How Fleet Street misled its readers on immigration

The Mail, the Express and the Independent all inaccurately claimed that immigration rose by 20 per c

I blogged yesterday on how the Daily Mail misrepresented the latest migration figures by claiming that immigration had "soared by 20%". In fact, it was net migration - the difference between the number of people entering and leaving Britain - that rose by 21 per cent last year, mainly due to the lowest level of emigration since June 2005. The paper's journalists were, as I wrote, guilty of either extreme stupidity or extreme cynicism.

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But the Mail wasn't the only culprit. The front page of today's Daily Express, a paper which makes a special effort to mislead its readers on this subject, similarly declared: "Immigration soars 20% in a year". Yet as the ONS graph below shows, immigration has barely risen since 2004. The long-term immigration rate was 575,000 in 2010, up slightly from 567,000 the previous year - a 1.4 per cent rise, not a 20 per cent rise.

(Click graph to enlarge.)

How Fleet Street mislead its readers on immigration. 

Source: IPS, ONS Migration statistics quarterly report, August 25 2011

As Full Fact notes, the Daily Mirror and the Independent - papers that should know better - made the same mistake. But these errors, I suspect, were the result of ignorance. In the case of the Mail and the Express, however, there appears to be a calculated attempt to whip up prejudice and bigotry against immigrants. I'm a supporter of press self-regulation but its no wonder that some on the left call for statutory regulation when the tabloids continually lie about immigration and its effect on our society. As I noted yesterday, Sky News amended its headline after it too claimed that "immigration" had risen by 20 per cent. But the Mail and Express won't. Why do the papers lie about immigration? Because they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.