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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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

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