How dare she follow the rules, thunders Mail on Sunday

In a thundering attack this morning, the Mail on Sunday lays into Harriet Harman, acting leader of of the Labour party for…erm… doing nothing wrong at all.

Ms Harman, it appears, accepted money legally and properly given by a Labour Party supporter and then, as is one of the jobs of an MP, assisted the same person with a problem.

The whole affair, which the Mail on Sunday would really like you to think is some sort of sordid scandal, is summed up in the first few paragaphs of their story:

Harriet Harman was last night facing damaging claims that she lobbied the Home Office on behalf of a Labour Party donor’s immigrant wife who is living in Britain unlawfully.

The Leader of the Opposition was forced to deny furiously any impropriety over the wife of Monday Osaseri, a Nigerian-born businessman who donated money at a pre-Election fundraiser in Ms Harman’s Peckham constituency.

Just days later, in April, he emailed her Commons office to request a meeting to discuss his wife, who has been in the country unlawfully for more than six years.

Within weeks, Ms Harman had emailed the Home Office to ask about the progress of her application for leave to stay in the UK.

The paper uses the old trick of not actually accusing Harman of doing anything wrong, but printing that she denies doing so, raising that bit of doubt in the reader’s mind – although it does backtrack from it’s initial claim that Harman herself was “forced to deny” the claims.

Ms Harman refused to comment last night, but a source close to her said the MP vehemently denied any impropriety.

Another trick to turn innocence into apparent guilt is the made-up nickname. The Mail on Sunday has, for this story, invented the sobriquet ‘MP for Lagos’ for Harman because, as it explains

her constit­uency has the highest number of Nigerians of any seat in the country, obliging her to be attentive to their political needs

But it doesn’t admit to making it up. Instead the paper says

Ms Harman has been dubbed the ‘MP for Lagos’

so giving the impression that it’s a wider issue other people have thought to bother themselves with. Clearly, the Mail on Sunday would like to attach some blame to Harman for having dark-skinned constituents and doing her job as a constituency MP.

This shabby little story is, if nothing else, a good example of some of the tricks weaker journalists use to give a false impression about their non-story.

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6 Comments

  • I saw this story online and agree that there’s little wrong with Harriet Harman’s actions. Looking at the many Mail on Sunday posts makes for depressing but predictable reading – rather different from the reactions to a recent story about a newly elected Conservative MP whom the Mail deemed to have transgressed between the sheets. Then it was (and I quote without tongue in cheek, if such a thing can avoid being considered an act of depravity ) “I consider this story to be unworthy of the Mail’s reputation for reportage.” ….. alongside several others in the same vein.
    Now I wonder whether David Davies could be persuaded to say something nasty about the present voting system as he weaves his way out of the golf club – sorry, gastropub – ok, anywhere where walls and Daily Mail journalists have ears?

  • Every time I think the Daily Mail can’t possibly sink any lower it proves me wrong.

    I seriously question how a national paper can get away with misleading the public in the way it does. It really is about time that the media industry was made accountable for the bile it produces

  • Paul McKeown 25th Jul '10 - 5:54pm

    usual crap what do you expect from der Heil?

  • Wouldn’t it be great if a high profile politician decided to take this rag to the cleaners, then?

  • @Alex, couldn’t agree more.

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