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Are the media biased against Jeremy Corbyn? Just look at how Theresa May’s policies are covered

The Tory manifesto contains Labour policies – and receives adoration from the right-wing press.

Slowly but shamelessly, the Conservative Party has been ripping off Labour policies. From the days of David Cameron to Theresa May unveiling her manifesto today, the Tories have been nicking Ed Miliband’s ideas and passing them off as their own: eergy price caps, banning letting agent fees, raising the minimum wage, abolishing permanent non-dom status, worker representation on boards, borrowing to invest without counting it in the deficit, means-testing winter fuel payments for pensioners, and making the elderly pay more for social care.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just as Ukip rejoices in having influenced the government to call an EU referendum, the creators of the Labour 2015 manifesto can take some solace in having their policies implemented (that’s if they aren’t watered down by the Tories). But the blood-boiling thing about this is how differently such proposals are received by the press when they come from Theresa May compared to when they come from Ed Miliband or Jeremy Corbyn.

Let’s take the announcement today that the elderly will have to pay more for their care. The idea is that people will have to pay care costs – whether they’re receiving care at home or living in a nursing home – until their assets are below £100,000. This takes the value of their house into account, which means about one in ten people with care needs will be paying more. The government will wait until they die before they have to provide this money.

This is very similar to the Labour politician Andy Burnham’s policy proposal when he was health secretary in Gordon Brown’s government. He proposed funding social care by taxing people’s estates when they die – almost identical to May’s announcement today. Burnham resurrected this idea as a Labour leadership candidate afterthe 2015 election. Both times, it was labelled a “death tax” by the press and political opponents.

How did the papers react when May announced the same thing?

All photos: Twitter

And remember Miliband’s energy prize freeze? Here’s his former adviser Stewart Wood comparing headlines about a policy that was lambasted by the right-wing press at the time but being praised now that the Tories have proposed it:

May is consistently labelled “mainstream” and praised for appealing to “Middle England” when she does something for middle-earners (say, making the better-off stump up more for public services, or raising the personal tax allowance). When Corbyn does the same – as with his policy to pay for universal free school meals by taxing private schools – he is waging a “tax war on the middle class”.

When pictures of Corbyn’s five-bedroom manor house where he grew up flash up on our screens, as with ITV Tonight’s leader interview on Monday (fair enough – it’s a personal profile), the intricacies of May’s family home don’t feature in similar reports about her background. These tend to focus – as in The One Show’s recent interview – on her character (“strong and stable”, usually) and on banal, sanitised details of her relationship.

And it’s not just Corbyn. While the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron is (rightly) grilled on how his Christianity affects his views on abortion and homosexuality, May – the vicar’s daughter – is given a free pass.

And it’s not just May. When the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, got himself into a tangle over the cost of HS2 in a disastrous interview on Radio 4’s Today programme, it was mainly ignored. A rather different response from when the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, messed up policing figures. Her performance was roundly covered and mocked.

This is not to say that Corbyn’s hypocrisies, influences and policies shouldn’t be scrutinised. It’s just that the press needn’t be so credulous when reporting Tory policies that would have provoked horror if they came from opposition parties.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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“It was like a religious ceremony”: What happened at Big Ben’s final bong?

Both inside and outside Parliament, people gathered to hear the clock’s final midday chime before undergoing repairs.

“It’s just hacks everywhere,” a photographer sighs, jamming his lens through a gap in Parliament’s railings to try and get a closer look.

New Palace Yard, Parliament’s courtyard directly below Big Ben, is filling with amused-looking journalists, waiting for the MPs who have promised to hold a “silent vigil”, heads bowed, to mark Big Ben’s final chime before four years of silence while the tower’s repaired.

About four of them turn up. Two by accident.

It’s five minutes to twelve. Tourists are gathering outside Westminster Tube, as tourists do best. A bigger crowd fills Parliament Square. More people than expected congregate outside, even if it’s the opposite within the Palace. The world and his phone are gazing up at the sad, resigned clock face.

“It’s quite controversial, isn’t it?” one elderly woman in an anorak asks her friend. They shrug and walk off. “Do you know what is this?” an Italian tourist politely asks the tiny press pack, gesturing to the courtyard. No one replies. It’s a good question.

“This is the last time,” says another tourist, elated, Instagram-poised.

“DING DONG DING DONG,” the old bell begins.

Heads down, phones up.

It finishes the on-the-hour tune for the last time, and then gives its much-anticipated resignation statement:


Applause, cheers, and even some tears.

But while the silly-seasoned journalists snigger, the crowd is enthusiastic.

“It’s quite emotional,” says David Lear, a 52-year-old carer from Essex, who came up to London today with his work and waited 45 minutes beneath Big Ben to hear it chime.

He feels “very, very sad” that the bell is falling silent, and finds the MPs’ vigil respectful. “I think lots of people feel quite strongly about it. I don’t know why they’re doing it. During the war it carries on, and then they turn it off for a health and safety reason.”

“I don’t know why they can’t have some speakers half way down it and just play the chime,” he adds. “So many tourists come especially to listen to the chime, they gather round here, getting ready for it to go – and they’re going to switch it off. It’s crazy.”

Indeed, most of the surrounding crowd appears to be made up of tourists. “I think that it was gorgeous, because I’ve never heard him,” smiles Cora, an 18-year-old German tourist. “It was a great experience.”

An Australian couple in their sixties called Jane and Gary are visiting London for a week. “It was like a religious ceremony, everybody went quiet,” laughs Gary. “I hope they don’t forget where they put the keys to start it again in four years’ time.”

“When we first got here, the first thing we did was come to see it,” adds Jane, who is also positive about the MPs who turned up to watch. “I think it’s good they showed a bit of respect. Because they don’t usually show much respect, do they?”

And, as MPs mouthing off about Big Ben are challenged on their contrasting reactions to Grenfell, that is precisely the problem with an otherwise innocent show of sentimentality.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.