What have all these recent stories got in common?
They all include a quote or comment from a spokesperson for the Taxpayers' Alliance.
I have noticed this for quite a while now. It seems like almost any story that involves tax or even the BBC license fee in any way will likely have a "response" to the story from the TPA. It was brought home to me quite acutely when I was on holiday in Ireland and I happened to read a few UK newspaper articles. Every single one of them had a quote from them. I even heard them mentioned on Irish radio!
According to Wikipedia they employ 13 staff and have been around for 5 years or so and have around 18,000 members. They have been accused of being a front organisation for the Conservative Party but they deny this.
Don't get me wrong, I am very impressed with the TPA. They are a campaigning organisation who have positioned themselves very well and clearly know how to get coverage for their views. In some cases I even agree with them!
The problem is that they now clearly have disproportionate influence. They represent one sort of view from a particular political perspective and yet they are called upon for comment on virtually every story that involves tax payers money which is a lot of stories!
I suspect there is a fair bit of "Flat Earth News" going on here too. I am not naive enough not to realise that at least some of the stories will have been fed to the media by the TPA themselves and therefore they are almost bound to get a quote under those circumstances. The point is, why do the media so often run with stories like this along with the obligatory TPA quote which invariably makes it seem like tax payers money is always, always wasted?
There needs to be more balance. If lots of these stories are originated by the TPA then journalists need to come up with their own stories more rather than have them fed to them by an organisation like the TPA who are clearly prolific in this field and will continue to be so. If they are sourcing the stories themselves then they need to look around for more quotes to achieve a bit more balance.
Oh and I am happy to give my tuppence worth on stories if the media are stuck for someone else to quote....
UPDATE: Mick Fealty writing on Slugger O'Toole has also provided his view on this.