Once again, the Mail On Sunday has run a headline story that has turned out to consist of much that is not true. “Red Ed: We Will Force You To Get Fit” screams the headline (the press are a bit stuck here with either “Red” or “Odd”, both of which are wearing thin), claiming that there is a revolt in the Labour Party at what is described as a “nanny state plan” for drinkers and smokers.
And, as Captain Blackadder might have observed, there was only one thing wrong with this – it was bollocks. There is no plan to force anyone to do anything, and therefore there is no revolt, as was shown when Chuka Umunna, who is named in the piece, was questioned this morning by Jon Pienaar. So let us see what the MoS has actually got its hands on.
The MoS has generously allowed us to see the whole of their evidence. At first, this appears compelling. But then it becomes clear that this is a paper submitted to the party’s policy review – a review which, one might think, the press are aware of, as senior Shadow Cabinet figures, as well as Miliband himself, have been banging on about it for several months now.
The policy review will then look at submissions and take some forward. But what is contained in the MoS’ apparently damning evidence is not party policy. So the basis of their story is not that this is “Miliband’s plan” (an expression that crops up on a regular basis), but “party thinkers put forward suggestions on a range of issues pertaining to public health”, which moves less newspapers.
And the “ambitions” the paper describes might be thought to have the press’ support: getting more than half the population physically active, bear down on malnutrition, reduce obesity especially in children, helping to reduce the number of smokers, and tackling alcoholism – who isn’t for that? Better for public health, less costly to the NHS, and less costly for the rest of us.
But instead the MoS uses its find as the basis for knocking copy: “Details of the legally enforced health shake-up are revealed in a report to the ‘society’ sub group of the Shadow Cabinet. To stop union leaders and activists finding out about the plans, Mr Miliband gave orders that no minutes were kept”. There are no minutes involved in the submission of a report. And the “legally enforced” is just scaremongering.
But wait, what’s this? “The proposals were backed by Mr Miliband at a meeting with senior Shadow Cabinet Ministers, including Ed Balls, Harriet Harman, Douglas Alexander and Tristram Hunt. They are members of one of three secret policy-making groups set up by Mr Miliband to bypass the Party’s official National Policy Forum”. What meeting? All the MoS has is a copied document. Get out of here.
But that won’t stop the Daily Mail picking up the baton next week.