‘Writing off student debt’ – maybe the Corbynistas are right about the MSM’s fake news

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July 21, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith


I’ve never been a big fan of attacks on the ‘mainstream media’ (MSM), which have often come from Corbybistas upset that the media have reported exactly what he said or did. But sometimes they have a really good point, and this week’s manufactured hoo-ha over tuition fees is a case in point.

The accusation, spread across the print, online and broadcast media, is that Labour have ‘backtracked’ on an election ‘pledge’ to ‘write off’ all student debt ever incurred. This is, quite simply, a lie. REAL fake news. 

 Let’s start with what Corbyn actually said during the election campaign in an interview with the NME:  “there is a block of those that currently have a massive debt, and I’m looking at ways we could reduce that, ameliorate that, lengthen the period of paying it off, or some other means of reducing the debt burden. I don’t have the simple answer for it at this stage. I don’t think anybody would expect me to, because this election was called unexpectedly … We had two weeks to prepare all of this – but I’m very well aware of that problem”.

Corbyn’s Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, was asked about this by Andrew Marr after the election, and said: “Jeremy said that that’s an ambition, it’s something that he’d like to do. It’s something that we will not announce we’re doing unless we can afford to do that.”

Seems pretty clear, right? But Marr came back from more on Sunday. He asked Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell about the supposed ‘pledge’. Since it will cost about £100bn it is not a bad question to ask a possible future Chancellor. But it’s how McDonnell’s answer was reported that I think is disgraceful.

McDonnell pointed out that the idea of dealing with historic student debts was an ambition and would be very difficult to do. Not much different to what Rayner had said.

But the Sun reported this as  “Jeremy Corbyn accused of betraying voters after Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell all-but scraps vow to write off £100 billion student debt” Of course, there was no vow, which is why the Mail had the self-restraint to merely claim the demise of “the seemingly off-the-cuff pledge made by Jeremy Corbyn during the election campaign”.  There was no pledge, which makes the highly influential Guido Fawkes site’s comment that McDonnell had “u-turned on that key election promise which won the votes of so many student and young people” a flat out, stinking lie.

Labour has never, once pledged to wipe out all student debt. Instead, Jeremy Corbyn has made the point that if they ended tuition fees there would be a bunch of young people who had had the misfortune to come of university age during a time when fees were £9000 a year and that seemed unfair to him.

Sorry, but we can do better than this. There are plenty of good arguments to be made against scrapping tuition fees (I await the policy being christened the ‘working class tax’ for instance). Lying isn’t one of those arguments and shows fear from a group of people who probably know their brand of politics is losing. 

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6 thoughts on “‘Writing off student debt’ – maybe the Corbynistas are right about the MSM’s fake news

  1. Kjell Bengtsson says:

    The Labour Party deliberately seduced the electorates with a policy idea that they would have known at the time was not going to be implemented if elected. It figured prominently in their campaign speeches and was widely reported in the press.
    As it found widespread traction with the young (previously largely untapped) voters, it suited the party to let the Chinese whisper turn the “ambition” into a “pledge”. At no point did they correct the press admitting that this policy really was a fairytale and are therefore responsible for the initial “Fake News”.

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    • It’s amazing though how mixed up it has got. I can’t work out from what you write if you know which policy you are referring to – ending tuition fees going forward or writing off all past student debt. The Labour Party policy was to end tuition fees going forward. That was the pledge. Not an ambition. Had they got into government they would have done. What then happened was that during an interview with NME Corbyn mused on the fact that if they do that there will be a rump of young people who will be saddled with a massive debt that would be a historical anomaly. He would like to be able to do something about that but never once, not in a single word, promised to do anything about it as it would be extremely expensive. Not one single senior Labour figure has ever said anything about writing off historic student debt that is anything more than an ambition. The writing off of historic debt was not a factor in the election, the ending of tuition fees going forward was. What young voters could say is that the historic debt, which I think may be something this country regrets imposing on our young people, will certainly not be addressed by the Tories, more by Labour. The press and online media are simply lying when they say wiping out debt was a pledge. It wasn’t, and when people lie it is because they are losing the argument.

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      • Kjell Bengtsson says:

        Aha, I see your point. Clearly I wasn’t fully read up on the issue. Thx

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      • But that’s the point isn’t it. Highly intelligent, politically-engaged people are being influenced by media coverage that is at best inaccurate at worst downright mendacious. Again, it happens because one side is losing the argument. Whichever side of the argument one is on, we should expect and demand better.

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  2. Kjell Bengtsson says:

    Just a couple of observations.
    1. The idea of writing off historic student debt was introduced in the debate in the lead up to the election and could very well have had an impact on how students voted.
    2. The idea was introduced by the “priminister in waiting” and therefore carried a lot of weight and credibility.
    3. Whilst in the court of law there is a big difference between a pledge (in the manifesto) and an “ambition” I would suggest to the unassuming gulibal naive voter it probably amounts to the same thing. Particularly the way it was presented by Corbyn. On “highly credible BBC” he made a big thing of how UNFAIR past students have been lumbered with huge debt and if in power he PROMISED to look into how to ease that burden.
    As much as I hate “fake news” like you do I feel this is quite self inflicted and as dishonest as “promising” £350m to the NHS

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