What a frightening world it must be if you only read the Daily Express

Frightening, but with free baked goods.

Daily Express front page

"BRITAIN'S 40% SURGE IN ETHNIC NUMBERS – 9 MILLION LIVING HERE ARE NON-WHITE", yells the front-page headline this morning. It's a classic tabloid ghost train ride: here come the immigrants, taking over Britain, turning us all a duskier shade of off-pink. When you think about it, "ethnic" is such an odd term to use – we're all ethnic, of one type or another – but they're using it to mean "ethnic minority", as they have done before, together with the rather more blunt expression "ethnics".

I suppose it's one of those things that might bother some people more than others. It depends on whether you think these islands belong to people who are "white" more than people who are "non-white", or whether you see the changes in population as a positive thing. Can you really divide up the various mixed races and groups in this country of rich heritage into the binary of "white" and "non-white"? And if you can, what are you trying to say?

This kind of thing goes back to an "us and them" distinction that has been apparent in the Daily Express and Daily Star for a while, usually in relation to Muslims and British people, as if the two could not possibly be the same. In this instance, the "us and them" narrative is that this country's population is composed of two types of people: white and non-white. The assumption is that "we" are white and "they" are non-white, and there isn't anything in between.

Give the readers what they want

It might be the case, of course, that this assumption may reflect a deeper truth about the readership of the publications in question, but this is still a national newspaper, shouting out from the news-stands to everyone, purporting to tell a version of reality. Even if you are pandering to an ever-dwindling bunch of frightened Little Englanders who are worried about immigrants, that doesn't excuse the use of this kind of terminology, if you're going to have integrity about the things you present as being true and untrue.

But this is 2011. I keep looking at the calendar and imagining that I've slipped back a few decades, to another time, another era, when people didn't know enough about growing up in a multicultural society to know about "ethnic minorities".

But no, this kind of headline is still being splashed in a national newspaper, as if non-pink people were some kind of novelty who only came into being under New Labour and who have been pouring across the (open) borders to try to take over ever since; as if it really is a case of "us" and "them", of "white" and "non-white".

If it weren't so depressing, it would be faintly hilarious. But it is depressing that a newspaper should make a scare story out of there being people in this country who aren't white.

Cakey consolation

The world can be a scary place, of course, particularly if you read the tabloids – but if you got your information about it from the Express and the Express only, you might find it to be more scary than it really is.

Every day, a new scare, a new thing to be worried about, a new reason to hide behind the door chain and be afraid of what's out there. It's a miracle that the readers even manage to get out to the corner shop and buy the newspaper in the first place, so afraid must they be of what lurks out there.

"MILLIONS MUST WORK AFTER 70", thundered Wednesday's edition – but at least there was a free sandwich to keep you going. "FURY AS JUNKIES GET £1BN BENEFITS", boiled Tuesday's edition – with only the promise of a lemon drizzle doughnut to ameliorate that anger. And on Monday, we were faced with "BRITAIN'S HAY FEVER HELL" – mind you, there was a free chicken stuffing lattice on offer, as long as you could see through the streaming eyes long enough to find your local branch of Greggs.

Every day, another scare, another thing to depress you, another thing to make you angry about the unfairness of it all – and another free thing from the bakery. What's surprising, perhaps, is that they're plugging Belgian buns today, of all days. Bloody Belgian buns, coming over here, taking our pastries . . . Still, at least the icing's white. And that's all that matters.

Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
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Metro mayors can help Labour return to government

Labour champions in the new city regions can help their party at the national level too.

2017 will mark the inaugural elections of directly-elected metro mayors across England. In all cases, these mayor and cabinet combined authorities are situated in Labour heartlands, and as such Labour should look confidently at winning the whole slate.

Beyond the good press winning again will generate, these offices provide an avenue for Labour to showcase good governance, and imperatively, provide vocal opposition to the constraints of local government by Tory cuts.

The introduction of the Mayor of London in 2000 has provided a blueprint for how the media can provide a platform for media-friendly leadership. It has also demonstrated the ease that the office allows for attribution of successes to that individual and party – or misappropriated in context of Boris Bikes and to a lesser extent the London Olympics.

While without the same extent of the powers of the sui generis mayor of the capital, the prospect of additional metro-mayors provide an opportunity for replicating these successes while providing experience for Labour big-hitters to develop themselves in government. This opportunity hasn’t gone unnoticed, and after Sadiq Khan’s victory in London has shown that the role can grow beyond the limitations – perceived or otherwise - of the Corbyn shadow cabinet while strengthening team Labour’s credibility by actually being in power.

Shadow Health Secretary and former leadership candidate Andy Burnham’s announcement last week for Greater Manchester was the first big hitter to make his intention known. The rising star of Luciana Berger, another member of Labour’s health team, is known to be considering a run in the Liverpool City Region. Could we also see them joined by the juggernaut of Liam Byrne in the West Midlands, or next-generation Catherine McKinnell in the North East?

If we can get a pantheon of champions elected across these city regions, to what extent can this have an influence on national elections? These new metro areas represent around 11.5 million people, rising to over 20 million if you include Sadiq’s Greater London. While no doubt that is an impressive audience that our Labour pantheon are able to demonstrate leadership to, there are limitations. 80 of the 94 existing Westminster seats who are covered under the jurisdiction of the new metro-mayors are already Labour seats. While imperative to solidify our current base for any potential further electoral decline, in order to maximise the impact that this team can have on Labour’s resurgence there needs to be visibility beyond residents.

The impact of business is one example where such influence can be extended. Andy Burnham for example has outlined his case to make Greater Manchester the creative capital of the UK. According to the ONS about 150,000 people commute into Greater Manchester, which is two constituency’s worth of people that can be directly influenced by the Mayor of Greater Manchester.

Despite these calculations and similar ones that can be made in other city-regions, the real opportunity with selecting the right Labour candidates is the media impact these champion mayors can make on the national debate. This projects the influence from the relatively-safe Labour regions across the country. This is particularly important to press the blame of any tightening of belts in local fiscal policy on the national Tory government’s cuts. We need individuals who have characteristics of cabinet-level experience, inspiring leadership, high profile campaigning experience and tough talking opposition credentials to support the national party leadership put the Tory’s on the narrative back foot.

That is not to say there are not fine local council leaders and technocrats who’s experience and governance experience at vital to Labour producing local successes. But the media don’t really care who number two is, and these individuals are best serving the national agenda for the party if they support A-listers who can shine a bright spotlight on our successes and Tory mismanagement.

If Jeremy Corbyn and the party are able to topple the Conservatives come next election, then all the better that we have a diverse team playing their part both on the front bench and in the pantheon of metro-mayors. If despite our best efforts Jeremy’s leadership falls short, then we will have experienced leaders in waiting who have been able to afford some distance from the front-bench, untainted and able to take the party’s plan B forward.