The big difference between what Olly Grender said and what the Mirror said she said

The Mirror ran a big splash yesterday saying that Liberal Democrat peer Olly Grender was complaining that her House of Lords allowance is insufficient. “We struggle to get by on £300 per day tax free allowance” screams the headline.

If you actually look at the substance of the story, there is absolutely nothing to substantiate  that total misrepresentation of what she was saying. They even run a little poll asking if you could get by on £300 tax free.

They selectively quote from an interview that Olly gave to the Conference issue of House magazine which you can read here. Now, Olly has always been someone who has spoken up on the need for greater diversity. She really understands the issues and the barriers facing people standing for Parliament. She was emphasising how difficult that was for people on low incomes:

It’s about proper decent funding of female candidates. Because to stand for Parliament you give up so much, it costs you personally, it costs you in terms of your kids, it costs you in terms of your salary. What Labour have always had is a way of bumping up salaries via trade union funding to help people overcome this.

If you want loads of people to get involved in politics, somehow you have to find ways of ensuring that people on very low incomes feel engaged and involved and that is wider than us.

Lack of funding prevents diversity among not just MPs but peers, she adds. “What you don’t get is a hairdresser, what you don’t get is a bus driver. And why don’t you get those people? Because it’s unaffordable for most people to do this kind of thing unless you are relying on a partner.

The Mirror claims to be a paper that represents the views of ordinary working people, although it more often is a mouthpiece for the Labour Party. What Olly was saying should appeal to them and their readers. They didn’t need to twist it like that. At no point does Olly complain about the amount of her allowance. She made one comment that lenders don’t accept a Lords allowance as income if you are applying for a mortgage which is a valid point to make.

As always in these cases, follow through to the actual interview to get the whole story. It’s very interesting, name-checking Hannah Thompson’s campaign against revenge porn (Olly was one of the peers behind the parliamentary amendment which aimed to get the law changed), talking about how the Lords works, good and bad, and on sharing an office with Paddy Ashdown.

She also revealed that she had been sexually harassed by a now dead MP when she first worked in Westminster. She said that she’s glad that the culture has changed so that people aren’t prepared to put up with that sort of behaviour. She also talked about the press corps not being beyond reproach in terms of sexism at that time. Funnily enough, neither Mirror nor Mail took up that bit.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Eddie Sammon 4th Oct '14 - 10:54am

    This is why we should support light touch press regulation. Opinions should never be regulated, but the press deliberately twist the truth without being held accountable for it.

    That’s my opinion anyway. The press have annoyed me since I was a teenager.

  • Well – she either said it or she didnt – if she didnt why doesnt she sue the paper? I am sure there are enough good liberal Dems out there who would support her financially

  • Nigel Cheeseman 4th Oct '14 - 11:07am

    Unfortunately the people who write for newspapers will invariably twist, misquote and misrepresent for their own ends. This should be a salutary lesson for anyone giving an interview or making any sort of public statement whilst holding office or standing for election. Having said that, I find the notion that people can’t afford to enter parliament laughable. As a local councillor I received allowances which comprised the bulk of my income. My total income left me well below the income tax threshold. I can understand the argument that family commitments make it difficult and if that was the focus of the argument then fair enough . I could not even consider going to Lib dem conference for that reason.

  • Sometimes the Mirror is as bad in its own partisan way as the Daily Mail.

    It just shows the level of hatred from vested interests still directed at the Liberal Democrats for trying to break the two party duopoly – probably even more so now that there are other threats like the SNP and UKIP.

  • Stevan Rose 4th Oct '14 - 11:50am

    “the press deliberately twist the truth without being held accountable for it.”

    And politicians taught the reporters everything they know about misquoting, quoting out of context, twisting of words, and so on. The worst I’ve ever seen in on this site, Lib Dem on Lib Dem. There is no moral high ground here.

    We pay our lawmakers significantly below what the creme de la creme can earn in other professions and you get what you pay for. Double the money, halve the numbers, no second or third jobs. And no unelected House of Lords (that would solve the expenses issue there).

  • Tony Dawson 4th Oct '14 - 1:12pm

    I think the Mirror article is quite reasonable. Olly is saying that ordinary people (people who will not have high spending habits) can not afford to be peers on that daily rate which she enjoys. I can assure you that a lot of hairdressers would find that level of income to be just dandy to be a peer.

    The reason we don’t get that many hairdressers in the House of Lords is because the Party leaders (including our own) don’t appoint them. Funnily enough the House of Lords (already stuffed with them) is deemed, every year, to be short of people who provide large donations to political parties or retired political ‘worthies’ (sic).

  • Martin Land 4th Oct '14 - 1:14pm

    Once again what Olly Grender supposedly said is far more interesting that what she actually said.

    Just another case of a journo trying to make something out of nothing and a somebody out of a nobody.

  • Paul In Wokingham 4th Oct '14 - 2:08pm

    @david – Olly Grender quite self evidently “didn’t say it”. She was explicitly talking about the fact that the £300 daily allowance is exactly that: an allowance, and cannot be referenced as a source of income when making a mortgage application. She was quite clearly not referring at all to the amount of the allowance and so a poll asking if you could live on £300 a day has absolutely nothing to do with her comments.

    Didn’t Olly Grender used to do stuff on the telly with Kevin Thingy off The Mirror?

  • Didn’t Olly Grender used to do stuff on the telly with Kevin Thingy off The Mirror?

    Yes, Paul in Wokingham, the same Olly Grender that joined the party when she lived in Kingston and the same Kevin Maguire who lives in Kingston now (don’t be fooled by his accent).

    As a young liberal in 1983, Olly along with a some of the rest of us were interviewed on the Brian Walden programme. She got some badges produced which simply said “AS SEEN ON TV”. She has been on TV ever since. 🙂

  • I see from Facebook’s recommended articles that the Daily Mail is running much the same misleading story… And we winner why people think politicians are out of touch!

  • “We struggle to get by on £300 per day tax free allowance”
    So she is complaining that working in the Lords is basically like being on a zero hours style contract, that pays *£37.50 per hour*, when she *voluntarily* turns up.
    Gees,…. life for the unelected establishment is so tough sometimes.!

  • Last week entrapping Tory ministers, this week misquoting LD peers – anyone would think that the Mirror is worried about the Labour party’s chances next May :). Olly would do
    society as a whole some real good if she instructed a brief,

  • stuart moran 4th Oct '14 - 8:14pm


    I see you ignore all the carrying on from the right-wing press and just focus on Labour… do know which side dominates don’t you?

    I don’t think the Labour Conference was the one where there was an outright attack on the Liberal Democrat party – are Theresa May’s comments not with a mention, never mind her SPAD’s

    But it is clear where you and your party’s focus is – to support a move sharply to the right. If that is what you want to do, fine, but then don’t expect a large proportion of the 2010 voters to be there in 2015.

    And can I also ask you spare us from the whiney comments….all the parties (except perhaps UKIP) have had negative press, Labour probably more than the others – particularly Miliband but it is a hard world that politicians inhabit and the best way to deal with it is not follow their agenda

  • @ Simon Shaw
    What she actually said amounts to the very same thing.
    “It varies dramatically because you clock on when you sit because it’s an allowance rather than a salary.”
    It varies dramatically ~ [ just like zero hours contracts?]
    you clock on when you sit ~ [ folk on ZH contracts get work when they are told they have work, there is not the choice she has to voluntarily clock in or not bother to turn up]
    it’s an allowance rather than a salary ~ [ Many on ZH contracts would sell their right arm for an income of £37.50/hr, and would care less if you called it an allowance or a salary ]
    Err,… no I don’t feel I missed anything.

  • David Evershed 4th Oct '14 - 11:00pm

    Ir would be interesting to know if the £300 daily allowance for attending the Lords has to cover travelling from say Newcastle and the cost of out of-towners staying overnight in London.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Oct '14 - 8:41pm

    If the media establishment doesn’t evolve it will get swept away. The political and the media establishment are both very vulnerable. Smug journalists and politicians patronising the poor by saying they’ve lost out to globalisation whilst themselves are promoting nonsense policies will soon find themselves out of a job. Unless they adapt.

  • Paul in Wokingham 5th Oct '14 - 11:39pm

    Today’s MoS has a story headed “‘Don’t stroke your cat you’ll stress it out’. Experts warn pets are actually harmed by being petted”.

    But (as the BTL commenters pointedly note) that isn’t what the “experts” are quoted as saying at all. As anyone who shares a house with a cat knows, they love to be stroked some times and let alone other times. The advice is to not forcibly hold your cat down and stroke it while it is desperately trying to get away from you. Which seems like stating the obvious.

    Cor blimey. Newspapers, eh?

  • Shirley Campbell 6th Oct '14 - 2:16pm

    “Lack of funding prevents diversity among not just MPs but peers, she adds. “What you don’t get is a hairdresser, what you don’t get is a bus driver. And why don’t you get those people? Because it’s unaffordable for most people to do this kind of thing unless you are relying on a partner.”

    Well, since Ollie values diversity, I offer from the sidelines “my” opinion as to why there are so few people such as hairdressers and bus drivers sitting in the House of Lords or the House of Commons.
    I read the DT and Telegraph reports on-line. Yes, both the DT and the Telegraph concluded that most politicians are completely out of touch with reality, and I entirely agree with that stance. Whether what was actually said was correctly reported does not lessen the fact that in most cases it takes two full-time salaries to secure a mortgage on a property these days. Single people are marginalised in our society, full stop. Furthermore, it would seem that many people, both partnered and single, in full-time work, are not able to earn enough to eat and pay their rent or mortgage these days.
    The route to the House of Commons would ideally be through gaining the confidence of a said electorate by living and working in the community and standing for the salaried office of a member of parliament. However, it is not so and the House of Commons is populated by those who have no connection with the people who they purport to represent. The House of Lords is an unfortunate legacy from another era and should be reformed.
    Caron, I prayed that Scotland would vote for independence so that our antiquated style of government would have to be reformed and brought into the twenty-first century. However, it looks as if some sort of Constitutional Convention will take place.

  • Stevan Rose 7th Oct '14 - 10:59pm

    Well of course should John Major take the peerage he is entitled to he would be a former bus conductor n the House of Lords. And should David Morris MP get elevated one day, you’ll have a former hairdresser there too.

  • Julian Tisi 9th Oct '14 - 9:37am

    @ david “Well – she either said it or she didnt – if she didnt why doesnt she sue the paper? I am sure there are enough good liberal Dems out there who would support her financially”

    Two reasons really why politicians very rarely sue in such an instance. One is that it is very very expensive, even if you win. And no – most of us good Lib Dems would rather see our money spent on campaigning than legal fees. Second, in the court of public opinion, the only one that ultimately matters, suing gives credence to something, even if untrue. I’m not saying never sue – but it has to be for something very, very serious. Sadly the press know this and under current (lack of) regulation there is no right of reply or right to correct, so they get away with this.

  • Jordan Lewis 5th Oct '15 - 10:23am

    I’m a carpenter. I could do her job for £300 a day and be quite comfortable without relying on a partner… would she like to swap jobs? Or maybe just accept like millions of others that she should live within her means?

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