.

“It is totally scandalous that the lecturers there have based their opinions about Brexit on both fact and quantifiable research that has been critically assessed and approved of by other members of the academic community.

“I can only pray that my lecturers stop using verifiably true information to influence the young minds that they are placed in charge of, and instead use publications such as yours to show students that Brexit will not only bring prosperity to our nation, but will also rid our proud island of the scourge of immigrants, with their unpronounceable names and funny accents.

“I hope this anecdote will be useful to you and your fine fact reporting establishment.

“Yours,
“Thomas Goodwin.”

https://twitter.com/TimBrudenell/status/923514342733221888

And from Tim Brudenell: “Dear Sir/Madam, but hopefully Sir

“There I was performing my morning salute to the national anthem in my commemorative Princess Diana knitwear when my History lecturer kegged me and forced me to eat a copy of Das Capital.

“I was so distressed by this event I had to cancel my erotic pottery class.

“Yours wistfully,
“Crampton Breadworth.”

Not to be outdone, the Daily Telegraph ran a story claiming that Cambridge University Student Union women’s officer Lola Olufemi had forced the university to stop discussing white authors in order to “decolonise” its curriculum.

Of course the letter signed by Ms Olufemi and more than 100 students, on which the article was based, did not call for the exclusion of white men from reading lists and Cambridge University has not dropped any authors from its courses.

Nevertheless, the Mail (again) followed up the story with a a profile of Ms Olufemi headlined ‘Feminist killjoy* behind the campaign (*It’s what she calls herself)’.

The apology that appeared in the Torygraph‘s ‘Corrections and clarifications’ the following day stated: “An Oct 25 article incorrectly stated that under proposals by academic staff in response to an open letter from students on “decolonising” its English Faculty, Cambridge University will be forced to replace white authors with black writers. The proposals were in ract recommendations. Neither they nor the open letter called for the University to replace white authors with black ones and there are no plans to do so.”

These are just the latest blunders by our supposedly impartial mainstream media – which still, improbably, expect us to believe they are more reliable than online news sites.

Now, it seems people have decided enough is enough – and have started lampooning mainstream news stories as they come out.

For example, try this retooling of the story that the man who (allegedly) shot John F Kennedy – Lee Harvey Oswald – met representatives of the KGB before setting out to kill the then-president. It has been re-written to present a story that might be considered more in line with Heil readers’ leanings (and the version I’m using has been edited by an acquaintance to add some salient facts):

What next?


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Conservative Government attacks BBC; BBC responds defiantly

The BBC has responded to plans by the Conservative Government to reduce its ability to cater for all licence-payers, with a short statement of defiance. Good for Auntie!

At long last, Corporation executives have realised that the conciliatory position they have held for so long – adopting a broadly pro-Conservative stance in its news reporting, for example – simply won’t stop the Tories from trying to dismantle public service broadcasting in favour of the kind of trash served up by moguls like their friend Rupert Murdoch.

(Isn’t he back trying to buy the rest of Sky TV again, now that the Tories are free to be completely corrupt about it?)

The Tories were set to bring out a Green Paper filled with proposals to cut back the range of services offered by the BBC – for reasons that don’t seem to make any sense at all. For example, George Osborne said the BBC website should be scaled down because it is “crowding out” national newspapers.

This is clearly rubbish. Osborne represents the Party of the Marketplace. It is clear that, if the BBC is more popular than the right-wing newspapers owned by his friends, then it is those papers that should change, to make themselves more acceptable – not the BBC website. That’s the law of the market.

By seeking to hobble the BBC instead, Osborne merely highlights the corruption at the heart of Conservative Government.

Other plans include de-criminalising non-payment of the licence fee, to make it harder for the BBC to collect its funding. Only recently, Auntie agreed to take on the cost of providing free licences for people aged over 75, despite it being a political policy that has nothing to do with the Corporation. The cost is around £650 million – almost as much as that of all the BBC’s radio services combined (£653 million).

Here’s the BBC’s statement:

150716BBCgreenpaperresponse

It looks like the BBC is planning a consultation. Will you take part?

If you’re wondering what’s really behind the Tory plan, let’s add the following, for clarification:

150601-chomsky-privatisation1

Are you getting a clear picture?

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Work Capability Assessment fuss shows Labour must change its ways

There's a reason people created cartoons like this. They were rejecting the Work Capability Assessment and the thinking behind it; this is not how we want our government to run our country.

There’s a reason people created cartoons like this – they were rejecting the Work Capability Assessment and the thinking behind it. This is not how we want our government to run our country.

Yesterday’s article on Labour’s attitude to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), used on people applying for incapacity or disability benefits, was probably the most controversial to be published by this site.

Look at the article‘s comment column and you will see the strength of support for this writer’s planned open letter. It calls for Labour to accept that the public opposes the continued use of a system that is responsible for as much death as the WCA undoubtedly is.

You will also see a few critical comments, and it is fair to say that there have been quite vicious attacks on the other social media, including Facebook and Twitter. Let’s try to address some of those.

Some claimed this writer was some kind of agent provocateur who had timed an attack on Labour to ruin its chances – a curious suggestion, considering the report was about someone else’s response to the ill-considered comments of a Labour shadow cabinet member, over which Yr Obdt Srvt could not have had any control.

Some claimed that Labour’s attitude to the WCA has already been addressed by Rachel Reeves’ promise to reform it – even though it cannot be reformed. It is beyond rehabilitation. The Work Capability Assessment serves a twofold purpose: It shovels taxpayers’ money into the hands of private, profit-making firms, and in return those firms do their best to disqualify claimants from receiving payments. If there was no intention to pervert the benefit system, governments would rely on the word of claimants’ GPs and the specialists working on their case. The responsible course of action is to get rid of it – before it kills anyone else.

Some said the Green Party had seized in this as an opportunity to attack Labour. That’s nice for them, but nobody really cares what the Greens do. They said Labour voted for fracking when Labour was the only party that found a way to stop it. They said Labour voted for Tory austerity when Labour was doing nothing of the sort. Let them say what they like.

Most hinged on whether Owen Smith actually said what was claimed, at a meeting a couple of days ago. Here’s Liza Van Zyl, whose Facebook post sparked this controversy: “I was the person who asked the question of the Shadow Sec of State.

“I asked why, given that the WCA has caused a great many more deaths than the Bedroom Tax, is Labour scrapping the BT but not the WCA? He answered that Labour cannot commit to scrapping the WCA because it would look bad in the right wing press and would negatively affect Labour’s election chances.

“My question was clearly about the WCA causing people’s deaths. I stand by my comments.”

Vox Political has also been contacted by another person who was at the meeting, who said: “He did fudge a bit and she left the meeting.”

Later on, according to my contact, another questioner pointed out that the WCA “was introduced to stop people getting money, and the best person to say who can go to work or not is a GP.” This is in line with the view put forward by this blog. “He [Mr Smith] seemed quite happy with that and said after the election [Labour] would look at it”.

Of course there is a connection between the Work Capability Assessment and death; how much clearer could it possibly be?

Of course there is a connection between the Work Capability Assessment and death; how much clearer could it possibly be?

Several thoughts occur. Firstly, nobody is suggesting that Mr Smith said Labour was happy about the possibility of people dying, simply because the party wouldn’t stand up to the right-wing press. Let’s make that clear. But he certainly wasn’t going to say Labour would do anything to stop it – certainly not before the election.

So it is clear that Liza was making an honest comment on what Mr Smith was saying, based on knowledge of the subject. We know that the Work Capability Assessment has been a catastrophe for people all over the UK. It is based on a system evolved by criminal US insurance firm Unum, designed to be hugely difficult and stressful. The stress of having to prepare for an assessment kills many, as does that of taking it. Some commit suicide when they are refused benefit, some die from the stress of having to appeal. Some who are granted the benefit die from its requirements – like trying to become ready for work in a year if they’re in the work-related activity group of ESA. Some who are granted benefit die from the strain of being reassessed, sometimes at short notice. Death surrounds the process. When Mr Smith said Labour would not oppose the WCA because of the right-wing press, he was tacitly saying Labour is willing to let these fatalities continue – even if he wasn’t actually saying it.

It’s something that some people have found hard to accept, but that is the message being put out to people all across the UK by Labour’s unwillingness to denounce the process and Liza just happened to be the one who stood up and said it.

As a result, it seems she has been hounded off the Internet. She wrote: “Folks, if you don’t hear from me for a while, don’t worry I’m ok. I’ve given my phone and all means of Internet access to a friend… so that I don’t have to see all the horrible messages I’m being bombarded with.”

Secondly, if Mr Smith’s answer really was a “fudge”, then he has no right to be scandalised by Liza’s response. On Twitter yesterday he claimed it was a “lie”, prompting Yours Truly to put him straight – at length. Perhaps he should apologise for creating the misunderstanding and clarify what he really was saying about Labour’s position instead.

Ah, but (thirdly) he also said that Labour would look at the matter after the election, which touches on something else mentioned in the original article – electoral dishonesty. Voters don’t want a Labour Party that says one thing before the election, in order to keep the press from kicking up a fuss about being “soft on welfare”… and then do another thing after the election. That’s just what the Tories and Liberal Democrats did in 2010. We want a political party that will be honest with its voters and make a firm promise now. Don’t we?

Fourthly, isn’t Labour supposed to be brave enough to fight the right-wing press when it is wrong? What happened to Ed Miliband’s bravado on the subject?

Vox Political has spent nearly two years trying to get the DWP to divulge up-to-date figures on the number of deaths suffered by people going through the claim process that involves the WCA. The last published data – from November 2011 – showed around four deaths every three hours, or 220 per week. That’s a monstrous figure. It seems possible that the DWP may provide new figures soon, and we can hope that the average will be lower – but the sheer weight of punitive measures that have been put in place since 2011 suggests otherwise.

Just as shocking is Labour’s apparent disinterest in changing it. The sheer number of people who have contacted this site – via the comment column, Twitter or Facebook – to say they have tried repeatedly to engage Labour luminaries on the subject, only to get the cold-shoulder, is a scandal in itself.

We’ve already got enough political parties whose leaders are only interested in what they can get for themselves – they’re called the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Labour needs to be better; Labour needs to stand up and do what’s right for everybody.

And that is a big reason why this is so important. Labour is the only party with a hope of kicking the Conservatives back into Opposition. People up and down the country want to support Labour – but can’t, because they don’t believe Labour will support them. That’s the ultimate reason the WCA has to go; it doesn’t help people – it kills them.

If the alternative to being “soft on welfare” is causing the deaths of thousands of people who only asked for the benefits their tax money is supposed to have funded, then ‘One Nation’ Labour cannot afford to have anything to do with it.

Surely you can see that?

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Ignorance could lumber us with another Tory government

zPrimeMinister

Why do people still believe the Conservatives are more likely to raise their living standards than Labour, even though they understand that they have become worse off over the last five years?

Why do political commentators brand Ed Miliband a “useless” leader, when even former Torygraph stalwart Peter Oborne has admitted he has been responsible for extraordinary successes and has challenged the underlying structures which govern Westminster conduct?

Let’s look at the first claim, courtesy of the latest Mainly Macro article by Professor Simon Wren-Lewis. He makes it clear from the start that people are being denied the facts; otherwise the economy would be the Conservative Party’s weakest point in the election campaign.

Look at the evidence: Since 2010 we have endured the weakest economic recovery for at least 200 years, with a steady fall in real wages (masked in average figures by the huge pay rises awarded by fatcat bosses to themselves). “The government’s actions are partly responsible for that, and the only debate is how much,” writes the Prof. “Living standards have taken a big hit.”

He continues: “There is no factual basis for the view that the Conservatives are better at managing the economy, and plenty to suggest the opposite. However this belief is not too hard to explain. The Labour government ended with the Great Recession which in turn produced a huge increase in the government’s budget deficit. With the help of mediamacro, that has become ‘a mess’ that Labour are responsible for and which the Conservatives have had to clean up.

“The beauty of this story is that it pins the blame for the weak recovery on the previous government, in a way that every individual can understand. Spend too much, and you will have a hard time paying back the debt.”

It’s a myth; the facts disprove it easily – so the Tories avoid the facts at all costs.

But why be concerned, if Ed Miliband is such an awful excuse for a Labour Party leader. Didn’t David Cameron describe him as “weak” and “spineless” to Scottish Conservatives only a fortnight ago?

Not according to Peter Oborne. Writing in The Spectator, he has praised Miliband because he “has been his own person, forged his own course and actually been consistent”.

Oborne praises Miliband for “four brave interventions, each one taking on powerful establishment interests: the Murdoch newspaper empire, the corporate elite, the foreign policy establishment and pro-Israel lobby… There is no doubting Mr Miliband’s integrity or his courage.

“Opposition is an essential part of British public life. Oppositions have a duty to challenge government and to give the electorate a clear choice. Ed Miliband has done precisely this and yet he has been written off. Does this mean that no opposition dare offend the big vested interests that govern Britain? Is this really the politics we want?”

It’s the politics the Conservative Party wants.

Professor Wren-Lewis notes that Miliband’s opinion poll ratings are low “because most people just see unglamorous pictures of him and note that he does not have that Blair appeal.

“That could be changed if they saw him in a one on one debate with Cameron, so there was never any chance that the Conservatives would let this happen. The debates last time had huge audiences, so no one can dispute that democracy has been dealt a huge blow as a result of what the FT rightly calls Cameron’s cowardice.”

He goes on to say that Cameron’s refusal to debate one-on-one with Miliband is “a key test” for the media, with Cameron counting on them letting his spin doctors dictate what people are allowed to see.

If that is true, then it seems Cameron has miscalculated.

Broadcasters have said the three TV general election debates planned for April will go ahead, despite Cameron saying he will take part in only one.

“It means Mr Cameron – who has rejected a head-to-head debate with Ed Miliband – could be ’empty-chaired’,” according to the BBC. Perhaps they really will put a blue chicken on the podium, as was suggested on this blog yesterday!

John Prescott has suggested that if David Cameron does not turn up for the TV debates, this should be placed on the empty podium.

John Prescott has suggested that if David Cameron does not turn up for the TV debates, this should be placed on the empty podium.

Perhaps the broadcasters were provoked by Cameron’s claim that they were the ones responsible for what he called the “chaos” surrounding the TV debates, when it is clear that he has been responsible for delays and indecision.

The end result is the same. Cameron has denied himself the chance to stand up and defend his record against an Opposition leader who is increasingly starting to come through as The Better Man.

Will the debates be enough to change the mind of the general public and mitigate against the mass ignorance nurtured by the Tory Press?

That will be up to Mr Miliband. If his performances in recent Prime Minister’s Questions are any indication, it should be a walkover for him.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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