The News – created by TaxPayers’ Alliance
Sept 15, 2011 – The BBC’s Daily Politics gave a platform yesterday to TaxPayers’ Alliance director, Matthew Sinclair (on “energy bills”). Meanwhile, the Daily Mail quoted TaxPayers’ Alliance chief executive Matthew Elliott (in an article on how ‘Union chiefs plot wave of strikes to cripple country’). Elliott also has a Daily Mail blog.
Earlier this month I cited some “news” created by the TaxPayers’ Alliance (on “benefits cheats”) which appeared in the Telegraph and Mail. Also, on Sept 2, the Express quoted TaxPayers’ Alliance in a front-page story on “scrounging families”. The front page of the Express on August 24 quoted Emma Boon of Taxpayers’ Alliance in a story about public-sector pay rises. The next day (Aug 25) the Mail quoted Emma Boon in a front-page story on Quangos.
As you can see, the TaxPayers’ Alliance is very active and highly successful at shaping the news. Who are they, and how do they get so much media coverage?
“Thinktank” funding & framing
The Taxpayers’ Alliance is a rightwing pressure group, but it calls itself “Britain’s independent grassroots campaign for lower taxes”. In a Guardian article on the secretive ways of so-called thinktanks, George Monbiot lists TaxPayers’ Alliance as one of several groups which refused to provide useful information on the sources of their funding. So, a “grassroots” “alliance” of “taxpayers” which doesn’t want us to know about its funding.
The Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) uses frames which are well-established in the tabloid press: “benefits cheats”, “wasteful EU bureaucrats”, “fat cats” (public-sector variety), “rip-off” energy bills, etc. Emotive issues which get headline coverage. A TPA spokesperson typically cites the “public” “outrage” and “fury” which has supposedly “erupted” as a result of not following “cost-cutting” (and ideological “free-market” rightwing) solutions which TPA recommends.
TPA uses populist language: “It’s shocking that so few benefits cheats are facing serious punishment for their crimes. If crooks think the system is a light touch, with little or no consequences for being caught, then they will carry on fleecing the taxpayer without hesitation.” (Matthew Elliot, TPA Chief Executive, in Daily Mail)
Tweet a “Thinktank”
I’ve created a list of UK thinktank twitter accounts here. Use it to publicly query a thinktank of your choice on the sources of its funding. (This was an idea originally floated on Twitter and promoted here by George Monbiot).