Newsnight & The Evening Standard: A Comparison

9 Sep 2016

The speech about the Garden Bridge in Parliament by MP Kate Hoey has been causing a stir. The thorough pulling apart of some of the many issues of the development that Hoey subjected the dying project to has helped pull a lot of the non-financial concerns into wider discussion as well as raising new questions about the huge financial concerns of the development.

This post offers two responses to Hoey’s End Of Day Adjournment Debate; one from Hannah Barnes, Newsnight journalist who has been covering the ill-fated project of late, and another from Kate Proctor in the Evening Standard managing to stretch the title “journalist” to its limits. Comparing the two makes for an interesting exercise in the work of journalists and the importance of a media that can be trusted.

 

HANNAH BARNES OF NEWSNIGHT

Newsnight have featured the Garden Bridge three times in the last couple of months, and the reporter behind the digging is Hannah Barnes. She watched Hoey’s speech and, more importantly, the insincere response from Andrew Jones MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at Department for Transport, with interest. Today, Barnes posted a tweet with some questions that arose from the DfT response:

The Garden Bridge: What we've learned recently

Read: https://t.co/aCV3i6RVIy

— Hannah Barnes (@hannahsbee) September 9, 2016

 

Barnes has given permission for her post to be copied in full on this website:

 

“There are a few things we have learned about the Garden Bridge in recent weeks, but first a quick recap.”

“As revealed by Newsnight last month, the Garden Bridge Trust has lost £14 million in funding in the last few months (we don’t know precisely when this happened). Lord Davies, the Chair of the Trust told us that the budget for the project had increased to approximately £185m, leaving a shortfall of nearly £56 million that still needed to be raised from the private sector. Previously, we had been told that the shortfall was in the region of £32 million. Lord Davies also said that the bridge – which will connect the north and south banks of the Thames in London – would not be finished until 2019, a year later than expected. What’s new?”

“An updated list of ‘funding to date’ has been published, confirming the larger shortfall in funding. If we compare this to the previously published version from May a few details stand out. Firstly, despite being listed as a donor on the Garden Bridge Trust website for some time, Royal Mail now appears to have made its £25,000 donation public. But, the question of who has withdrawn money is far trickier to answer, as so many of the donors were confidential or anonymous. The one named donor missing on the new list is computer giant IBM, who had originally been down for a £100,000 donation. IBM has not formally confirmed if they have withdrawn support from the project.”

“During a debate in the House of Commons this week, Transport Minister Andrew Jones explained that the Government had agreed to go against its initial commitment in the Garden Bridge funding agreement to cap the amount of money that could be spent on pre-construction activities at £8.45 million. Instead, the Government had extended this to £13.5 million. And here is where it gets confusing.”

“London Mayor Sadiq Khan revealed in May this year that of the £60 million public funding that has been committed to the Garden Bridge, £37.7 million has already been spent by the Garden Bridge Trust. Broken down further, £24.25 had come from TfL and £13.45 million from central government.”

“This appeared a little odd in itself as the funding agreement mentioned above explicitly states that TfL and central government contributions were meant to be spent on a pari passu basis – i.e. at the same rate, or on an equal footing. But that aside, responding to Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon in July, Mr Khan explained that he had “instructed TfL that future payments should come first from the Government’s contribution until the Government’s and TfL’s expenditures on the project have equalised.”

“Taking the Mayor and transport minister’s statements together, it implies that no more public money is available to the Garden Bridge Trust before any construction starts: TfL won’t provide any more unless it’s matched by the Government. And the Government have capped the amount its willing to contribute at this stage of the project.”

“And yet, just a few weeks ago Sadiq Khan told radio station LBC that the Garden Bridge Trust had spent £42 million. It’s difficult to know where this figure comes from. It certainly doesn’t tally with the recent public statements made about the money coming from the taxpayers’ purse or the breakdown of how TfL’s contribution has been spent.”

“So, plenty more questions surrounding the funding of the Garden Bridge.”

 

KATE PROCTOR OF THE EVENING STANDARD

Exactly at the same time as Hoey was delivering her speech in the House of Commons, the Evening Standard Progress 1000 awards were in full swing. These are awards to celebrate “London’s most influential 1,000 people”, but in reality are a sycophantic exercise for the paper’s owner Evgeny Lebedev to scratch the backs of the ‘great and good’ of society as he seeks to create a space for him in the Establishment – evidenced by the bizarre decision to give an honorary award of “Londoner of the decade” to Prince Charles.

It is worth noting that there are a few Garden Bridge figures ‘honoured’ in Lebedev’s list, including Thomas Heatherwick, Joanna Lumley, Boris Johnson and Chris Grayling amongst others – they even brazenly celebrate Lambeth Council Leader Lib Peck for “her support of… bold projects like the Garden Bridge.” So, one can forgive Evening Standard journalist Kate Proctor from watching Hoey live, as she may have been busy congratulating her paymaster’s mates, but she could have watched it on catchup on Parliamentlive.TV here.

If she had, she’d have observed the Evening Standard being strongly criticised in the speech:

However, not only did proctor completely forget to mention this section along with nearly all of Hoey’s carefully detailed analysis, she accidentally turned the whole story upside down – framing it as if the point of it being in Parliament was as a push for Garden Bridge Trust fundraising. She only managed to squeeze a few lines about Hoey in at the very end of the ‘article’ (oddly giving as much weight in the piece to hedgehogs), leading instead with Andrew Jones’ weak response to Hoey’s attack and presenting the whole debate as if it was one of love and support for their pet project.

 

It really is worth a read. It’s both shocking and shameful that the Evening Standard decided to respond to the accusation that they were biased and a “mouthpiece” for the Garden Bridge Trust with this insulting re-imagination of truth. Kate Proctor should be ashamed and hand in her National Union of Journalists card having created such an uncritical, untruthful creation.

However, their news article ends well. I liken the Evening Standard to an adult colouring in book, simply an empty void within which you have to ‘colour in’ your own news and truth, and in the online comments under this article many people have decided to do the journalism on behalf of the pathetic rag:


 

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