If confirmation were needed that establishment media is fundamentally broken, no finer example could be found than the latest outburst from self-promotion specialist Julia Hartley Brewer, frequently invited to perform her poorly-informed punditry by broadcasters who really ought to know better. The revealing meltdown happened on Ms Hartley Dooda’s TalkRADIO show during an exchange with Labour MP Liam Byrne.
We know who you are, thanks
“Food bank usage in Birmingham is up 12%, but many of the people they’re seeing are people in jobs” told Byrne. But what the Birmingham Hodge Hill MP should have known was that Ms Hartley Dooda knew far more than him about the subject.
“That’s the second time you’ve said that Liam. This is [an] ongoing thing, ‘this is terrible, the working poor’. They’re not working in the same way that most people think of people working. The people who are going to food banks because they can’t make ends meet even though they’ve got a job, between a couple, they’re working three days a week, what they’re legally required to do to [be] entitled to various benefits”.
Liam Byrne MP
See, she knew all about it. And, sadly, there was more. Rather a lot more. “They’re not working a full day … they’re not doing a full week’s work then not being able to pay their bills … because people working in benefits offices have told me [Byrne tries to get a word in edgeways] Liam, Liam, there are people who don’t take full time work because they’d rather be on benefits”. Bryne countered that this was “utter nonsense”.
Ms Hartley Dooda was having none of that. “I know people personally who have done that”. Byrne tried to reason with her and discuss restructuring the economy, without realising that she had made the decision that she knew better. “Liam, you know perfectly well that less than 2% of … Liam, Liam, I’m speaking … less than 2% of people in this country are on zero hours contracts … a tiny percentage”.
She then ordered Byrne to be cut off so she could listen to deeply unpleasant Tory MP Ben Bradley instead. But let’s pick the bones out of that. Ms Hartley Dooda ponied up no evidence, other than “people working in benefits offices have told me”, to counter Byrne’s worries about increased food bank usage. She infers that no-one in full time employment has problems making ends meet, merely those “on benefits”.
This is the kind of hearsay that would get laughed out of any court, and indeed out of any newspaper at the quality end of the spectrum (well, apart from the Telegraph and Times, perhaps). Worse, 2% of the workforce being on zero hours contracts - that’s around 650,000 people. And that is before considering the self-employed in the so-called “gig economy”, many of whom are putting in a full week for less than the minimum wage.
Poverty is a subject which deserves proper, reasoned debate. Instead, we get the likes of Julia Hartley Dooda using it as a way to promote Herself Personally Now. Her wilful ignorance of reality is bad enough, but worse is that broadcasters and tabloid editors are prepared to indulge her. Now you know why the establishment media is broken.
To solve a problem, it has to be admitted that the problem exists. Poverty is one of those problems; its reporting, or lack of it, is another. I’ll just leave that one there.
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