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Michael Burleigh
Tuesday 22nd September 2009
How Free Is Free?

The Guardian has revealed the true cost of the allegedly advertiser-subsidised local propaganda sheets which flop through the letterbox along with endless flyers for pizzas and takeaway meals.Something called East London Life actually costs the council tax payers of Tower Hamlets around £400,000 a year, a truly outrageous sum for what amounts to a a local Labour propaganda sheet in one of the poorest boroughs in London. That's apparently 25p per household.

Here in Lambeth we get something called Lambeth Life. Its full of grim tidings about gun and knife crime or police measures against crack dens and vicious dogs, with a few jolly multi-culti food or music happenings to reassure us that everything here is wonderful. Coverage of Mayor Johnson doing anything other than opening a playground is invariably grudging. No one asked me, or any of my fellow citizens, whether or not I wanted to subsidise a propaganda sheet issued by the Labour party. All councils already have websites, on which I can easily read what they are doing to waste my council tax already.

This is surely an area any Conservative government should tackle on Day One, as part of a more general eradication of the institutional imprint of New Labour.

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September 23rd, 2009
9:09 AM
I appreciate that these things are expensive and you might not be interested, but if done right they are useful and effective. The Southwark version is actually pretty good, especially for poorer families, to inform them of the free stuff they're invited to. And it's not like scrapping them necessarily equates to savings - Bo-Jo spent almost as much on a pointless colour-changing rebrand as the Londoner used to cost.

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About Michael Burleigh

Michael Burleigh is a member of the government's senior advisory group on commemorating the centennial of the First World War. His most recent book is Moral Combat (Harper Press, 2010). 

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