A few days ago I took part in a Royal Economic Conference session on the implications of the Brexit vote. There is no need for me to describe how it went, as there is a good write up in the FT. By good, I mean that it was a fair reflection of what went on. Philip Aldrick, economics editor at the Times, took exception to something I said at the meeting on Twitter:
Almost a month ago I wrote a post on propaganda. I used a definition borrowed from Jacob Stanley, where intent was key. A good journalist provides what they believe are the key facts that the reader needs, while propaganda involves providing facts that advance the newspaper’s view. The interesting thing about this Twitter conversation was that Aldrick thought that selecting facts to support the papers view was not propaganda, and that he thought it was what the other newspapers he named and I as an academic did.
Just to crystalise what I mean, take this article that recently appeared in the Telegraph. The headline (and remember this is all that many Telegraph readers will read) said “EU migrants without a job make up city the size of Bristol”. The article continued:
EU migrants of working age living in the UK who do not have a job account for a city the size of Bristol, new figures have revealed. One in seven of the 2,733,000 EU migrants aged 16-64 – a total of 390,000 – are unemployed or “inactive”.
A survey by the Office for National Statistics does not give a breakdown of how many claim benefits, but those who are unemployed will be eligible for jobseeker’s allowance and may also claim housing benefit and child benefit. People who are “inactive” include those claiming disability benefits.
The ONS survey can be found here. The fact that the Telegraph chose not to report was that 1 in 5 UK nationals were unemployed or inactive (excluding students). The reason that this is such a high figure is that ‘inactive’ includes mothers staying home to look after…