Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bureau for Investigative Journalism founded by Labour donor, no one really surprised

Data is a wonderful thing, you can cut and slice it pretty much however you want, in order to give you the spin you want, which is what the grandly titled Bureau for Investigative Journalism have done with the freely available data on political donations.

Not a lot of investigative journalism (Step one: go to electoral commission website, step two: download political donors list, step three: Google names) has shown that 50% of Tory donors, since David Cameron became leader, work in the city. Cue headlines and the BBC talking about how this explains why the government has been “soft on banks”, seemingly forgetting that just yesterday we increased taxes on them. Strangely neither the Bureau, or any non Conservative friendly media outlet, have ever said anything about the 75% of Labour donations that come from the Unions and how that may have influenced policy during their 13 years in government.

Breaking this down, firstly you can find patterns in data pretty easily and draw wild conclusions with even less effort. For example I’m sure if I was to look at where Tory donors lived they would overwhelmingly be in and around London and the South East. However this doesn’t square with an established narrative, as of course we’re pushing spending away from the South East and actively trying to promote growth in the rest of the country instead.

But who is the Bureau for Investigative Journalism I hear you ask. Well funny that you, a mere blog reader, and not a news producer or newspaper editor should be interested in that. They were set up In April 2010 by Psion founder Dr David Potter to encourage independent serious investigations and encourage a new generation of reporters? Are they independent? Well I’m sure they’ll say they are, but at the end of the day all media outlets, be they a newspaper, or a “collection of journalists” have some ethos and political leaning, normally taken from their founder, owner or whoever pays the bills. I am sure for example that Sky news will say it is independent but the anti-Murdoch brigade would say otherwise wouldn’t they.

So which way does Dr Potter vote? I’m sure you won’t be at all surprised that he’s a Labour Party donor, having given £90,000 to the party as at March 2010, and of course the Bureau has some form on publishing stories that hit the conservatives rather than Labour, what with their election expenses investigation. An investigation which strangely only found issue with one Labour MP (now disgraced Phil Woolas), and focused predominantly on Zac Goldsmith’s expenses, claiming he had breached the law, something the electoral commission later said was untrue. In fact all MPs were cleared by the electoral commission of any wrong-doing and a simple call to them in the first place (Call it an investigation) would have cleared up the legal position of the alleged “discrepancies”.

As I said you can slice and dice data however you want, Guido has pointed out that if you take David Rowland, who isn’t actually a city financier but a property developer out of the figures then suddenly the city is only 9% not 58%. I guess it’s how you define that flexible term “The City”, and why let the facts get in the way of a great anti Tory story.

And as to the independence of the Bureau and its journalists he points out that one of the journalists behind the piece is well known Labour party loyalist Yuba Bessaoud.

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