Mail on Sunday made false claims about Labour's tax plans

Press regulator rules story, since used in Tory campaign literature, was inaccurate

The Mail on Sunday (MoS) falsely claimed that Labour was planning to scrap a tax exemption on homeowners, in a prominent story that has since been used by the Conservatives as part of their election campaign.

The press regulator Ipso ruled that the newspaper’s reporting was inaccurate and “could cause significant concern to readers that, under a Labour government, they could be liable to pay a tax they are exempt from under current legislation”.

The MoS headline was then used in Conservative campaign literature and shared by Tory politicians on social media.

The story said Labour wanted “to scrap the capital gains tax exemption on main homes”, citing a report called Land for the Many, written for Labour by a group of academics and campaigners.

Contrary to the newspaper’s claims, the third-party report explicitly rejected proposals to scrap the capital gains tax exemption for main homes, and instead recommended an annual levy on any increase in value of a property.

The erroneous article was published in June, and the press regulator ruled on the inaccuracy in November. The MoS must now publish Ipso’s ruling on page 2 of its print edition and on the top half of its website for 24 hours. But because the paper sought a review of the process by which the decision was made, publication of the correction has been delayed until after the election.

The authors of the Land for the Many report, which was edited by the Guardian columnist George Monbiot, have gone public with the ruling before Thursday’s vote.

Monbiot said: “We are pleased that Ipso has now imposed a major sanction. But I fear the damage has been done. The false claim has been implanted in people’s minds that Labour is coming for your home.”

The false claims were repeated on Conservative party campaign websites such as Cost of Corbyn, where the policy was described as a “movers tax”. They were also cited on the spoof Labour Manifesto website produced by the Tories, which was promoted heavily with paid-for online adverts.

The MoS argued that although the Land for the Many report did not propose scrapping the exemption for main homes, the article was not inaccurate as the report proposed an alternative tax on the gains in capital value of main homes.

However, Ipso’s complaints committee concluded that the MoS “inaccurately reported information featured clearly within a publicly accessible policy document”.

It said: “The correction offered by the newspaper was insufficient to address this significant inaccuracy, which had formed a central point in the article. In light of these considerations, the committee concluded that an adjudication was the appropriate remedy.”

Separately, the regulator confirmed on Monday that it had received a complaint regarding an article in the Sun claiming that Jeremy Corbyn was at the centre of an “extraordinary network of hard-left extremists”. The Sun quietly removed the article from its website after it was pointed out that the underlying research included information from far-right and conspiracy websites.

The story published on Saturday was based on a diagram originally called the “traitors chart”, which was put together by “a former British intelligence officer”. It linked the Labour leader to hundreds of individuals through his connections to organisations as diverse as the Stop the War Coalition and supposed leftwing factions in the British Medical Association.

A spokesperson for the Sun declined to comment on why the article, which carried the political editor Tom Newton Dunn’s byline, had been deleted from the website without acknowledgement. The online link now redirects to a page suggesting it was removed for legal reasons.

Peter Geoghegan, of the political website openDemocracy, which was listed as one of the points on the diagram, tweeted last week: “I’ve never complained to Ipso before. But I’m very tempted to now. Unless Tom Newton Dunn and the Sun retract this cheap smear immediately. Myself and my colleagues have been nominated for ‘investigation of year’ at 2019 British press awards and much more.”


Jim Waterson Media editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Mail on Sunday apologises for 'Muslim gangs' attack immigration van story
Article rewritten to remove references to Muslims and correction made both in paper and online after complaint to press regulator Ipso

Harriet Sherwood Religion correspondent

20, Sep, 2015 @6:01 PM

Article image
Mail on Sunday defends ‘bombshell’ memoirs about Ed Miliband
Ex-mayor of Doncaster Martin Winter claims ‘bumbling oddball’ Miliband knew about 2008 economic crash before it happened

Josh Halliday

18, Jan, 2015 @8:17 PM

Article image
Harry says Mail on Sunday underplayed gravity of false claim as libel case settled
Duke settles libel case with paper and Mail Online over stories about his relationship with armed forces

Archie Bland

01, Feb, 2021 @2:44 PM

Article image
Press regulator censures Mail on Sunday for global warming claims
Mail on Sunday criticised by Ipso for article claiming global warming data had been exaggerated to win Paris climate change agreement

Fiona Harvey

17, Sep, 2017 @2:37 PM

Article image
Why is Meghan suing the Mail on Sunday?
Action comes after newspaper has published numerous embarrassing stories about her

Jim Waterson Media editor

02, Oct, 2019 @1:58 PM

Article image
Hugh Grant accuses Mail on Sunday of phone hacking

Actor also says Daily Mail may have acted illegally, but both titles reject claims made at Leveson inquiry

Dan Sabbagh

21, Nov, 2011 @10:19 PM

Article image
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, threatens to sue Mail on Sunday
Paper published letter from royal saying father Thomas Markle had ‘broken her heart’

Jim Waterson Media editor

23, Feb, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
Timeline: Mail on Sunday and private investigator Steve Whittamore

How events have unfolded in relationship between newspaper and private investigator

Josh Halliday

11, Jan, 2012 @7:05 PM

Article image
Liz Kendall hits out at Mail on Sunday over question about her weight
Labour leadership candidate – described in newspaper interview as a ‘slinky brunette’ – says it is unbelievable how female politicians are treated

Frances Perraudin

19, Jul, 2015 @2:48 PM

Article image
Meghan wins copyright claim against Mail on Sunday over letter
Duchess granted summary judgment after lawyers argue publisher advanced its defence dishonestly

Caroline Davies

05, May, 2021 @2:34 PM