The Distiller

Today’s UK headlines, summarised and analysed.

Friday 20th October, 2017

Good morning

Brief overview: Oxford comes under criticism today after it emerged that ten of it’s colleges didn’t take in a single black A-level student in 2015. Abortion is on the front covers of the Daily Mail. Brexit negotiations edge towards a no-deal outcome.

Outside of the headlines: President Trump continues to come under fire for his poor handling of a phone call to a military widow, during which he reportedly told her that her husband ‘knew what he signed up for’.

Via Steve Bell

Kurdish and Iraqi troops continue to fight north of Kirkuk city. The reasons for the fighting are complex, and I won’t do them justice by trying to summarise the issues here. Further reading here, here and here.

via the BBC

Cartoon of the day:

via Peter Brookes

Graph of the day:

via World Bank

The Daily Mail

Owned by: Daily Mail and General Trust, owned by Jonathan Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere

Editor: Paul Dacre

Political leaning: Right / far right

Daily circulation: circa 1,490,000 (10 million views per month from personal computer and 20 million from mobiles)

Brexit stance: Pro-Brexit

Today’s leading headline: Clinic ‘paid its staff bonuses for abortions’

The Mail leads with a scoop that one of Britain’s largest abortion providers appears to be offering incentives for its staff to encourage women to have an abortion. The paper quotes a report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which found that staff felt ‘encouraged’ to make women go through with their abortions, as for them it was linked ‘to their performance bonus’. The watchdog says the policy was present at all 70 Marie Stopes Clinics — the company firmly deny the allegations.

Afterthought: Abortion remains an extremely emotive topic across the UK; to this end, it is worth noting here that a ‘trial by press’ format rarely reveals useful information on the issue. Whilst companies such as Marie Stopes need tight scrutiny and continues assessments, it needs to be impartial. The Daily Mail has had a long running campaign against Marie Stopes; in the last six months, the company has published five hit pieces concerning the company.

The CQC found:

that feedback from patients was positive across Marie Stopes International’s centres and its staff provided a non-judgmental service and treated patients with dignity and respect. Source, CQC report.

The Daily Telegraph

Owned by: Telegraph Media Group, owned by Sir David Barclay and Sir Frederick Barclay

Editor: Chris Evans

Political leaning: Right

Daily circulation: circa. 460,000

Brexit stance: Pro-Brexit

Today’s leading headline: Millions charged too much for mobiles

Are you being overcharged on your phone? Probably, writes the Telegraph today. Independent watchdogs have found evidence that the three largest phone companies — Vodafone, EE and Three — have been overcharging their costumers an average of £22 a month.

This occurs when a customer has paid back the price of the phone, but the company continues to charge them after. For example, if I bought a phone worth £300 and paid back £25 a month, after a year I will have paid back the debt. My phone bill should reflect this, and instead of charging me £25, the company should charge £15 going forward.

Each of the companies has sent forward a spokesperson to explain how this could have happened; summarised neatly, they all ask their customers to contact them should they feel their phone bill needs to be changed.

Afterthought: The study, undertaken by Citizens Advice, found that people aged over 65 were the most likely to be stung by the overcharges — with 23% staying on their contract past the end of the fixed deal period. Of the top four service providers, O2 is the only operator which ‘separates airtime and device costs’.

The Times

Owned by: News UK, Rupert Murdoch’s company.

Editor: John Witherow

Political leaning: Centre right

Daily circulation: circa. 446,000

Brexit stance: Neutral / slightly pro-Brexit

Today’s leading headline: Davis draws up plans for no deal on Brexit talks

David Davis, Brexit Minister, is to present ‘an upbeat assessment’ of a ‘no-deal- Brexit to the Cabinet on Monday. The Times notes that in a rather fitting move, he is set to present the benefits of exiting the EU without a deal on Hallowe’en. Theresa May has struggled to move Brexit negotiations onwards in Brussels. She urged her EU counterparts to make some concessions in a coded speech, explaining that if they did so, she would be able to free up more money for Britain’s divorce bill.

Afterthought: David Davis has been thrown into a new level of Brexit chaos. The outcome of a ‘no-deal’ scenario has only become a genuine possibility over the last two weeks, gaining traction across the papers and through various figures of note adding their two cents.

via Christian Adams

May and her team knew this would be an outcome, albeit a highly unfortunate one; the first rule of any negotiation is that you must be prepared to walk away.

The Guardian

Owned by: Scott Trust Limited, run by a board with a policy of non-interference.

Editor: Katharine Viner

Political leaning: Left

Daily circulation: circa. 161,000

Brexit stance: Anti-Brexit

Today’s leading headline: Oxbridge still failing black British pupils

A third of Oxford colleges did not take in a single black A-level student in 2015, the Guardian has found. The paper reports that 10 out of 32 Oxford colleges has committed ‘social apartheid’ by not accepting black students in 2015. The paper notes that ‘there were almost 400 black students getting three A’s at A-level or better every year, yet few were attracted to apply to Oxford or Cambridge’.

Afterthought: A large part of this argument hinges off the criticisms levelled at the University by former education minister David Lammy. Ten colleges not accepting a single black student in 2015 is a serious, and systematic, fault. It is worth noting that when Lammy applied for the data using a Freedom of Information request, Cambridge replied immediately whilst Oxford released the data when they learned that the Guardian was due to publish this article. Oxbridge (Oxford & Cambridge) are often accused of lacking admissions diversity, taking in huge amounts of students from private schools.

The article itself points towards potential reasons — many black A-level students with the necessary grades didn’t apply to the University, instead choosing to study elsewhere. Likewise, as of 2015 Oxford’s acceptance rate across all courses stood at 17.5%. However, the reality is that Oxford and Cambridge are becoming even elite. Per the BBC:

“four-fifths of students accepted at Oxbridge between 2010 and 2015 had parents with top professional and managerial jobs, and the numbers have been edging upwards.”

The i

Owned by: Johnston Press, whose CEO is Ashley Highfield

Editor: Oliver Duff

Political leaning: Centre

Daily circulation: circa. 264,000

Brexit stance: Neutral

Today’s leading headline: Smacking ban comes to Britain

Smacking your child is set to be banned in Scotland, after the Government voted in favour of making it an offence. The Bill brought forward by Green MSP John Finnie will become law in Scotland, having received unanimous backing from all ministers. England and Wales now join only four other EU countries that still allow children to be physically punished.

Afterthought: Research has shown that smacking a child can cause them to develop mental health issues as an adult. Research has also shown that children who were smacked up to the age of six did better at school and were more optimistic about their lives than those never hit by their parents.

The Daily Mirror

Owner: Trinity Mirror. Its chairman is David Grigson, formerly the chief financial officer at Reuters

Editor: Lloyd Embley

Political leaning: Left

Daily circulation: circa. 716,900

Brexit stance: Anti-Brexit

Today’s leading headline: Penny: My sex attack hell

Penny Lancaster yesterday came forward to reveal that she was drugged and raped by a fashion boss when she was a teenager. Her accusation comes amidst a wave of women coming forward to tell tales of sexual assault, harassment, and rape across their industries.

Afterthought: Penny Lancaster’s revelation will unfortunately not be the last we hear of these terrible crimes. Hopefully her bravery will inspire more women in her industry to come forward so we can start seeing justice dispensed.

On this note, Buzzfeed have launched a campaign called “Who Are The Harvey Weinsteins Of Your Industry?”, with the aim of finding and bringing more of these men to justice.

Financial Times

Owner: The Nikkei, which is based in Tokyo.

Editor: Lionel Barber

Political leaning: Centre

Daily circulation: circa. 193,211

Brexit stance: Neutral/slight anti-Brexit

Today’s leading headline: Lyft wins $1bn Alphabet funding and raises heat on arch-rival Uber

The car-hailing company Lyft has continued to put serious pressure on its rival Uber, after receiving $1bn in funding from Google’s parent company Alphabet, valued at over $600bn. The paper reports that although Alphabet is also a key shareholder in Uber, the relationship between the two is tense following a court row over self-driving technology. Lyft has capitalised on a turbulent year for Uber, after its CEO stepped down amid a flurry of allegations of a ‘boys club’ atmosphere at the top of the company.

Afterthought: Further bad news for Uber, which has long been the more successful company of the two. Recent workplace exposes have however pushed negative attention on the company, with the bullish ex CEO and key shareholder Travis Kalanick causing various nightmares for the company.

Travis Kalanick, ex-CEO of Uber and continued problem for the company.

Clearly, Alphabet has seen potential for Lyft to challenge Uber’s authority. Launching properly in the UK will be the next step for the company; this writer was told recently by an anonymous source that Lyft lobbyers were spotted in the Transport for London circles.

The Sun

Owner: News UK, owned by Rupert Murdoch

Editor: Tony Gallagher

Political leaning: Right / far right

Daily circulation: circa. 1,611,464

Brexit stance: Pro-Brexit

Today’s leading headline: The boys in blue varnish

The Sun today continues its absolutely worthless campaign against various police forces. Today, it’s the Avon and Somerset police who have come under fire by the rag for painting their nails blue to highlight slavery.

Afterthought: Absolute drivel.

Top trending stories from across the web

Al Jeezera

Owned by: Government of Qatar.

Political leaning: Often accused of having the state interests overshadow their independent integrity.

Top article: Six years on: No regrets over Libya’s Gaddafi demise (link)


Owned by: The British public.

Political leaning: Strict regulation to make it impartial. Centre.

Views: 70 million unique views per week.

Top article: Oxbridge uncovered: More elitist than we thought (link)

Guido Fawkes

Owned by: Paul Staines, a libertarian political blogger, also writes for the Sun on Sunday.

Political leaning: Right/far right. Read by anyone and everyone in Westminster.

Views: 100–250 thousand views per day.

Top article: Linesman MP Has Attended 96% of Votes, Better Record Than SNP MPs

The Canary

Owned by: Six editors and around 25 writers. Editor-in-chief is Kerry-anne Mendoza, prior ties to the Guardian.

Political leaning: Left/far left. Very pro Corbyn. Clickbait — pays its writers on a click per pay basis, encouraging them to produce work that will go viral.

Top article: We need to stop people torturing animals, starting at school [OPINION] (link)

Final Thought

News shouldn’t tell you how to feel. The news should present facts, and allow you to formulate your own opinion. Regardless of your political affiliation, try and read beyond the headlines that most of these papers push on you, from the left and the right.