» daily telegraph ¦ What You Can Get Away With

After it flared up into media prominence over the last week, the Telegraph today eagerly covered the news that the Green Party won’t be including Citizens Income as a policy in their General Election manifesto.

However, there seems to be a problem with that news: it’s not true. Reading an account from a Green Party member, it seems that the party’s conference has insisted that the policy is included in the manifesto, and the Telegraph’s report is merely extrapolating wildly from some comments by Caroline Lucas. The member’s account suggests that she has opposed the inclusion of it in the manifesto, but even with that news, the Telegraph appears to be stretching her words. It reports that she said:

“The citizens’ income is not going to be in the 2015 general election manifesto as something to be introduced on May 8th. It is a longer term aspiration; we are still working on it,”

The key point they’re not factoring into their story is ‘as something to be introduced on May 8th’, instead focusing on the first part of the sentence. Let’s be honest, I don’t think even the most hardened support of a basic income scheme thinks it could be introduced quickly, and it helps to show the ignorance of reporters who believe that is the case.

However, I think this comes back to the point I made a couple of weeks ago about how journalists don’t understand how policy making within parties actually works. As someone with experience of seeing similar things in the Lib Dems, it’s almost pleasant to see another party being similarly misunderstood. Journalists like to believe that all political parties are run from the top down, not the bottom up, and of course ‘senior party figures’ are always happy to encourage this impression. So, when Caroline Lucas says something (and it’s misheard) it’s easy for them to leap to ‘the party has changed its policy!’ rather than ‘hmm, better check that for accuracy.’

It does make me think about the Iron Law of Oligarchy – the idea that all political organisations will progress from democracy to oligarchy over time – and whether the media have a role in encouraging and fostering that process. Could one even argue that social pressures and the expectation that an organisation will be run from the top are as much a pressure making it happen as the role of bureaucracy concentrating power in the organisation? Something else to add to the list of things I need to think about and write about some more…

, , , , ,

Dan Hodges writes on the Telegraph website today:

Ukip are not a political force, but a political curiosity. In years to come many a pub quiz trophy will be won by those who can correctly answer the question: “What was the name of the guy who ran the anti-EU party? Begins with an N.”
In life there are rules. What goes up will come down. The Earth rotates around the Sun, not vice versa. And come election time, minor British political parties get squeezed out of existence.
It may not be fair. It may not be healthy. But them’s the facts. And unfortunately, they are immutable.
Of course, come Sunday 5 May, 2013, when next year’s European votes are counted, there’s going to be a whole lot of muting going on. Ukip will be in the process of recording their greatest ever election triumph. The Tories will have been beaten into a humiliating third place. Eurosceptic MPs will be fanning out across the airways demanding action and the summary execution of Ken Clarke.

So far, so generic. But hold on, what’s this?

Sunday 5 May, 2013, when next year’s European votes are counted

I know ‘vote early, vote often’ is an oft-used saying, but a whole year early? That’s either real dedication to the cause, or someone who’s supposed to understand politics and commentate on it not knowing basic facts like when elections take place. And these are elections that take place in London too, so the media are allowed to notice they’re happening.

But who needs to bother with facts when they can get in the way of giving your opinion?

(The Telegraph have now slightly corrected the error, though the page now reads ‘come June 2014, when next year’s European votes are counted’ which implies a vote next year and then a delay of several months before they’re counted. A screengrab of the original page is here, just to confirm)

, ,