Call it churnalism, advertorial, propaganda or all three, the shilling for Astroturf lobby groups by supposedly credible newspapers is one of the inevitable by-products of years of cutting staff and demanding more from those that remain. And this morning, the Maily Telegraph has been caught red-handed fronting for one of the latest lobby groups to enter the fray – and presenting it as genuine journalism.
The Tel’s lead story – “Business leaders demand new deal with EU” – under the joint by-lines of Peter “Dominatrix” Dominiczak and James Kirkup, masks the sad fact that “a letter to The Daily Telegraph” signed by “business leaders including some of the Conservative Party’s biggest donors” is actually from “the Business for Britain advisory board”. This is another Astroturf lobby group.
Yes, some prominent businessmen have been prepared to sign the letter. But Business for Britain, while claiming to be “an independent, non-partisan campaign involving people from all parties and none, run by business for business” which seeks “a new deal for the EU and for the UK’s role in Europe”, is in fact dedicated to demonising the EU and thereby undermining its credibility.
In this, it mirrors the behaviour of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), which claims to represent ordinary taxpayers, but in reality is shilling for the selfish rich, who would rather keep hold of more of their dosh than they are at present able to do. The TPA pretends to offer constructive advice on what it calls “better Government”, but is about demonising Government and undermining it.
Whatever the TPA gets will never be enough; it will always be back for more. Ditto Business for Britain. How can I be so sure of this? We need look no further than the CEO: step forward Matthew “Gromit” Elliott, former stalwart of ... the TPA! Elliott is aided by Dylan Sharpe, formerly of Big Brother Watch (same offices as the TPA) and the No2AV campaign (prop. Matthew Elliott).
Indeed, Sharpe’s move from BBW to No2AV was reported at ConHome by Jonathan Isaby, who has since moved to the TPA. This incestuous-looking game of musical chairs is so well-known within press and politics circles that it is inconceivable that Dominiczak and Kirkup did not know who was feeding them the story. This is another example of the Tel’s fall from grace.
Readers might expect the lead story in the last English daily broadsheet to contain a little proper journalism: instead, they are served a re-heated press release from yet another Astroturf lobby group pushing their backers’ agenda. This may be acceptable to Mr Head “Content” Man Jason “Psycho” Seiken, but the reality is that it confirms the Telegraph long ago ceased to be a paper of record.
Meanwhile, Elliott and Sharpe can celebrate another lobbying job well done.