Friday, 14 August 2009

Who ya gonna call? TaxPayers Alliance

Writing in the Guardian in 2008, Patrick Barkham said of the TaxPayer's Alliance:

So far, journalists have yet to tire of the TPA's "this is a slap in the face for taxpayers" refrain.

And, nearly 18 months later, it's truer than ever. The TaxPayer's Alliance like to mention all their media coverage on their website. Which is helpful for doing a quick survey to see just how totally lazy and reliant on them certain sections of the media have become.

Going through their 'media coverage' section for the two week period from Wednesday 22 July - Wednesday 5 August, I did a quick tally of how often the TPA had been quoted in the main daily papers. The results:

Mail - 28 times
Express - 28
Telegraph - 20
Sun - 12
Star - 11
Mirror - 9
Times - 4
Independent - 3
Guardian - 1

So that's eight stories in the nationals every day (and that doesn't include the many, many local papers that quote them).

And the Mail and Express are using the TPA, on average, for two stories every day.

But it's even worse than that sometimes. For example, on 22 July, the Express had six stories quoting the TPA. The Mail used them six times in a day on 3 August, five times on 22 July. The Telegraph has also used it five times in one day (4 August).

It's a damning indictment of the abilities of journalists on these papers. As Barkham implies, it's not as if the TPA spokespeople come up with some sparkling piece of insight every time they are quoted.

So Fred Goodwin goes to Clarence House and the TPA says:

'A lot of right-minded people would see this as completely inappropriate'.

The same day, the same paper (Mail), a story about swine flu, brought forth this gem:

'Most ordinary taxpayers who are concerned for their health in the midst of the swine flu epidemic will see this behaviour as greedy and inappropriate.

Then there was this story, which meant the TPA just had to say:

'This is a totally inappropriate use of taxpayers' money'.

And this one about the old Commons Speaker:

'Now the Speaker is being investigated over his household expenses it would be completely inappropriate from him to remain in charge of the parliamentary expenses system'.

And this quote about the new Commons Speaker:

'It is entirely inappropriate for John Bercow to expect taxpayers to pick up this bill'.

And this about the BBC:

'It is completely inappropriate for BBC senior executives to use expenses to pay for tax advice'.

And yet somehow, the TPA are on speed-dial for the Mail, Express and Telegraph. It's solely because their journalists are after an easy quote, with the least effort possible, and they know the media whores at the TPA will offer them the 'isn't this awful' knee-jerk response they want.

Which for the purpose of informed and balanced journalism, isn't really...umm...appropriate.

(Check out the Other TaxPayers Alliance who campaign for fairer taxes, try to hold the TPA to account over its secretive accounts, and also expose some of the problems with TPA research. They point out that despite the name, the TPA only represent 0.04% of UK taxpayers. And it has a TPA quote generator.)


  1. Nice TPA propagandists league table - the more they score - the worse the newspaper.

  2. I like the quote generator, that'll help me a lot the next time I want to propagate some lies.


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