Backers to front and centre, just so we know

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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We know who backs the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA), don’t we?

That they are not, as the name subtly implies, a grassroots grouping of concerned citizens much like yourselves?

That they are, essentially, a front for the far right economic wing of the Tories, backed by blue grandee and viscount alike, with non-UK taxpayers among its directorial ranks, and a stated aim to reverse the perception big government is necessary, to explain the benefits of a low tax economy?

You know all that, right? These easily established facts do qualify every quote or soundbite of theirs that comes your way as you go about the tiresome but necessary chore of finding out what the hell is going on, don’t they?

They should. There is a hidden agenda – one not always obvious when the TPA is laying into this or that body over profligacy – and it colours every opinion they utter.

And in ‘news’ opinion is seen to matter. Event X is reported, four sources asked their opinion, three view Event X favourably, one does not. What do we – or at least enough glib dummies to make the outcome worth seeking to manage – assume?

Thus, aforementioned ‘finding out what the hell is going on’ these days increasingly comes down to sifting ‘news’ – factual accounts of actual events – from a great belch of opinion, little of it truly impartial.

Take fracking – please! Say the county council, as they prepare to drain one of two poisoned chalices.

Last week’s news that planning officers had recommended a halt prompted immediate responses from several quarters.

Cuadrilla, obviously, were ready with a statement saying there was no reasonable reason not to frack. Greenpeace, obviously, were also ready with a statement hailing the officers’ decision.

So far, so ‘obviously’. We could have written their lines ourselves.

But also in with two-pennorth were the North West Energy Task Force (NWETF). Sounds impartial and authoratitive. Official, even.

Also, for me, as if this were a pre-existing body for which fracking was just one among many issues.

Not so. The NWETF was set up solely to make the case for shale gas and is funded by would-be North West frackers Centrica Energy and Cuadrilla Resources.

Which is not to discount their opinion, and they insist all activity is independent of their backers.

Fair enough. But still important we know who those backers are.