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by MONITOR
THERE are some media stories that do not add up. It's difficult to see what's wrong with them but, somehow, they just don't seem quite right. One such was the protest of 83-year-old Elizabeth Winkfield against the increase in her council tax on her home in Westward Ho! and her readiness to go to jail rather than pay it. The story quickly made the headlines and John Prescott found himself on the defensive when he was asked about the case on the BBC's Breakfast With Frost. But those who looked carefully at her complaint began to think there was something odd about it. She had not claimed relief on her tax bill to which she was entitled; if she had done so, the basis of her refusal might have disappeared. THEN other doubts set in - about the amount of attention Ms Winkfield was getting, if not about the validity of her complaint. When a little digging unearthed an association with the publicist Max Clifford the alarm bells started ringing. Never one to miss an opportunity to exploit a story, Mr Clifford had seized his chance. As he admitted later, “You don't have to be a brain surgeon, do you? A little old lady of 83, who's bright, and got principles, etc. etc. I planted it. I knew it was front page.” But how did Mr Clifford become involved? He does PR work for the UK Independence Party which alerted him to the story because Ms Winkfield is a supporter of the party in Devon. And so a news story which had the Government on the run over rises in council taxes suddenly was not what it seemed, and disappeared as quickly as it had first appeared.