The International Forum for Responsible Media Blog

David Cameron, the Mail Online and recycled poison – Tom Rowland

David CameronIn the dying days of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) the Prime Minister has found himself on the receiving end of a successful complaint over his public spat with senior clerics about the hardship caused by government welfare changes.

He was caught recycling wrong and unchecked statistics in an article for the Daily Telegraph – numbers which were almost certainly culled from the Mail Online.

Mr Cameron might reflect that he would have been spared the embarrassment if the PCC system was not so shockingly lax – and this is the same system that is being transferred to the successor body IPSO.

On 18 February, under the headline ‘David Cameron: Why the Archbishop of Westminster is wrong about welfare’, the Prime Minister penned a piece for the Daily Telegraph which, among other things, claimed that during the boom years the number of ‘workless households’ doubled. His argument was that the unreformed benefit system encouraged feckless inactivity even when work was readily available,

Except the official definition of ‘workless households’ underpinned by official figures is those where all adults are unemployed or inactive, and the numbers of those did not go up during the boom. In fact, they fell. So after a complaint to the PCC, the Telegraph had to publish a correction to the Prime Minister’s article.

But the duff figures did not originate in that Telegraph. The Mail Online had run the same figures in an article on 2 February 2104, just over two weeks before – just the right timing for them to be cut and pasted into Mr Cameron’s argument.

What followed the Mail Online publication is instructive.

That article sparked a complaint to the PCC from Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. The PCC did not make a ruling on the Mail Online error but instead six weeks were allowed to pass before it published a ‘resolution’ negotiated with the Daily Mail.

All the Mail was required to do was quietly withdraw the original from its database and post a characteristically weak correction on its website that said:

the article stated that ‘the number of workless households rose through the boom years’. In fact, while the number of households where no adult had ever worked did rise through the boom years, the number of households where no person was in work at the time of the survey fell during this period.”

All this, of course, came far too late to save the Prime Minister from falling into error. Nor is it likely to have been noticed by the overwhelming majority of the Mail Online’s readers.

The case is a reminder of the toxic quality of inaccuracy in national newspapers. People of all sorts – including David Cameron and his Downing Street staff – accept and repeat such statistics in everyday life. But many papers are not nearly rigorous enough in checking those statistics, and the PCC is far too slow and feeble in upholding accuracy.

If the Mail committed similar errors a thousand times (which it may well have done) the PCC would still not tick the paper off or ask it to improve its fact-checking. Instead the PCC system, like the IPSO one that will replace it – is a licence to be inaccurate, because there are no real consequences for sloppy journalism.


  1. sdbast

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  2. Mike Sivier

    Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    Poetic justice for David Cameron – chastised for regurgitating a false statistic that would have been corrected in good time, if only the Press Complaints Commission worked properly. His government has ensured that the current – failing – complaints procedure will continue under the successor body, IPSO, creating the possibility that he will commit more and worse errors in the future (if he continues ripping off statistics from the Daily Mail. How dim can you be, Dave?)

  3. Joan Edington

    This sounds a bit chicken and egg to me. In this case, Cameron has used the Mail statistics, thereby telling lies. Usually it is Cameron, Osborne or IDS telling the lies which are then quoted in the Mail.

  4. jess

    ” How dim can you be, Dave?”

    Was this another ‘gem’ from the pen of his speechwriter?

  5. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog.

  6. The media do not portray pensioners and women deprived of state pension at 60 correctly.

    The media keep saying that state pensions come from general taxation when the fact is the payout comes from the ring fenced National Insurance Fund, that is well in funds and has not had to be topped up from general taxation for decades.

    National Insurance is compulsory and costs 12 per cent of salary each year, plus your employer’s contribution for you, into the ring fence National Insurance fund.

    Women’s state pension payout deprived them at 60 since 2013 is being taken for the exact same sum as an 11 per cent pay rise for all MPs of all parties in 2015 general election year.

    The Flat Rate Pension is as much a process of the abolition of the welfare state as was the Welfare Reform Act and the Pension Bill.

    See if you lose most or all of your state pension, especially women, from 2016:

    As half of women aged 60-66 are within the working poor and majority of women not in work is due to disability / chronic illness, then the state pension is food and fuel money being lost.

    Also benefit is not just the unemployed, which includes more and more people incapable of work by illness/disability and 60 and over, which is only 3 per cent only of the entire benefits bill.

    Half of those in poverty are in work. Most of the rise in employment has been in insecure low income self-employment, part time jobs on minimum wage far below a living wage, and low paid zero hour contracts.

    So 97 per cent of the benefits bill is to the working poor and poor pensioners.

    Without state pension or sanctioned off benefits, a woman at 60 cannot access Winter Fuel Allowance or Cold Weather Payments.

    Nor gain Pension Credits or free prescriptions.

    The disabled / chronic sick at 60 and over are being put on Workfare, that is modern day slavery.

  7. maynon2013
    daily mail general trust propaganda agent of the ruling cabal

Leave a Reply

© 2023 Inforrm's Blog

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: