William Wallace writes…Populism in the media

Active Liberal Democrats should read the Daily Mail.  You need to know where issues that dominate the news have come from. Even more under this Conservative government than under Tony Blair, the Mail sets much of our political tone and agenda; it’s the newspaper from which Conservative constituency executives take their opinions, feeding back to MPs, ministers and No.10.

The BBC’s recent revelation that David Cameron tried to persuade Lord Rothermere that it was time for Paul Dacre to retire, after 25 years as editor, before the EU Referendum, illustrates how successive Prime Ministers attempt to cultivate the Mail while at the same time fearing it.  Its populist narrative is skilfully presented.  The vicious way in which it attacks those who challenge that narrative persuades its readers that they are on the right side, and that others are responsible for whatever goes wrong.

The Daily Mail narrative on the NHS has fed directly through to government policy.  Its campaign against ‘health tourism’, in which the picture of a Nigerian woman who had quadruplets while visiting Britain has appeared multiple times over the past year, has pushed the government into action; there is, after all, a real problem, though the Mail has exaggerated its extent and overall cost.  In parallel it has run a campaign against ‘lazy’ GPs who close their surgeries for half a day a week – also leading ministers to respond.  The deliberate implication of both of these has been that the NHS’s problems are caused by foreigners and lazy staff, not by lack of resources.  Indeed, one of the longest-running campaigns in the Mail has been about the ‘wicked’ denial of new cancer drugs by NICE, ln grounds of cost (David Cameron responded by setting up a special fund to underwrite a limited supply). Tthe Mail thinks more should be spent on these, without explaining to its readers where the extra money might come from.

Hard choices about taxation and public expenditure are swept away by stories about overpaid public servants and ‘waste’.  One recurrent theme is to recite the number of health administrators, civil servants, and now head teachers, who are paid more than the Prime Minister.  The Mail’s answer to recent stories about under-funding in the NHS was to highlight ‘overpaid’ administrators and agency staff in hospitals and surgeries: sort that out, the reader is given to understand, and there’d be enough money to go around.  To reinforce the point across the board, last Thursday’s op-ed from Stephen Glover – one of the Mail’s leading angry old men – called for further tax cuts to move Britain closer to the Singapore and Korean economic models, without waiting for the UK to leave the EU.  No such criticism appears of private sector pay.  The Mail itself reportedly pays its own editor £3m a year, and several of its columnists earn much more than the prime minister, too.

Attacks on the ‘liberal elite’ are full-throated, and verge on the conspiratorial.  Lengthy stories about the Media Standards Trust and the links between its trustees and other circles of influence, during the Mail’s fight against tighter press regulation, grew so convoluted that a senior Conservative minister asked me if I understood what the Mail was trying to say.  Peter Mandelson and Ken Clarke are regular targets.  Nick Clegg was awarded a full-page attack from Quentin Letts 10 days ago, as part of ‘the moneyed elite’ that has misled Britain. (Dominic Lawson, from a similar prosperous upbringing, is however evidently a voice of the people, regularly writing columns for the Mail.)  Another no-holds-barred attack on Gina Miller, who led the judicial review on the government’s handling of Article 50, was followed last week by a two-page spread on the ‘holier than thou hypocrite’ Gary Lineker, who the Mail of course portrays as ‘a sanctimonious member of the liberal elite’; and by a double demolition of Barack Obama and his holiday host Richard Branson, under the headline ‘Picture that tells us why voters chose Brexit…and Trump’.

Populism often takes the form of rich people persuading the poor that the problems they face are caused not be economic injustice or exploitation but by foreigners and a corrupt ‘establishment’.  The Daily Mail is the most polished conveyor of this message within the UK: feeding the anxieties of its readers, while reassuring them that the problems they face are not their own responsibility but come from foreigners, immigrants, and conspiratorial elites.  It is owned by a hereditary peer, who for many years avoided tax by claiming non-dom status. Its editor owns a substantial estate in Scotland, and a smaller one in Sussex.  Its heroes – Farage, Arron Banks, Donald Trump – are rich, far beyond ‘the people’ they claim to speak for. Its commitment to lower taxes and higher spending is illusory. Its reporting is misleading enough for Wikipedia to have ruled it out as a permitted source.  But it is skilfully presented, and persuasive.  Those of us would reject its narrative need therefore to be familiar with it.

* Lord Wallace of Saltaire is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.

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  • John Barrett 13th Feb '17 - 12:12pm

    Well said.

  • John Barrett 13th Feb '17 - 12:21pm

    Sadly, few in the media; press, tv, radio or online appear willing to question those who wish to publish, or to simply present one side of the argument as “a fact”.

    Whether it is a media outlet, a political party, a wealthy individual or a multi-national corporation, it is difficult, or now near impossible, for the general public to know which source of information to trust.

    We have no control over what others do, say, or publish during and in between elections, so we must make sure that what our spokesmen and women say or what our party publishes is honest and stands up to scrutiny in a way that it others do not.

  • John Barrett 13th Feb '17 - 12:22pm

    Ignore that final “it”

  • Michael Cole 13th Feb '17 - 12:47pm

    Thank you William Wallace for highlighting the distortions, half-truths and downright lies of the Daily Mail.

    What, if anything, can we do about it ?

  • Another clueless missive from the ivory towers of yet another out of touch Lord.
    As ever, the resources shortfall that force the plebs into a 14 day wait to see a doctor, has likely never caused our gracious Lords any lack of sleep. When was the last time you heard of a Lord, on a stretcher in a hospital corridor, waiting for a hospital bed to become available.?

    I put it to you, that populism, wouldn’t be popular if it didn’t reflect peoples actual experiences. So whilst our takeaway from this article is that resources aren’t an issue for the likes of his lordship, I wonder if his lordship can explain how to improve the resources for those unfortunates lower down the social food chain,…. because that is surely the best way to defeat populism, instead of finger wagging from his high window.?

  • James O’Brien on LBC radio is a bad offender, with attacks on the Prime Minter for being a “vicar’s daughter” and ridiculing callers who disagree with his worldview.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Feb '17 - 1:29pm

    Michael Cole

    You make a good point. My view , the moderate version of the piece by Lord Wallace, read such papers rarely to get a sense of their angle , but not often, otherwise you either empathise with too many genuine sob stories, as however exaggerated, many are true life accounts and demoralising, or you become immune to the exaggeration and human interest , and numb. I feel too much of a good or bad thing is too much !

    J Dunn

    Why you presume that , amidst the many who are either out of touch or hypocrites, the writer of the piece might be one, I do not know. His background is that of a University lecturer, not a fat cat type populist sentiment likes to insult today, particularly. Say many things in criticism , but why be personal.

  • “Another clueless missive” from J.Dunn. It’s Lord Rothermere who is the tax exile and doesn’t contribute to the funds needed to cut the NHS problems.

    The Mail has been churning out hate material since the days of Asquith. This ‘patriotic’ rag even supported Mosley and the Blackshirts and wanted to appease Hitler in the thirties.

    As for reliability, they’ve been cut out as a source for Wikipedia. ‘We always look for reliability’: ‘why Wikipedia’s editors cut out the Daily Mail’. 12 February, 2017.

  • I’ve never entirely brought into this narrative. It’s like the Righties blaming liberal elites and the BBC for everything. Conspiracy thinking. Most people don’t even read newspapers. Most of the people who voted Brexit are suburban and rural not poor. What you call populism happens when there is disconnect between what politics does and what the population wants. The anti war movement is populism, the anti poll tax marches was populism, and tuition fee protest were populism. The only difference between those and what’s happening now is that the Left broadly approved of the former and don’t the latter. They’re all driven unpopular policies imposed by governments despite abundant evidence that few people asked for them and even less welcomed them. All the Mail is really doing is trying to use a general disapproval of mass immigration to pressure for tax breaks for itself. But the thing is Tax avoiders and newspaper journalists aren’t actually that popular. They only have traction because the group of people who think the diminishing circulation of newspapers reflects a huge powerful force are politicians and this is mainly because they still read newspapers. TV is still by far the biggest method of delivering news and opinion. If you really want to reduce the inexplicable pull the press has over politics then you would ask why so much TV news coverage still consists of the opinions of people who have readerships of a couple of thousand or so. Coz one thing’s for certain ordinary people don’t and if you look at the comments sections online what you find is that even when they run into thousands it’s mostly just the same few hundred of readers replying to each other.

  • Andrew Melmoth 13th Feb '17 - 1:57pm

    J Dunn
    Brexit puts the governance of Britain in the hands of the hard right of the Tory party for the next decade. There is no secret what they will do with this power – you just have to read what comes out of the right wing think tanks. The NHS as we know it will cease to exist and be replaced by a US style healthcare system. Your “unfortunates lower down the social food chain ” will be left uninsured, entitled to only basic, emergency healthcare. Are you really as clueless about the Brexiters endgame as you appear or are you pulling the same trick they do – faking concern for the working class while plotting to grind them into the dirt?

  • nigel hunter 13th Feb '17 - 2:03pm

    Paul Dacre has never shown his head above the parapet to discuss in public. Is he afraid that his arguements will be shown as rubbish when exposed? Surely if he believes what he says he could go on ,say, Question Time to defend them.

  • Lester Holloway 13th Feb '17 - 2:24pm

    Appalling articles on race, faith and immigration written by Katie Hopkins in The Sun tend to attract condemnation from progressives and all in the right mind, but regular pieces by Simon Heffer in the Daily Mail, which are often at least as bad, generally get no comment at all.

  • Experience teaches us to expect a fierce anti- Lib Dem attack on the Tuesday before local elections or a parliamentary by-election but these days I suspect they are savvy enough to do it also two days before the postal votes arrive on the mat. Just watch. It is far worse than the Express which the Duke of Edinburgh once helpfully described as “a bloody awful newspaper.” Come what may this is politics in the raw – especially in England.

  • David Raw

    I didn’t once mention The Mail. I simply said that populism always occurs,… and becomes popular,. because it reflects peoples real experiences, [and their grievances].

    But what of news outlets like The Mail and The Express.? Do they, in fact * generate * the mood,… or do they * follow * the mood.?

    I suggest they, [populist news outlets ], follow [not create], the popular mood, and with good reason . I haven’t bought a weekly newspaper for at least a decade, and I don’t know anyone who has. So as ever,… lets follow the money. News outlets survive by revenue, and news revenue is now about ‘clicks’. The Mail, and the Express, [I suggest], write articles which are already existant in the populist mind, not because they care, but because they want affirmative ‘clicks’,… because a click creates Ad. revenue. These online news outlets, are not creating populism, they simply wish to profit from, populism.

    And lets be honest here,… LDV have an internal forum where liberal members can talk amongst themselves and pat each other on the back any time they wish. The reason that LDV have an open thread such as this,..is likely two fold. :

    1. They need to hear [however painful], what non-liberals are thinking.

    2. An open and provocative thread on LDV provides a lot of click-bait and hence a revenue stream from [in my case], the likes of HOMEBASE and Argos.

    Its a sad reflection, but you can trace human nature [even ‘prissy’ liberal human nature], back to money,… and the ‘clicks’ revenue stream.?

  • @ J. Dunn Cut out the distracter froth. It impresses nobody.

    You don’t know William Wallace and your personal comments say much more about you than they do about him.

  • “You don’t know William Wallace….”

    No I don’t,… but I do know he hasn’t got the guts to respond to my comments, because he thinks his veiws are above debate, and he doesn’t have the confidence of his arguament, to tolerate any challenge of it.
    He is of a bygone age that thinks his words carry some kind of feudal superiority, and the rest of us should simply tip our cap, and take heed.
    Sorry,.. but no amount of Lib-Left-Centrist bluster, is going to change the fact that all that discredited nonsense is now coming to a very abrupt end.

  • @ Dunn Well, we certainly what you are.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Feb '17 - 11:38pm

    @ J.Dunn. That’s an astonishing, unwarranted attack on William Wallace, who has fought tirelessly for Liberal values for very many years before he was appointed a peer. I remember knowing of him several decades ago when he was a local Lib Dem MP and I was Chair of Huddersfield Young Liberals, so I was pleased to hear him in wise debate at an event during the 2015 Brighton Lib Dem Federal Conference. He is now helping to promote Lib Dem values and policies as one of our many hardworking and useful peers, who are at present an essential support to our MPs, and he would I expect be elected if we ever gain the desired elective House of Lords. Meanwhile, your vicious nonsense would be worthy of the wretched Daily Mail – for instance, ‘resources aren’t an issue for the likes of his lordship’ – what on earth do you know about the author’s financial resources, and what relevance has it whether he is rich or poor? I do seem to remember that he is leading a Lords Lib Dem group to develop party policy on the economy, working for public good as he has always evidently done.

  • The author of this piece is trying to demonise the Mail for making perfectly reasonable points. Is the corollary of this that Wallace approves of health tourism, over paid civil servants, lazy GPs and public service waste?

    I wonder. Perhaps he does. Which is it?

  • Perhaps it is Lib Dem policy to support these matters in which case I apologise for questioning them here.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Feb '17 - 12:32am

    Correction – in those days William must have been a Liberal MP not a Lib Dem. Continuity of good service of course. I am constantly pleased to read of excellent contributions to current Lib Dem politics by our peers, who also all seem to wear their honours lightly and be as approachable as they ever were. Abolish them all – then bring them back! (Anyone reminded of the old joke, something about a pub running out of beer – boo! – but just got a new delivery of spirits – hurrah! Well, somebody will remember how it went!)

  • Andy Coleby 14th Feb '17 - 7:58am

    I think that everyone should be well aware that in the 1930’s the Daily Mail supported Oswald Mosley’s fascist blackshirts.
    To defend the Mail today you too have to be outrageously self righteous and oblivious to any opinions other than your own.

  • Paul Murray 14th Feb '17 - 8:36am

    Guardian Print Run : 164,000 per day
    Daily Mail Print Run: 1,589,000 per day

    Guardian unique UK website visitors: 17 million per month (November 2014)
    Daily Mail unique UK website visitors: 21 million per month (November 2014)

    Guardian twitter followers: 6.29 million
    Daily Mail twitter followers: 1.9 million

    So the Daily Mail demographic is skewed toward traditional media (print, website) and less inclined to be “early adopters” (e.g. twitter). And of course the Daily Mail is highly profitable whereas The Guardian has failed to monetize its platform and is burning through cash at an alarming rate.

    Whatever the Daily Mail is doing, it’s working. Rather than getting into a lather about their undeniably illiberal agenda – hardly a novel observation – it is surely worth asking the basic question “how does a news source that is addressing a liberal, technology-oriented demographic continue to exist in 5 years time”?

  • David Hopps 14th Feb '17 - 8:36am

    J Dunn: A grubby personal attack. Perhaps William Wallace hasn’t responded to your intemperance because he is a busy and intelligent man with a lot more important and positive things to do.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 14th Feb '17 - 8:44am

    What we need, is some good “popular” liberal newspapers! There is the Guardian, of course, but it is never going to be “popular” in the way the Daily Mail is. It is very sad that the Independent is no longer available as a “paper” newspaper, but it was never exactly popular. I suppose the Mirror is often liberal or left wing in outlook, and is popular, but it is hardly a quality newspaper. There is a need for a sort of antidote to the Daily Mail, a sort of “anti Daily Mail”, that would be a reasonably quality paper without being too “highbrow”, and would be liberal in outlook. To some extent the i newspaper, which started as a concise version of the Independent, is such a paper, but perhaps it is rather too “concise”.
    Incidentally, I felt that William Wallace spoiled his case rather, by the mention of the Mail’s campaign about cancer patients being denied drugs on the grounds that the drugs were too expensive, which the Mail called “wicked”. Surely most liberals would agree that it is “wicked” to deny people drugs that would save or extend their lives?

  • Peter, you appear to have been posting around midnight, so perhaps it was tiredness, but I suggest you read William Wallace’s piece again more carefully.
    Specifically: ‘there is, after all, a real problem, though the Mail has exaggerated its extent and overall cost’.

  • Well, unless “I’m a Dutchman”, William Wallace was never an MP, Liberal or Lib Dem.

  • @ Katharine Pindar I applaud your connection with good old Hudders. Up the Town ‘n all that !!( And aren’t they doing well just now, I’m reet suited !!).

    Your time in Hudders must have been well after mine.

    I’ve known William since 1962 when I was a Young Liberal. Yes, William was a Liberal in those days but the MP you refer to must have been either Donald Wade (to 1964) or Richard Wainwright. William certainly advised both – especially Richard. William did contest elections but he (and his wife) pursed much respected and distinguished academic careers. They also happen to be extremely nice people.

  • Richard Wainwright was MP for the adjacent seat of Colne Valley.

  • Little Jackie Paper 14th Feb '17 - 9:27am

    This reads a bit like you think that the DM’s readers don’t know/understand that the DM has an agenda and owners. Those who complain about populism perhaps should trust that people aren’t dumb and can make a value judgment about what they are reading.

    I’m also a bit bothered by the tacit suggestion here that just because something is in the DM then it should be disregarded. Whilst some of the personal stuff in the DM is a bit salty for me, stories like the Nigerian woman are surely ‘news’ with a genuine public interest. Agency staff in hospitals is a very important piece of reporting and I’ve been very surprised that other news outlets have not run with that. That liberals might not like that is neither here nor there.

    But trust the news-consuming public. If you are concerned about populism and the news for me the way social media presents news is a far more important question for debate than is the DM.

  • To apprehend better the ignorance and bile the DM both harbours and excites, look not just at the articles, but also the readers’ comments.

  • Gordon Lishman 14th Feb '17 - 10:34am

    I think the time has come to unmask J Dunn.
    Clearly, it’s not a real person. The posts which purport to come from a person of that name may be designed in the best tradition of Lord Bonkers to satirise a certain style of aggressive, unpleasant and empty arguments in order to stimulate more debate or to caricature the sort of person who not only reads but believes the Daily Mail – a “straw man”. She, he or it is there to demonstrate that, when you don’t have a case to make, the best approach is to attack the writer. The less of substance you have to say, the more you attack the person.
    I say “it”, because I don’t discount the possibility that J Dunn is a robot. If you think about it, the content could easily be assembled from stock phrases which are programmed to respond to certain stimuli such as “Lord” or “Daily Mail”. Indeed, it may be more likely that it’s a robot because it’s not funny enough to be serious satire.
    On the other hand, it’s quite difficult to programme a robot to be quite so unthinking. Take, for instance, the suggestion that “populism” is the same thing as “popular”. It isn’t of course. Populism is about providing simplistic answers to complex questions and avoiding evidence in the hope of support which will, inevitably be disappointed. It would be difficult to programme the robot to ignore definitions.
    Another option might be that J Dunn is a Leninist, wedded to the idea that the failure of democracy helps create revolution. Another indicator on those lines is the belief that everything comes back to money as the only motivator of human activity. (You might then say: “why would a real Leninist spend so much time in pointless argument”, but I would answer: “You haven’t met many Leninists”)!
    If you think about it, it’s pretty unlikely that a real, honest, hard-working person would spend so much time generating vituperation against someone they have never met, don’t know anything about and don’t bother to try to understand.
    So, what’s the reality: robot, incompetent satirist, Leninist or straw man? I think we should be told.

  • Do you remember John G. Holt. Gordon ?

  • Gordon Lishman

    You have me nailed. I’m a Leninist robot, made mainly from recycled straw,.. and you sir, are quite… ‘unhinged’.?

    * Comment made up by Dunn AI from stock phrases.

  • Little Jackie Paper 14th Feb '17 - 11:20am

    Alan Depauw – ‘To apprehend better the ignorance and bile the DM both harbours and excites, look not just at the articles, but also the readers’ comments.’

    Sure, but couldn’t you say that about any number of media outlets? I don’t see why the DM is somehow ‘special.’

    Look, I don’t know what to tell you. In the 1990s I was told that the internet would be this wonderful exercise in open and dumbing up. It’s not worked out that way. I’d love for us to have a media that gives us high quality journalism with an imperative of a disinterested presentation of events. I’d love thoughtful BTL comments that present and test alternative evidences. I’d love to tell you that today’s media is more than the same old partisanship, just with no upper limit on the quantity and no lower limit on the quality. But our media is what it is – it is a product of our society. We have to trust the readers to know what they are looking at and to weigh it accordingly.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 14th Feb '17 - 11:33am

    Simon Shaw, Six months are infinitely precious if it means living to hear your baby speak his first word, or take your child for her first day at school, or attend your daughter’s wedding. Mysteriously, there was no problem finding the money to renew trident. If people’s lives are considered of less value than weapons that would kill thousands, then that is “wicked”.

  • william wallace 14th Feb '17 - 1:06pm

    Does J Dunn do anything else except write trolling comments on things like this? I hadn’t commented yet because my wife is 3 weeks out of an operation and I’ve spent most of the morning helping her. Oh, and yes, I’ve been on a trolley on a hospital corridor myself on one occasion: though the last time I had to go to A&E was at1i00 am on a Wednesday, which they told me was (happily) the least busy time of the week. The NHS is severely under-funded; it cannot solve its problems by tightening up on charging foreigners. We need higher taxes to fund public health and social care – but the Mail and the right-wing think tanks are campaigning for radically lower taxes. That’s a populist theme – we don’t need more money, it’s just that the public sector wastes much of it.

  • Paul Murray 14th Feb '17 - 2:56pm

    @Alan Depauew: “To apprehend better the ignorance and bile the DM both harbours and excites, look not just at the articles, but also the readers’ comments.”

    I agree that there are often dreadful comments in The Mail, but on The Guardian website under a recently published article titled “Leave voters are not all idiots – some Londoners still don’t get it” the most highly rated comment as of right now is “Of course leave voters aren’t all idiots. Some of them are just racist.”

    I struggle to see what separates BTL bile in The Mail from this comment (and remember it’s not just a comment, it’s the one that has the most recommends) in the liberal Guardian.

  • Nick Collins 14th Feb '17 - 3:03pm

    Does not AI stand for “artificial intelligence”? I have yet to see any evidence that the second word in that definition applies to J Dunn.

  • Were as I am partial to a bit of sport, this is all getting a bit unsavory.
    So let’s get back to the issues here.

    @ J Dunn
    ‘but no amount of Lib-Left-Centrist bluster, is going to change the fact that all that discredited nonsense is now coming to a very abrupt end.’

    If you think that ‘taking back control’ is going to get you the above then I fear you are sadly deluded IMO. If anything it is the people you loath that this referendum result will empower.

  • That Lord Rothemere and his Daily Mail was always very good at bashing progressive reforms. After ww1, it was them who campaigned for what was eventually known as Geddes Axe.

  • The Geddes Axe was the equivalent of the 2010 Budget – and about as successful.

    Both a case of Liberals losing their sense of identity in a Tory Coalition. Having said that Eric Geddes (former General Manager of the North Eastern Railway) did pluck Haig’s chestnuts out of the fire by getting the railways sorted out on the Western Front.

    Thousands of WW1 troops came home to a promise of ‘A Land Fit For Heroes’ and found themselves on the dole. Counter to Maynard Keynes, Geddes promised “We shall squeeze the German lemon until the pips squeak!” – A strange parallel with Brexit ideology today.

  • @Paul Murray
    In fact a comment critical of the one you quote has been rated much higher.
    It is true that obnoxious reader comments can be found in both the Guardian and the DM. But there are far more of them in the latter.

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Feb '17 - 12:07am

    David Raw – Hi, David, thank you for correcting my memory! That explains why I couldn’t actually remember encountering W.W. as an MP, just as an important local figure whom I wrongly assumed had been elected, while I distinctly remember Richard Wainwright, having helped the campaign for his victory in Colne Valley. Ah yes, good old Huddersfield, a fine town as well as team, and for personal as well as political reasons highly important for me, and I still have a close friend who was also in the YLs then. Incidentally, a bit of the ‘old joke’ came back to me, it was maybe a sketch: ‘They’re pulling down the Rose and Crown – boo! But building a new one – hurrah!’ – and so it went on. As do the by-elections. Maybe, Tim13, you have been involved yourself in one of these fights? I’m finding the Copeland one as invigorating and stimulating as ever.

    @ Gordon Lishman – love your imaginative depiction of J. Dunn, Gordon!

  • The Daily Mail is skillfully written, and while it’s systematically wrong, it’s often specifically right. It is ridiculous how many public servants are paid more than the prime minister. Why not applaud the Mail for pointing it out? They’re pretty hard on fat cat private sector bosses too (albeit not themselves).

    Instead of saying “We need to raise taxes for the NHS”, isn’t it better to say: “We’ll cap pay for NHS managers, we’ll make sure people who aren’t eligible pay for treatment, and if that’s not enough we’re willing to raise tax too.”

    The other thing to learn from the Mail and the tabloids is communication. I loved the leaflet from Stoke saying “He knows Nuttall about our city”. That’ll stick with people.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Feb '17 - 1:03am

    Catherine is correct, Simon, you are using figures that are outlandish and unreasonable, there can be limits, the point is where. A system that can prioritise even in health must be better funded and more accountable , but the organisations are neither , at present, but even when funding was higher the organisation in question has sometimes been awful.

    A society that avoids taking the tax ,of the richest corporations or citizens who are the power in our society as much as government, in the amounts moral and sensible and literally lets people down who have no power, is not a Liberal one in any way. Some need to stop thinking Liberal Democracy is libertarianism let or right it is neither !
    Nice are very very nasty sometimes .

  • @ Simon Shaw Do you think there is a problem with drug companies overcharging the NHS, Simon ?

    Do you think anything ought to be done about it or do you think we should leave it to market forces ?

  • Going back to populism in the media 🙂 For anyone with a few minutes to spare, Jürgen Krönig in the Guardian had it right, in 2004. His conclusion seems prescient: ‘If this trend cannot be reversed the political arena might become even emptier than it is now. It might only be filled again, if seductive populism calls.’

  • @ Simon Shaw Can I take it then that you don’t think there is a problem with pharmaceutical companies over charging the NHS and that Catherine is simply being sentimental, Simon ?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 15th Feb '17 - 10:43am

    Simon Shaw, I used the phrase “infinitely precious” to try to enable you to empathise with someone who is desperate for just a little more time with their family, after your dismissive remark about extending “somebody’s expected life by (say) six months.”. “Infinitely precious” is literally how that extra six months would seem to someone in that terrible situation. Surely you would accept that we should be aiming for a world in which no-one’s life is ever shorter than it need be, just for reasons of “cost”? You may regard the Mail’s approach as “sentimental”. But my original point was that, on this occasion, the Mail showed far more heart than is shown in your supposedly “rational” approach.

  • @ Simon Shaw. Simon, when somebody asks you a question do you ever answer it ?
    Or do you always simply ask another question, instead ?

    Did you understand my question, Simon, or is it that you refuse to answer it ?
    Did the needle get stuck, Simon, when you posed the same set of questions twice ?

    Why should I answer any of your questions if you won’t answer mine, Simon ?
    Don’t you have any answers, Simon – only questions ?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Feb '17 - 2:17pm

    Simon, is , alas not understanding as is often the case in politics, the truth is not black and white, we have grey areas for a reason , there are such !

    Catherine and I and you , Simon, or even , our colleague David , might at times agree with each other and once in a while , the Daily Mail ! I am happy to admit I am in agreement with Catherine more than David, and David more than the Daily Mail, but with you Simon, on this it is too important to not be subtle or take a nuanced view.

    Nice is nasty when they are doing , not what you say they should, ie have a limit at times, in theory or practice, that can be ok. But their not doing what Catherine or even the Daily Mail might have argued for, extending drugs in circumstances humane and affordable is outrageous.The instances of their being nasty are any where this country is denied drugs available in countries with social market health systems where the government would fund those drugs.

    David is correct, the drug companies exploit their power , monopoly or patent. I think to nationalise them would be a disaster because it would not continue the dynamism of incentives alas too frequently a motive that works for innovation, and even if morally correct, is economically pointless and impractical. However we need to intervene in the market far more. I believe we as a society are being taken for a ride. And individual people are the victims.

    Simon , you are a decent individual member. As is my regular theme. We need a range of views . And we must respect those and try to develop them not catch each other out .

  • Lorenzo, The pharmaceutical companies are rascals and constantly try it on. Here’s a few samples from 2016 with NICE nowhere to be seen. In fact it was not very NICE at all.

    PFIZER was fined a record £84.2m by the UK’s competition regulator after the price charged to the NHS for an anti-epilepsy drug was increased by up to 2,600%. The Competition and Markets Authority said the “extraordinary price rises have cost the NHS and the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds”.

    ACTAVIS raised prices for 10mg hydrocortisone tablets from 79p in April 2008 to £88 per pack by March 2016. Actavis also increased the price of 20mg hydrocortisone tablets by nearly 9,500 per cent compared to the previous branded price, equating to charges to the NHS of £102.74 per pack by March 2016, when it had previously paid £1.07 for the branded drug. This means between 2008 and 2015, the NHS’s spend on the drug rose from £522,000 to £70m.

    Last year, 100 leading oncologists from around the world wrote an open letter in the journal Blood calling for a reduction in the price of cancer drugs. Dr Brian Druker, director of the Knight Cancer Institute and one of the signatories, has asked: “If you are making $3bn a year on [cancer drug] Gleevec, could you get by with $2bn? When do you cross the line from essential profits to profiteering?”

    It’s not just cancer drugs – between April and June 2016 GILEAD clocked sales of $3.5bn for its latest blockbuster hepatitis C drug Sovaldi.

    Without question, I wish Simon well and a long and healthy drug free life – but Catherine is my sort of Liberal.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 15th Feb '17 - 3:49pm

    Thank you, David and Lorenzo

  • Peter Watson 15th Feb '17 - 3:50pm

    @David Raw “I wish Simon well and a long and healthy drug free life – but Catherine is my sort of Liberal”
    I find myself agreeing with Simon here (though in different ways you are all my sort of Liberal!).
    Catherine’s original statement was “Surely most liberals would agree that it is “wicked” to deny people drugs that would save or extend their lives?”. Simon did not leap in and claim that pharmaceuticals were angels, he simply pointed out that limiting the availability of drugs and treatments is done for economic (and medical) reasons rather than out of wickedness, and it inevitably involves a lot of very very difficult priorities, choices and compromises.
    Even if “fair” pricing is obtained from pharmaceutical companies (whatever “fair” means in this context), there is not a bottomless supply of money to develop and provide treatments.
    Does anyone know how much it would cost to ensure that every treatment is available to everybody and how that could be funded? Or if it is agreed that resources are constrained, then which trade-offs would not be considered “wicked”?
    Perhaps NICE could work better in practice, but what is the alternative to what it is trying to achieve?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Feb '17 - 4:09pm


    And Simon

    I agree with the way you both raise these things here, but the point supports my view that Nice are being exploited to, as well as doing that themselves, in that they see their role to approve a drug and that’s that, whereas , the price, as shown by David, should be very much less, and it is not, as Simon thinks, now being dealt with by Nice, as some sort of market regulator, it is they who, prepared to accept the market at dreadful levels of pricing , are reliant on watchdogs !

    My kind of Liberal is definitely Catherine, but , as Peter says, is all the above if they believe the philosophy is about putting power into those who lack it and deserve and need it , in that order !

  • Neil Sandison 15th Feb '17 - 4:14pm

    Populism is one step away from facism those papers mentioned are the mouth pieces of t unelected rich and powerful men who behind the scenes crave the sort of society which should challenged by all liberals.Their exagerated fake news stories are not evidence based but a distortion of the facts to justify blaming anyone but themselves for the failures in our society .We should have pride in ourselves and challenge any measure that undermines liberty,equality of oppertunity and is an attack on social justice .We know who are opponents are lets get after them.

  • @ Peter Watson At what point would you say Trident was no longer affordable, Peter ? Or is it an open cheque book ?

  • Peter Watson 15th Feb '17 - 6:25pm

    @David Raw “At what point would you say Trident was no longer affordable, Peter ?”
    I’m not a fan of replacing Trident and think there are better ways to spend the money.
    I also think that the Lib Dem policy to partly replace it is the worst sort of fudge and makes a mockery of centrism and political compromise.

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