In pre-Internet days, our free and fearless press had little fear of being called out for facing both ways on the same subject: most newspapers went in the bin, often before the end of the day on which they were published. Now it is all so different, the hypocrisy and double standards still so brazen, even though the Web never forgets. So it is on the subject of pre-election claims and their subsequent abandonment.
The right-leaning part of the press, for which read most of it, had a field day hammering Jeremy Corbyn over a promise on student loans that he did not make. In this, they were aided and abetted, shamefully, by many in the broadcast media who might have been expected to know better. Tory ministers even demanded that Jezza apologised. But when it was the Tories performing a real U-Turn, there was silence.
A real pledge - so what is the press response?
We know this as Theresa May made great play in the run-up to June’s poll of her determination to cap energy prices. Not only was this a promise, it was in the Tories’ manifesto (unlike the non-existent Labour student loans “pledge”). The Conservatives Twitter feed put it directly: “Theresa May will support working families by capping expensive and unfair energy prices”. And there was more.
Look over there at the BBC (and the EU)
The Sun’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn told his readers “THERESA May today pledges to enforce a cap on energy bills to end the ‘injustice’ of fat cat firms ripping off poor customers … The PM unveils one of her flagship policies of the general election campaign with an article in the Sun today”. And this is what she said.
“It is clear to me that the energy market is not working for ordinary working families. Too many people simply aren’t getting a fair deal … I want to pay tribute to The Sun’s tireless campaigning on this issue … So I am making this promise: if I am re-elected on June 8, I will take action to end this injustice by introducing a cap on unfair energy price rises”.
Look over there at the EU
So what happened? As if you need to ask: the manifesto commitment was dropped soon after the election. A pledge, a promise, whatever form of words was used to describe it, was reneged upon, but there was no welter of stinging criticism, no demand for an apology, no broadcasters putting Tory leaders on the spot and demanding answers.
Yes, look over there at the EU
Now British Gas has decided it will hit its electricity customers with a 12.5% price hike. That would be the same British Gas whose CEO trousers more than £4 million a year. This is despite wholesale electricity prices actually falling in recent months. So where is the Tory outrage, the determination to resurrect the cap pledge and implement it?
But you know the answer: there isn’t one. And the Tories’ press pals are silent today, the only attempt at justification coming from a lame Telegraph attempt to blame “Green tax”. Otherwise, the preferred deflection tactic is to get readers to “look over there” at the allegedly rotten EU imposing strict border controls on British tourists.
Blame the tree-huggers
That would be the strict border controls the right-wing press has been demanding for years - before they realised what it would mean in practice. The stench of hypocrisy is overwhelming, the rank double standards so blatant, the bias all too obvious.
Labour does not U-Turn, it gets crucified. Tories U-Turn - oh, look over there.