Yesterday's publication of the Spartacus Report, entitled Responsible Reform: A Report on the Proposed Changes to Disability Living Allowance went largely unnoticed by the mainstream media. As we told you yesterday, via the SaltandCaramel blog the Spartacus Report is “a consultation based on the answers from 523 groups – local authorities, national charities, legal groups, user led organisations, health care professionals and businesses” in response to the government’s “official consultation” held over Christmas of 2010 about proposed changes to the benefits system which see the eradication of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and the creation of a Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The “official consultation” was poorly executed taking 2 weeks less than the legal requirement and was not even completed before the Welfare Bill was presented to Parliament.
I would have thought that simply highlighting these two very clear violations of Parliamentary protocol would have been enough to secure the Spartacus Report huge media coverage. I was wrong. The mainstream media simply ignored it choosing instead to focus on celebrity chef Anthony Worrall Thompson being arrested for stealing cheese from Tescos; a matter that is clearly of national importance.
The question is why the mainstream media chose to ignore the publication of an important document with major implications for millions of citizens in the UK? We know the government doesn’t care about people; you only need to look at its failure to undertake a gender equality audit of the 2011 budget, an "oversight" which also contravened Parliamentary process. The Fawcett Society mounted a legal challenge and the government acknowledged its failure to follow policy but without any consequence. Surely, in the wake of this, and other, signal failures to follow procedure, yet another instance of their cavalier disregard for due process would be enough for major news coverage?
Social media, on the other hand, spent Monday banging the drums in a desperate attempt to get the mainstream media involved. This was the asinine response of Channel 4 News’ John Snow via tweet Monday afternoon:
Brilliant people behind the Spartacus report - but we need more info; case examples etc to render such a report newsworthy. I've seen it!
Apparently, it is beneath the mainstream media to do some actual research themselves and find a specific case example they can use for a “hook.” Frankly, 10 minutes on twitter could have gotten them a “case study” without doing too much actual work. 10 minutes on Mumsnet would have found hundreds of case studies and it’s not like stealing threads from Mumsnet is a new thing [waves madly at Matthew Wright and the Daily Mail]. Hell, Mumsnet actually has a helpful section entitled: Media/nonmember requests for this very purpose.
But, really, do we need a “case study” to make the point that the government has once again ignored the research and continues to spread untruths. Even ignoring the substance of Spartacus, the simple issue of the government again riding roughshod over parliamentary procedure is newsworthy in itself. What this really comes down to is a question of who controls the media and what the mainstream media is actually for.
The media’s failure to hold the government accountable is making it increasingly irrelevant. Instead, social media via twitter, Facebook and blogs has publicised the Spartacus Report to the extent that today it is actually a news item covered in the Herald Scotland, (although to be completely fair the Guardian, Daily Mail and Mirror did run stories on the weekend but that was mostly because Boris Johnson disagrees with the changes to DLA rather than the Spartacus Report itself).
We need to make the media more accountable for reporting stories and for getting their facts right when they do so. The government’s policy of deliberately isolating vulnerable people from their support networks is something that the media has power to change but since it is choosing not to, we must do it for them.
See below for some brilliant blogs on the Spartacus Report which we need to advertise via social media. But, please also write letters to your MP quoting these blogs [and the report itself] and letters to your local paper. Let’s get this story into the mainstream press:
Email your MP: at Write to Them and let them know about more coverage from campaigners and bloggers here:
Legal Aware Criticism of the cuts from a legal perspective.
Left Foot Forward wants action that reflects the report.
Flash Says... has ideas for letters to your MP
Diary of a Benefit Scrounger follow for all the breaking updates about the Spartacus Report
TUC agrees with Boris a more detailed breakdown of The Major of London's objections.
Tom Pride compares the Spartacus upraising to ancient Roman history.
The Small Places highlights the objects raised by Human Rights groups against the cuts.
Carons Musings hosts a clip from 5 live where Maria Miller, Minister for Disabled People and Sue Marsh discuss the cuts.
PCS Euston Branch
The Camel's Hump outligns how you can join the campaign.
20 Something Mum explains the impact DLA makes when you have a disabled child.
Learning Disability Coalition supports the Spartacus Report
BombasticSpastic "From today, Government may of course continue to ignore us. But they can never say they didn't know what they were doing."
Since writing this piece, the following news media have run stories on the Spartacus Report: The Guardian and Daily Mail
Easy Read Version of the Spartacus Report now available here at United Response