The Murdoch Sun’s Sunday political editor, David Wooding, is not given to bouts of candour. Nor is former Tory leader Iain Duncan Cough. And alleged think tank Migration Watch is not the first port of call for reliable statistics that paint the full picture. So when all three came together today, the thought entered that their story would be too good to be true. And sure enough, it was too good to be true.
“MIGRANTS BENEFITS BILL EU … migrants in Britain claimed more than £4bn a year in benefits … Migrants from Eastern Europe received more in welfare than the average UK citizen - and paid less income tax, figures show” gasped the headline.
David Wooding - much more unpleasant than he looks
The story is equally lame: “EU migrants in Britain claimed more than £4billion a year in benefits”. Over what period? Context? “Those from Eastern Europe received more in welfare than the average UK citizen - and paid less income tax”. What about all the other taxes? And again, over what period? But we don’t get to see that.
Instead, we get straw men: “In the run-up to the Brexit referendum, ministers had insisted the figures were not available”. No citation, and none will be forthcoming. But we are told “There is a stark contrast between Western and Eastern Europeans”. No figures for Western European migrants are given. So what the contrast is, we don’t know.
And what's with the refugee video in this article?
But we are told “Nearly half the personal taxes paid by migrants from countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Poland went straight back in tax credits and child benefit … DWP figures were not broken down by country … But if they followed a similar distribution, then almost all of the taxes went back in working-age benefit”. So these migrants were in work, and had been for some years. Otherwise, they would not have got the benefits.
Still, we do get the wisdom of Duncan Cough. “Ex-Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith carried out the study with MigrationWatch UK … He said: ‘It is no surprise they didn’t want to release the figures’”. Who didn’t? See straw man above.
This may have convinced some of the Sun’s readership, but not those grounded in reality, one of whom pointed the article’s last line. “'Supporters of open immigration point to a 2016 study by University College London which found migrants since 2000 contributed £1.34 for every £1 in benefit' which The Sun does not dispute”.
Chris Giles mused “I see the Sun are attacking migrants claiming benefits today with a misleading article that doesn't mention net contribution”, while Ciaran Jenkins of Channel 4 News spelt it out: “The Sun has this ‘exclusive’ on benefits claimed by EU migrants without once mentioning how much they pay in … In the interests of accuracy, last available figures show net tax contribution from EEA nationals was +£13.6bn”.
Instead, Sun readers are fed a load of selective migrant-bashing, tailored to kick those from Romania, Bulgaria and Poland the hardest, with their benefit to the economy edited out. And to make it really nasty, the article includes a photo of a fight between Afghan and Eritrean refugees in Calais. Because, you know, nudge nudge, wink wink.
This is down to David Wooding’s usual standard. Which means - Don’t Buy The Sun.