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NZ Herald: Be journalists, check before ‘reporting’

Written By: - Date published: 9:50 am, June 27th, 2014 - 62 comments
Categories: labour, Media, national - Tags: , ,

There is a self-serving anonymously authored editorial in the NZ Herald this morning “Editorial: Cries of bias will not stop reporting“.

Well for a start the problem isn’t with the Herald reporting. The problem is that it’s reporting on this story appears to have been performed by amateur journalists in their investigations team  and facilitated by incompetent editors who didn’t check the story. This probably including whoever wrote this pathetic editorial. It appears to have been an abrupt change from their usual competent style of journalism. Of course the question has to be asked about what caused this change?

The anonymous editorial author points back to previous stories in previous elections that the Herald has done to prove that they aren’t biased.

However, these were done competently with considerable checking. This is what showed in their reporting at the time on such things as the Exclusive Brethren and even the recent Judith Collins and Maurice Williamson stories. You could argue over the NZ Herald reporters interpretations. However it was rather difficult to argue over their well checked facts.

That still showed in the uncovering of a 11 year form letter. Admittedly to get that appeared to require considerable help from the National party with its friendly policy of telling the Herald reporters what to ask for in an OIA after their initial failure. Then helpfully putting pressure on public servants to release in a unprecedented two days.

That the Herald reporters were too incompetent to find out what the electorate offices routinely do with immigration cases is perhaps excusable. After all a long time political reporter like John Armstrong appeared to also think that forgetting a 11 year old routine enquiry to the immigration department was abnormal enough to call for a resignation. So maybe they simply lacked astute guidance. Of course that there are hundreds and possibly thousands of ex-electorate office employees around that they could have asked, and clearly didn’t.

That may be merely poor journalism.

However it appears that this week, even that low level of competence and accuracy in the reporting at the NZ Herald is not required.

The Herald on Sunday at the weekend article “reported” from a still unreleased signed statement from Donghua Liu that appears to have been sourced  not from its author, but from some unnamed third source – probably the National party or associated sources.

Astonishly on Monday the editor of the Herald on Sunday Tim Murphy on Morning Report appeared to not understand the value of a signed statements.  For his benefit, let us reiterate. An affidavit is a sworn statement and stating something in it that is not truthful is equivalent to perjury and treated as such. A signed statement are legally about as worthless as used toilet paper, and this is what Donhua’s signed statement now appears to be.

It is now quite clear that the contents of that statement were never checked by the Herald before “reporting” on Sunday. Not with its author, nor with any sources inside Labour, nor apparently with anyone apart from its source.

That first statement appears to be completely false. To date the none of the substance of that statement about donations to Labour has been proved and many have been repudiated in a slightly less murky follow up statement on Wednesday by Donghua Liu. None the less, every day this week they have ‘reported’ stories from material in that first statement, including after the second statement was released with different details.

To date the only evidence of donations to the Labour party by Donghua Liu consist of nothing that can be verified.

Partially that was due to the required reporting in the pre-december 2007 reporting. But mostly because it appears that most were actually purchases at auctions and because they appear to have been done in small amounts (ie a few thousand dollars) over a period of time – probably many years.

The only real way to track them is for Donghua Liu or the Herald to provide details as to locations and dates. Needless to say the Herald has been continuing to “report” “donations”  to Labour all this week when they have no evidence that these ever occurred. For some reason this level of repeated systematic journalistic incompetence in reporting untruths does lead to questions of bias.

So far we have

  • A confirmed donation to the Hawkes Bay rowing club which has nothing to do with Labour.
  • There are no dates apart from one that appears to coincide with the Hawkes Bay Charity Wine Auction on the 3rd June 2007, which has nothing to do with Labour.
  • Of course there is the now infamous $5o-60k trip down the Yangtze river, which appears to have been a company outing that a Labour MP got dragged to, and had nothing to do with Labour.
  • We have a allegation about a purchase at auction of a book for $15k in the first statement by Donghua Liu and which does not appear to be in the second, however there are no dates or locations.

Meanwhile the statement by Donghua Liu that he gave other parties appears to have never been followed up by the NZ Herald.  Again leading to questions of bias.

It would probably help if the NZ Herald released the documents to some competent journalists/editors or even to the crowd sourced checking of the blogs. Clearly the reporters on the investigations team and their supporting editors are not capable of verifying these allegations.

But to date they haven’t released photo image copies of either of the two statements from Donghua Liu that would allow some more competent journalists than Jared Savage and his team to determine the truth. From what I have heard, even the Herald’s parliamentary press gallery haven’t seen them.

So I have to ask the question of the NZ Herald. Given such an abrupt change in the standards of checking that usually characterises your “news”  stories, what caused the change? Somehow I don’t expect that we will ever get an answer to that.

Just as I suspect that we will never see a copy of the first statement. It has all of the characteristics of being a smoking gun pointing back into National or one of their associated mouthpieces like Whaleoil or Kiwiblog. Probably from the name of a witness perhaps?

 

62 comments on “NZ Herald: Be journalists, check before ‘reporting’ ”

  1. greywarbler 1

    Wasn’t it written or sanctioned by potatohead then? If not, why not?

    The female editor in the UK has just got off scot-free. Or seems to have. Nothing can be done apparently to hold onto British integrity and standards. They slip away like sand between the fingers. Why should The Hairy aim to keep to old-fashioned ideas already abandoned ‘overseas’ our university of learning and best practice?

    Aren’t we being like the Savage in Brave New World – whipping ourselves, flagellating ourselves and our society over failing to comply with outmoded morals and ethics. Let’s abandon ourselves to the new, go with the flow, inhale some soma and Enjoy!

  2. ianmac 2

    Your post is a great summation of the situation. It is a pity that there is no venue/organisation to whom your post could be addressed.
    Maybe I could send your entire post to Jared Savage. I have his email address. What do you say?

  3. karol 3

    Dear gods. This editorial is getting a hammering in the comments under it. I’ve read through a fair number and all but an occasional one come out against the editorial.

    Although, I do think the NZH releases comments in for and against clusters. They may be saving up the “fors” to have the last word.

    However, they have clearly angered a sizable number of people.

    • weka 3.1

      They’re getting a thrashing alright.

      My favourite so far,

      “The NZ Herald became a tabloid-style scandal blog so gradually I was almost fooled into believing that the basic tenets of integrity, honesty, balance and fairness (and, of course, fact checking) in journalism was just some kind of nostalgic myth I must have dreamed up.”

      Mike Rickson – 09:06 AM Friday, 27 Jun 2014

  4. Will@Welly 4

    With the exception of the ODT, we can now see the damage being wrecked upon New Zealand by the loss of control of the media organisations. There really is no accountability. Even the ‘Press Council’ is like a wet blanket.
    There was a time when editors prided themselves on their standard of journalism, and were prepared to fight the owners ‘tooth and nail’ to maintain that credibility.

  5. Te Reo Putake 5

    The golden rule is always get two sources. Don’t print any allegation without independent verification of its accuracy. The problem is that the Herald were prepared to rely on a single source and they should have known that the source was untrustworthy. It’s simply shabby, gossip column journalism. Back in the days when they had subs, their job was more than just spell checking. A reporter failing to get alternative confirmation would be told to go away and come back with something of substance to anchor the story.

    Now all we’ve got is political advertising masquerading as news on the front page of our ‘journal of record’.

    • Pete 5.1

      I think everyone at the Herald should sit down and re-watch All The President’s Men and take particular note of how much of a hard-ass Ben Bradlee was when it came to pushing his reporters to verify sources and confirm allegations

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.2

      The Herald had not just two but three sources: Liu, Key and Slater, all of whom are independent from the Labour Party.

      What could possibly go wrong?

  6. One Anonymous Bloke 6

    I can’t see why the crowd in the cloud would want to lift a finger to help a bunch of Tories behind a paywall. They even have gated communities online 🙂

  7. dimebag russell 7

    its not just the herald. the whole country has sunk into an abyss of infantilism and kowtowing to the masters.
    the whole newsgathering industry has been infected from top to bottom with nepotism and inanity..
    as another poster said this week new zealand appears to be democratic on the surface but underneath its rotten. ditto for the press. the standard of personnel recruitment and their efforts has slipped so badly and then overlaid with a gloss of pure bullshit that most people dont even notice.
    the horse bolted long ago.

    • greywarbler 7.1

      @ dimebag russell
      Get out the spade and see if that horse left any deposits. The dung is good for roses I think, and we need to have something positive to brighten our lives. It’s very depressing listening and looking at our news.. We have to keep bringing our news deposits to the Standard where they can be turned over and checked to see if they are worthwhile.

  8. Clemgeopin 8

    The unfair and biased behaviour of the Herald, Key, the RWN job blogers is a disgrace and a disservice to democracy. Unfortunately, I suspect that the public who are so ill served by our present media will not realise the deliberate slant and harm being dished out against Labour, and the blatant favouritism shown towards Key and National.

    IF the MSM, TV, commentators etc do NOT give us equal amount of positive coverage as they do for Key and National, then Labour and the progressive parties will have an uphill task during this election period. The media is supposed to be an unbiased, fair and accurate ‘fourth pillar’ of democracy! At the moment it is most certainly not when it seems to go deliberately harming Cunliffe and Labour without verifying facts with integrity and without being diligent and just in their reporting of ‘news’.

    Any one reading commentary or watching the media news coverage in a critical objective way can discern this distortion that is happening.

    I am hoping that the public will soon begin to see all this and dish out their own unforgettable backlash against National’s dirty tricks machine.

    • karol 8.1

      It’s up to the people, and the left wing blogs then, to hold the MSM and their powerful backers to account.

    • greywarbler 8.2

      Did anyone listen to Morning Report this a.m.? All about the terrible Labour poll, was mentioned a lot. Plus Mr Key given a nice slot and a mention of NACT conference and a plug for NACT – Labour given Mike Williams.

      • Tracey 8.2.1

        a poll taken in the middle of the heralds (turns out) illusory labour and cunliffe scandal… And the editor thinks they do no harm.

        I havent seen the rabid right in here congratulating labour for gaining 4% on the last poll they all trumpetted as gospel.

  9. ianmac 9

    Might seem a bit odd but a Herald columnist has written a scathing rundown on recent events. Toby Manhire rightly decries the misinformation spread by the media and looks forward to policy debates.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11282589

    • karol 9.1

      Thanks. Pretty good, except for one or two sentences in the middle of the article – kind of tends to lean to false equivalence.

      • Tracey 9.1.1

        Does Herald competitor, sunday star times not want to rip into the poor journalism practised by the Herald cos they have some kind onf unwritten rule in the media about that kind of thing?

  10. Bob 10

    The only thing I can take from that editorial is the fact that they are admitting to being shit reporters no matter what side of the house they are reporting on! The exclusive brethren was a story, the Owen Glenn saga may have beena story but they never found a smoking gun, but the Tea-pot Tapes and Donghua Liu stories were just that, stories and they refuse to back away from either of them.

    Last year John Campbell on Campbell Live blatantly stated that he doesn’t see any point of reporting both sides of a story if he feels strongly enough about a topic (such as Legal Highs), then as soon as he got his way on that campaign, he spent the next week telling the other side of the story and making it sound like the Government had made the wrong choice banning them!
    This pathetic attitude seems to be endemic amongst NZ media and something has to be done to bring these useless fuckers (apologies for the language but this gets me wound up) under control!

    Well done to Zetetic for their post on Wednesday, this type of mass action needs to be taken to make the media stand up and take note, although I fear our piss-weak Press Council will more than likely state that this editorial is enough to cover ‘balance’ to their prior bullshit reporting.

  11. Lez Howard 11

    I read the Herald this morning and gagged, it was not the Jimmy Saville item either

  12. Blue 12

    The Herald is pathetic. They went into this ‘investigation’ with the intention to pin something on Labour and they persevered despite all the warning signs that they were headed for trouble. There is no other way to explain their shoddy reporting and lack of oversight by editors other than institutional bias against the Labour Party.

    • they took Mr Liu’s statement as gospel truth despite no independent evidence corroborating it, Mr Liu’s lack of credibility as a reliable witness and his obvious political motivation in writing and signing it just after Maurice Williamson’s resignation.
    • they did not even question the ridiculous claim that Mr Liu paid $100,000 for a single bottle of wine.
    • they made a mountain out of a molehill over a form letter signed by David Cunliffe 11 years ago which does not support or advocate for Mr Liu’s application for residency, nor does it ‘give a hurry up’ despite what the Herald has claimed.
    • the editor of the Herald does not even understand the legal differences between a signed statement and an affidavit.
    • donating to a political party in NZ is neither illegal nor immoral, and the Herald failed to provide any reason why they were attacking Labour in the first place. They did not ‘join the dots’ and prove there was any failure to abide by the law surrounding donations or any special treatment given to Mr Liu by Labour in exchange for the alleged donations.
    • they appear to have placed no importance on the Labour Party’s repeated denials that Mr Liu had donated money or that they had any significant links with him. They presumed Labour to be liars and Mr Liu to be telling the truth.

    In short, there was never anything to the story, and the only motivation in publishing it had to be making Labour look bad in an election year.

    • Bob 12.1

      Blue, are you surprised? Look back at the Teapot tape last year (you can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvEOh2KOTqg), there is absolutely nothing wrong with anything said in the tape (unless you take John Key saying “NZ First support is dying off” literally rather than the election result context in which it was put), yet the NZ Herald and Duncan Garner ran with the story using innuendo to damage National support. They don’t care if there is an actual story, they only care if they can spin what they have to sell papers.

  13. freedom 13

    had to post this

    right now the NZH front page has 153 comments listed
    but on the editorial in question only 127 are shown …???

    • weka 13.1

      some will be in moderation.

    • veutoviper 13.2

      It happens all the time, freedom. Also, an opinion piece will be listed as having comments, but when you go to the article to read the comments, there are none and it still shows as just “Add a comment”. It can then take hours for the comments to appear in some cases, while in other cases, the comments come up straight away.

      I have been watching this for months, and can find no logic to it. Armstong and O’Sullivan’s articles are often the worst at comments not being shown for a long time – sometimes days, particularly at weekends. Also on some occasions, after the comments finally appear, the number of likes don’t appear for a long time either, sometimes hours. Yet, this doesn’t happen to other opinion pieces. Very innconsistent.

      A couple of years ago, I remember reading a comment by Deborah Coddington on Pundit (in reply to another woman poster there who she was having an argument with in the comments of a post) that suggested something to the effect that writers of opinion pieces in the Herald received commission on the number of times their articles were opened. This suggested that the holding back of releasing comments meant that they got more hits as people checked to see whether comments were there or not. I don’t know if this is true, but there is some logic in that approach (from the point of view of the writer) if it is.

  14. Tracey 14

    Lynn

    That the herald think it is being accused of bias as opposed to being accused of not investigating its stories and sources, not showing its info to the accused party prior to comment etc speaks volumes.

    • Anne 14.1

      One Herald commenter has said:

      David Cunliffe should “demand a written apology and published retraction”
      He should lodge a formal complaint to the NZ Press Council if this is not provided.

      Couldn’t agree more! It would be one complaint the Press Council would have to take very seriously otherwise their own reputation will be jeopardy…

      • Tracey 14.1.1

        the Labour Party president should make the complaint and seek compensation for the time wasted looking for documents(donations) which dont exist.

        Cunliffe should stay out of it saying things like

        “i am sorry the public has been let down by this poor piece of journalism. Labour is sorry for the distraction but more galvanised to bring issues that matter to the attention of nzers, with or without the herald.”

        • Kiwiri 14.1.1.1

          Yes, the Party President or someone on her or David’s behalf, or an assigned solicitor/spokesperson.

          A circuit breaker is needed to free up David from the Herald-Woodhouse-Key rubbish, and to allow David to campaign positively and advocate for Labour’s policies.

          • Anne 14.1.1.1.1

            Yes, that is a better idea. Leaves Cunliffe and co. to concentrate on policy announcements etc.

            I. for one, would be more than happy to donate to a Labour initiated fund so they could hire lawyers to fight the case for them without dipping into campaign funds. If the Herald comment section is any indication, I think there would be a substantial amount of money flowing in from non-members and even non Labour voters who nevertheless want to see a fair election campaign on a relatively even playing field.

  15. JohnB 15

    My Comment on NZH:

    As a long time reader of the NZ Herald, I’ve been able to accept the slow slide into grammar diarrhoea, the automatic postings of the AP stories online (with US spellings), and the generally ‘right wing vibe’ of the commentators (it’s a point of view). But when that crosses over into poor and biased reporting (whether for ‘conspiratorial’ motives, or because like Key you stick your finger into the wind to check how public opinion is blowing), then you lose all basis for your reputation as a national paper of record. This might have been forgettable 100 years ago in 1914 when there were few other newspapers (and yes, a reference to the Herald’s flip-flopping on the ‘German question’), but today there are many other news sources from which I can be informed. As a ‘consumer of news’, I no longer want to buy what you’re selling – it’s poor quality rubbish. Democracy demands balanced debate, and you don’t provide it. By that definition you’re no longer a newspaper, but a propaganda piece, whether in the service of profit or ideology. It’s time to bring some balance, moral fibre and sagacity into your news room, otherwise readers will leave in droves. Who knows, it may yield results

  16. ropata 16

    winners from this saga
    – herald sales of manufactured ‘news’
    – whaleoil’s claim to being a real journalist
    – national’s scandals (Oravida, Liu, Banks) are out of the news cycle

    losers
    – nz public
    – real jorunalism

    • lprent 16.1

      Exactly. Plus NZ Herald’s credibility as a news source. I think everyone is going to look pretty hard at whatever they produce over the next few years. I know I will be looking a lot harder at their stories, and I wasn’t a fan of them in the first place.

      • ropata 16.1.1

        I would expect journalists to have a reasonable IQ and critical thinking skills but it seems that the bar for publication has been lowered to tabloid standards.. i.e. any old gossip floating around

        Agree that whatever credibility NZH may have had is now in tatters. If they have any ethics or integrity they need to demonstrate a bit of independence from the old boys network, start doing their job, and question the media narratives from the rich and powerful.

        It’s journalism 101 people. Otherwise what the hell is the use of the so-called “fourth estate”?

  17. finbar 17

    A good piece by Frank Macskaskey in The Daily Blog is a good companion piece to the above post.

    • Kiwiri 17.1

      Thanks for pointing out Frank’s piece. I will re-read but quickly just at this point …

      “However, my [i.e. Frank’s] advice to Cunliffe and the Labour Party is to defer legal action until after 20 September. The Labour Party cannot afford distractions this close to an election.”

      On this side of the election, any preliminary steps towards legal action should be positioned or headed up in a way that frees up Cunliffe for positive, affirmative, good news campaigning by him. There should be a small team of people that can be referenced for comment (or to whom further queries can be put) if and when any stupid questions or statements from jonolists, or their idiotic friends, come up during the campaign.

    • ianmac 17.2

      And Frank had a short sharp comment under the Herald Editorial as did Phillip Ure, and others.

  18. The Herald’s agenda has become increasingly obvious. They are engaged in a cunning, devious, and finely crafted political conspiracy. Knowing how much trouble they’d be in if they were caught failing to do anything more than support National with full blown enthusiasm, they have thought long and hard about how they can give support and credibility to the opposition without alerting Slater, Ede, Farrar, and Joyce to their intentions. By engaging in the tackiest, flimsiest, and most transparently baseless attack campaign they could possibly imagine, the editorial staff at the Herald have found an ingenious way to motivate habitual non-voters to enrol and ditch this government, and to convince even the weariest and most moderate of left wingers that they must turn out for the election and vote for change.

    This is the only possible explanation for the smug, unapologetic, biased, and craven lines of attack that they are running against the New Zealand Labour Party. Nobody who possesses a legally sound frame of mind could believe that today’s editorial had any other purpose than that which I have outlined above, or that the Herald’s poorly researched and flimsily justified assertions could have been made with the intention that they be taken seriously. Tim Murphy and Shayne Currie are in fact moral and intellectual giants in tory gnomes’ clothing who have cunningly infiltrated the heart of the enemy camp. I just hope that by posting this, I don’t blow their cover, as I understand that they’ve recently redone the floor in the basement of the Northern Club. Digging it all back up again just to bury the pair of them alive for their treachery would be a terrible expense for that fine institution to face right now, what with the Atlas-like burden of Labour’s tax changes looming in the near future.

    Take courage, brave agents of change – on September the 21st, we will be thanking Tim Murphy and Shayne Currie for supplying the left with a much-needed turning point. I for one will send flowers – or leave them on the doorstep out front of the Northern Club.

  19. Jack 19

    Labour require a media crisis team to handle issues like the Dong Liu Affair, National walked Labour into this one and sat back laughing and watching them squirm when there was no substance to the allegations, this is what happens when you have a media source which is plaible and easily manipulated.

  20. NZ Femme 20

    Herald editor has just tweeted the following:

    “Donghua Liu – seems like some premature claims of the story ‘unravelling’ have been going on….”

    https://twitter.com/tmurphyNZH/status/482413071403462656

    *sigh – Getting ready for the next fizzing pile of poo.

  21. Jack 21

    No doubt more will be revealed over the weekend about the missing $150k in donations, hope Labour have found it or did someone just pocket the cash?

    • karol 21.1

      It was never about $150k. That figure included a boat ride for Liu’s staff, and some non-Labour stuff.

      left with some small change in multiple anonymous donations.

    • NZ Femme 21.2

      Have you sleepwalked through the last couple of days Jack? I understand they have sleep clinics for that kind of thing.

      Google is your friend – it allows you to check for egg on your face before entering the public arena. Today’s retraction in the herald would be a good place to start:

      “We regret having reported inflated and conflated dollar figures.”
      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11282539

      • Jack 21.2.1

        I was just being sarcastic in relation to the NZ Herald’s coverage of this whole affair, I think Dong Liu has been played like a fiddle by someone or some particular organisations???

        He is now a political football.

  22. Jilly Bee 22

    John Campbell started his half hour with a few pertinent questions mainly aimed at the Herald editorial. He then detailed the several visits he has made to Donghua Liu’s property [close to Mt Hobson, I would think], it ended with Mr Liu departing rapidly in his people mover. Made my day it did!

  23. Jrobin 23

    If it wasn’t premature and unravelling, then why did the editorial express regret over the exaggerated amount of donations claimed as fact. Tim Murphy has such faith in Woodhouse, Slater, Key, because they have been powerful. He feels safe behind their skirts. That could change rapidly if the public suddenly feel safe to express negativity towards Key. The polls have kept this in check, but they are in question too. Note the Nats are ignoring the polls so as to avoid “complacency” (RNZ this morning). Is this because they know something we don’t about the methodology used?
    There may be a pent up anger towards Key relating to asset sales, power prices, GCSB, inequality, child poverty, low wages, Pike River, Christchurch payouts, that is supressed because of the desire to fit in with the idea of the most popular PM ever. When people fall out of love with him and that illusion is dispelled it could get quite ugly, quite fast. Keep your horse saddled John, for a rapid getaway back to America.

  24. Sable 24

    Given the generally dismal public perception of journalists in this country, they rate alongside sex workers (I’m not sure why the latter rate so low in pubic perception, many are victims of circumstance but there you go) and sleazy politicians. I do not think self serving articles by the Herald or any one of the other MSM outlets has that much value in he public eye.

    I have noticed that even the bigger on line polls on sites like Stuff and Yahoo attract at most 5000 hits its safe to assume the actual viewership of these sites constitutes a small portion of the country’s overall population. And yet Labour and its supporters endlessly carp on about them. Did it occur to anyone this actually lends credence to their claims false or otherwise?

    The best thing Labour could do is publicly renounce them for the disingenuous creeps they are, point out the facts and then ignore them (Winston Peters is a master in kicking them to the curb, Cunliffe should take note). Refocus on issues that matter and make a effort to actually get their message out rather than chasing their tails (this is playing Nationals game).

    Where Labour in particular has failed is in getting its message out to constituents in my opinion is in the following areas:

    (1) Asset sales
    (2) TPPA (why is Labour less than emphatic in rejecting this?)
    (3) Spy laws (again why so silent?)
    (4) Lack of support for environmental issues (why did they vote down the Greens move to clean up NZ rivers)
    (5) Taxes-why do the most highly paid get a free ride in this country whilst the middle and working classes carry the tax burden
    (6) Immigration-we need to ensure those coming into NZ actually add value. There is also a need to ask why we are not retraining our own people.

    No post drops spelling out the problems and the solutions, on going newsletters, Youtube (only a rather uninspired web site Polity and a modest presence on sites like Twitter). I have no idea if they are using Facebook but they should be.

    Its not that people support National its more that they see no real alternative in Labour and this is Labour’s real Achilles heel.

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