Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 24 June 2010

John Redwood's comments are being taken totally out of context

Tory MP John Redwood wrote a blogpost earlier this week where he drew a parallel between how a middle class family who finds their income cut by 10% can make adjustments and used the analogy to describe how the UK state could also make adjustments.

Here is main part of what he wrote:

Tomorrow’s budget will probably be proposing cuts of less than 10% over the lifetime of this Parliament. Sensibly managed, this need not entail cutting anything that really matters.

The UK state has been living a middle class lifestyle. If you are living on a low income then of course cutting spending is difficult or impossible. If you are living a middle class lifestyle and your income goes down by 10% you have plenty of options. You can holiday nearer at home and cut out the foreign trip. You can eat in more than in the local restaurants. You can trade down for a cheaper car. You can draw some money out of the savings account to tide you over until your income goes up again. You can buy more of the value items at the supermarket, and put more vegetarian dishes into the home menus. You can discover home entertainment to keep the leisure bills down. You can turn down the thermostat a little and put on a jumper.

The UK state finds itself in that position today. It has plenty of assets. Some can be sold to help out. It has been dining out on consultants and temporary labour. It needs to do more in house. It has been appointing all too many to exotic job titles which we could manage without, and sending many of them on expensive overseas fact finding trips and seminars. It has indulged in a mind blowing array of politically correct regulations which often fail to tackle the underlying problem they wanted to address. It has been a master at buying the “nice to have” or the “why do we need this?” instead of concentrating on doing the basics well.

Seems like a reasonable post to me. Perhaps I might quibble with making a direct comparison between the UK state level and a household level as it is a bit simplistic but it allows him to make his broader point in an accessible way which I am sure was his aim.

However the Daily Mail has picked up on this and in a story entitled: "Cold and hungry? Wear a jumper and eat vegetables: Tory MP sparks outrage with advice on how to survive 'Bloodbath Budget'" it proceeds to take Redwood's comment totally out of context and treat them as if he is giving direct advice to people as to how they should handle the budget cuts which he is not.

Sunny Hundal on Liberal Conspiracy has taken only the section highlighted above in red and hence shorn it of all its context and then posted this entitled: "Redwood asks poor to ‘put on a jumper!’" even though Redwood explicitly states that if you are on a low income then cutting is "difficult or impossible". And just to repeat it is an analogy, not direct advice.

I tire of saying this but no wonder politicians are terrified of saying or doing anything outside of bland pre-prepared and vetted statements. All Redwood is trying to do here is point out a way that the public spending cuts could be viewed.

The reaction from The Mail, Lib Con and doubtless others is just deliberately taking his comments and twisting them in order to make it look like he is saying something that he is not.

UPDATE: The Mail article I linked to has now changed so that the Redwood stuff is not in the main article but instead in a side box where they show that Redwood denies what they originally claimed and they give him the right of reply.


dazmando said...

Shock the daily fail I think does this kind of out of context article on purpose and worst of all people believe it. The daily fail can be blamed for many of the problems in politics today. I sometimes how good it is for democracy to have papers which twist the truth for their own ends.

Lib con should know better

Bill Quango MP said...

Is Sunny Hundal all right?
Mentally I mean. He's not on any sort of watch or anything?
He is just so screamingly, hysterically unstable. A sort of political,less funny Graham Norton.

Unknown said...

Sadly both the Mail and the Telegraph are full of twisted opinion dressed up as 'news'.

It makes me miss the Times, although I'm still not going to pay.

Sunny H said...


this is what I posted in response to you over at Libcon

You are totally misrepresenting what John Redwood was saying in his article by stripping it of its context.

No I don't think I am taking it out of context. People can read and make their own judgements.

The idea that some of these cuts can only be dealt with by turning down the heating or buying some vegetables is bloody offensive to a lot of people. People who will be turfed out of where they live. People who might die of cold in the winter. People who will end up cutting back on food for their kids (and affect their health and studies).

It's the kind of attitude that Tories have always had in this country - 'I'm allright Jack, these proles should stop whining and get on their bikes'.

I'm staggered that some people don't see the obvious.

I guess it's a matter of opinion. I just don't see it as innocuously as you do.

Unknown said...

Sunny either doesn't understand the concept of an analogy, or his brain is so hard wired to see wicked Tories everywhere that he can't see it, or he could be too proud to admit he grabbed the wrong end of the stick.

Take your pick.

Mark Thompson said...


I think you'd be better off admitting you've misrepresented what Redwood is saying rather than denying it. It is obvious when reading through his post that he is drawing an analogy. You appear to be seeing what you expect to see from an "out of touch" Tory rather than what he actually said.

If someone misrepresented your words in the way you have done here you would be rightly very annoyed and I would be the first to defend you.

There is a debate to be had about whether his analogy is right and whether we can compare household level activity with state level activity but I am sorry to say that your post is a distraction from that rather than an aid.


Anonymous said...

I cannot agree more with your post.

First the Mail misrepresents what he said.
The Mail is supposed to be a right wing paper and we might have expected it to praise Redwood when the words are taken in context. But the mail is in fact not right wing it is shite wing. A crap newspaper; indeed as are most of them - the Telegraph is no better.
Journalism seems to be the ideal profession for the ignorant and thick.

And second again its no wonder that politicians are afraid to say anything remotely expressive or 'dangerous'. Opponents can be expected to misrepresent and newspapers, far more interested in headlines and circulation will happily jump on the bandwagon.

One wonders what the likes of Richard Littlejohn thinks about the Mails hatchet job. Redwoods full comments are certainly what he would be agreeing with. But does he care about the useless, celebrity obsessed, paper he writes for? No he just shrugs and takes the money. No wonder our press is so crap.

Anonymous said...

PS - I also agree with those responding to Mr H.

Its an analogy. Mr H just confirms all that Mark has said. He also confirms how thick and bigoted socialists are.

Redwood specifically ruled out the poorest from his analogy.

Unknown said...

I don't know why anyone reads SH's outporings, there's knee jerk and then there's SH. More like the chorus line of Riverdance.