Members of Parliament are paid a significant amount of money to represent their constituents. A generous salary is backed up by expenses for staff and accommodation. Train fares to and from London can be claimed back. But many of those in the Commons still feel the need to supplement that income by writing, or putting their names to, articles in one or more newspapers, including the Murdoch Sun.
Policy Exchange. And we all know what they think about Merseyside
There is, though, a problem in getting one’s name in the Super Soaraway Currant Bun: the paper has a rabidly Europhobic, authoritarian and right-wing agenda. Many Tory MPs fit right in with this stance, but for others it can be more problematic. And the potential pitfalls for Labour members should be in the category of the bleeding obvious.
That, though, has not prevented several of the party’s MPs writing for the Murdoch goons, even in the period since Jeremy Corbyn, someone the Sun goes out of its way to smear on a regular basis, became leader. Some, like John Mann, don’t know any better. Others, like Jess Phillips, probably don’t care. And Sarah Champion should have known better than trust the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker any further than she could chuck them.
But the Labour MP whose presence in the Sun has caused the most controversy lately has been Frank Field, who has represented Birkenhead since 1979. Not only was he sounding off against his party’s leadership - the subject was the EU and remaining in the Customs Union - but his presence was then used by the paper to accuse Corbyn of “ratting” on his voters. Field should have known how his article would be manipulated.
What was worse, though, was that Field is not some ingenue - he represents a constituency on Merseyside. It matters little that Birkenhead is across the river from Liverpool: the whole area holds a visceral hatred for the Sun, and has done ever since the paper smeared Liverpool fans over the Hillsborough stadium disaster.
Being on the Wirral is no excuse for dancing to the Murdoch tune, nor for disrespecting the memory of the 96, the mistake that cost Esther McVey her seat, against the national trend, in 2015. Representing a safe seat and claiming freedom of speech won’t cut it.
The Sun uses MPs for its own ends, whatever their party. As Sarah Champion found to her cost, the paper adds the headlines it wants, not the ones the author wants. It selects the bits that suit its agenda. The resulting articles benefit the Murdoch mafiosi, not the MP, certainly not the Labour Party, and most definitely not Jeremy Corbyn.
There is, of course, one way to ensure that an MP does not have his or her views misrepresented, manipulated, skewed and twisted, and that is not to go near the Sun in the first place. This also has the benefit of not disrespecting the memory of the 96 - which, on Merseyside, might be thought to be the deciding factor.
Plenty of media outlets will allow MPs to get their message across to their audience. And most of those have the advantage of cutting out the corrupt, venal, dishonest, unprincipled and downright criminal enterprise that is the Murdoch press. Don’t write for the Sun.