The Independent: Is Over

No wonder the Indy‘s moving in with the Daily Mail; it’s taken to publishing leaders like this one, a crude bit of hard right culture war stuff which blames the Sharon Matthews case on “welfare”. Yes, really. They also rehearse the old Peter Lilley thing about “single mothers who get pregnant just to jump the housing list”, and sniff that the Matthews’ life was “disorderly in the extreme”.

Refined shudder! Let’s not even imagine what might happen if various north London councils’ social service departments had to look into the “orderliness” or otherwise of various well-known journalists’ home lives. We could be faced with a nonsense shortage. Perhaps we should maintain a national stockpile of terrible journalism against such a possibility.

The proposed solution is of course to make the poor rather poorer, so that they will become better people. They will be scared into being more orderly; it’s worth noting that this disgusting piece of writing doesn’t even bother to claim that its proposals would have done anybody any good. No;

Ms Matthews might then have been tracked by government agencies earlier and her life on benefits might have become less comfortable.

In the next paragraph, they go on to say that she would still have had far too many children and not gone out to work. So what does this actually mean? Surely they cannot expect that some jobcentre clerk would have detected an ambition in her to fake the kidnap of her own daughter, had she only been forced to fill in some more forms and be lectured some more about Standards?

And, as we have seen recently, there is absolutely no reason to think that the State would have done anything effective had it had this information. I mean, can you imagine ringing up the social services department or the cops with this story? Yes, one of my clients at Dewsbury Job Centre. I think…I think she’s going to kidnap her own daughter. Well, I know. Yes, the daughter lives with her. Don’t ask me – ask her! Why? For the reward money! But at least, as the Independent puts it:

Ms Matthews might then have been tracked by government agencies earlier and her life on benefits might have become less comfortable.

Surveillance of the poor is an end in itself, it seems, as is rendering their lives “less comfortable”. And, of course, I mean the poor, and so does The Independent. There is no protocol for only applying more surveillance to the guilty – that’s not how it works.

Of course, on the substance, the whole Government proposal the Indy is supporting is silly, a bit of midmarket newspaper fan service left over from the boom years, when unemployment was primarily the Thatcher legacy and not something that affected the large majority. Now, on the boom has come the slump, and we’re facing the possibility of a big cyclical surge in unemployment.

The nature of cyclical unemployment is that it is caused by the business cycle and spread broadly across the economy; there is simply not enough work. There is no point making the cyclically unemployed report more often and jump through more hoops; unless your purpose is to impress Associated Newspapers with your sternness towards the undeserving poor. And, it would seem, The Independent.

Of course, this probably has something to do not only with Independent News and Media’s increasing closeness to the Daily Mail, but also the arrival of Roger Alton as editor of the Independent. In fact, this piece – a first leader which was given an unusually generous word count – might be Alton’s own work, just as the conversion of The Observer into a cocktail of Decent Left drivel and lifestyle wank was Alton’s work.

What is the Decent line on the economic crisis? It doesn’t seem at all clear yet; they don’t tend to interest themselves in economics. Certainly Nick Cohen can be expected to take up the sort of Tory moralising that has infected the Indy, and Cohen’s career was promoted by Roger Alton more than anyone else.

Meanwhile, the Independent is doing its bit to make life less comfortable; they just fired 20% of their journalists. Presumably, Alton (and IN&M) is preparing the Indy for a new role in a Tory period as the Mail for people who can’t bring themselves to read the Mail but actually want its politics, just as David Cameron is the Conservative for people who can’t bring themselves to vote for other Conservatives but actually want Conservative Party politics.

Update: Jamie Kenny has more. It seems clear there is a push on this going on – the Sunday Telegraph editoralised in the same terms today, and Tory shadow minister Chris Grayling trailed something similar in the Observer.


  1. Sorry to hear about this. I hope they don’t fire Patrick Cockburn, who has done really good reporting on Iraq.




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