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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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After a year of chaos, MPs from all parties are trying to stop an extreme Brexit

The Greens are calling for a cross-party commission on Brexit.

One year ago today, I stood on Westminster Bridge as the sun rose over a changed country. By a narrow margin, on an unexpectedly high turnout, a majority of people in Britain had chosen to leave the EU. It wasn’t easy for those of us on the losing side – especially after such scaremongering from the leaders of the Leave campaign – but 23 June 2016 showed the power of a voting opportunity where every vote counted.

A year on from the vote, and the process is in chaos. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. The Leave campaign deliberately never spelled out any detailed plan for Brexit, and senior figures fought internal battles over which model they preferred. One minute Britain would be like Norway, then we’d be like Canada – and then we’d be unique. After the vote Theresa May promised us a "Red, White and Blue Brexit" – and then her ministers kept threatening the EU with walking away with no deal at all which, in fairness, would be unique(ly) reckless. 

We now have our future being negotiated by a government who have just had their majority wiped out. More than half of voters opted for progressive parties at the last election – yet the people representing us in Brussels are the right-wing hardliners David Davis, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson.

Despite widespread opposition, the government has steadfastly refused to unilaterally guarantee EU citizens their rights. This week it has shown its disregard for the environment as it published a Queen’s Speech with no specific plans for environmental protection in the Brexit process either. 

Amid such chaos there is, however, a glimmer of hope. MPs from all parties are working together to stop an extreme Brexit. Labour’s position seems to be softening, and it looks likely that the Scottish Parliament will have a say on the final deal too. The Democratic Unionist Party is regressive in many ways, but there’s a good chance that the government relying on it will soften Brexit for Northern Ireland, at least because of the DUP's insistence on keeping the border with Ireland open. My amendments to the Queen’s speech to give full rights to EU nationals and create an Environmental Protection Act have cross-party support.

With such political instability here at home – and a growing sense among the public that people deserve a final say on any deal - it seems that everything is up for grabs. The government has no mandate for pushing ahead with an extreme Brexit. As the democratic reformers Unlock Democracy said in a recent report “The failure of any party to gain a majority in the recent election has made the need for an inclusive, consensus based working even more imperative.” The referendum should have been the start of a democratic process, not the end of one.

That’s why Greens are calling for a cross-party commission on Brexit, in order to ensure that voices from across the political spectrum are heard in the process. And it’s why we continue to push for a ratification referendum on the final deal negotiated by the government - we want the whole country to have the last word on this, not just the 650 MPs elected to the Parliament via an extremely unrepresentative electoral system.

No one predicted what would happen over the last year. From the referendum, to Theresa May’s disastrous leadership and a progressive majority at a general election. And no one knows exactly what will happen next. But what’s clear is that people across this country should be at the centre of the coming debate over our future – it can’t be stitched up behind closed doors by ministers without a mandate.

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.

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