Media Watch 14/4/15

By Rowan Williams

The Conservative Party is to launch its election manifesto on Tuesday, with the party’s pledge to re-introduce the policy of the ‘right-to-buy’ social housing receiving particular media spotlight. The policy, first introduced by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, would allow up to 1.3 million tenants to buy their housing association scheme homes at a discount, while a fund of £1 billion would be used to build new social housing. 800,000 housing association tenants are currently eligible to buy their properties at a discount, though the policy would extend the scheme to a further 500,000 people and increase the discount. At the Conservative’s manifesto launch event in Swindon, Prime Minister David Cameron hopes to appeal to working class voters with the policy. The Labour Party, whose manifesto launch on Monday placed an emphasis on fully accountable funding, has attacked the Conservative policy as costing an “unfunded” £4.5 billion. The Green Party is also set to launch its election manifesto today.

In Nigeria, ceremonies are being held to mark the one-year anniversary of the abduction of over 200 girls by Islamist terror group Boko Haram. One year after the abduction that led to the worldwide “Bring Back our Girls” campaign, a procession will be held in the capital, Abuja, with girls taking part to represent each missing girl. Since their abduction last year, sightings of the girls have been reported, though none have been verified. 50 of the missing girls were reportedly seen in the north-eastern town of Gwoza three weeks ago. Boko Haram states that the girls have been converted to Islam and married off. Nigerian authorities’ failure to rescue the girls has had a lasting damaging effect on the image of authorities and former President Goodluck Jonathan ,though the girls’ families now make up just a fraction of those affected by Boko Haram. The abductions brought worldwide attention to the actions of Boko Haram, a group that wishes to establish an Islamic caliphate across Nigeria.

China has released five women’s rights activists on bail, two lawyers have said. International human rights groups had launched a vocal campaign against the women’s detention. The five women had been taken into custody around the time of International Women’s Day on 8 March, on suspicion of provoking trouble. The international community, include EU and US figures, had expressed concerns over their detention. International rights groups are claiming the release as a victory for their pressure campaign.

The Papers

On the day the Conservative Party launches its election manifesto, politics and policy plans make the headlines again. The Times leads with news of Conservative plans to re-introduce the Thatcherite policy of the “Right to buy” social housing for up to 1.3 million families. Conservative strategists hope the policy will sway working class voters in key marginal seats, the paper writes. The Financial Times leads with the same story, writing that the Prime Minister is hoping to regain his “edge” on Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband. David Cameron will attempt to “seize back the political initiative” with the policy. The Independent also leads with the story, writing that Cameron is ‘banking on’ Thatcher’s legacy with the policy. Fears over a loss of social housing will be countered with a fund to build new social housing on brownfield sites, the paper writes. The Daily Telegraph leads with the headline “We are the true party of the working people”, an excerpt from the speech to be made by the Prime Minister today. In addition to the right-to-buy policy, minimum wage workers will receive a tax break, in what the paper describes as an “overture to voters on low incomes”. In other news, The Guardian leads with a call from the World Bank chief to end the subsidy on fossil fuels “for the sake of poor countries”. Poorer countries suffer more from extreme weather events linked to global warming, the paper writes.

British Media on China

On the release of activists: the release of five women’s rights activists by Chinese authorities received media coverage from the BBC, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph. The BBC notes that Chinese authorities “waited until the last possible moment” to release the activists before they would have been required to press ahead with a formal case, and that the arrests serve as a warning to women’s rights activists in China. The Daily Telegraph’s agency piece writes that the women’s detentions “were seen by rights groups as unusually harsh”, while The Guardian’s agency piece notes the chronic health conditions of some of those detained that raised particular concerns with rights groups.

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