M&S board challenged by migrant rights campaigners at AGM over ‘fuelling racism & xenophobia’ via Daily Mail

Tuesday, 11 July, 2017
  • Letter to board calling for Daily Mail advertising to be dropped signed by 72 anti-racist & migrant rights groups presented to board at AGM

  • CEO Steve Rowe opens his address at AGM with defence of Mail advertising

  • Mobile billboard visits numerous M&S sites across London calling for end to Daily Mail advertising

Free print quality photos are available here. Credit David Mirzoeff/Global Justice Now/SumOfUs

The M&S Annual General Meeting was subject to protests today over its advertising links with the Daily Mail, with a coalition of 72 anti-racist and migrant rights groups signing an open letter to the board which accused M&S’s financial support for the Daily Mail of “actively contributing to the growing tide of harassment and violence that migrants (including asylum seekers and refugees), Muslims and people of colour are facing on the streets of the UK.” [full text of the letter and signatories can be found here

Copies of the letter, whose signatories included Migrant Rights Network, the NUS and the Institute of Relations, were handed out to shareholders who were attending the meeting, who also walked beneath a large banner which said: ‘M&S Stop advertising in the Daily Mail - Don’t support hate and racism.”

A combined petition, coordinated by Sum Of Us and Global Justice Now, of over 63,000 people who had contacted M&S CEO Steve Rowe calling on the supermarket chain to drop Daily Mail advertising was also presented to the board during the AGM.

In his opening address CEO Steve Rowe was already on the defensive about the controversial advertising arrangement, acknowledging the protests outside the AGM, but saying that the views of the M&S board are impartial in order to protect the brand. 

Aisha Dodwell, campaigner at Global Justice Now who was present inside the AGM said: “Marks and Spencer are badly out of step with the significant numbers of their shoppers who are revolted by the tide of racism and violent xenophobia that is being stoked by toxic stories in the Daily Mail. We’re seeing record spikes being recorded in the UK of hate crimes against migrants, and a number of studies have drawn links between this and the culture of fear being created by toxic tabloids.” 

Sondhya Gupta, campaigner at Sum of Us who was protesting outside the AGM said: ‘Papers like the Daily Mail publish hate-filled and misinformed pieces that cause real harm to real people. SumOfUs members on both sides of the Atlantic are demanding companies including M&S don’t spend the profits they make from us in a way that causes direct damage to individuals and our communities — whether that’s through advertising in the British tabloid press or on Breitbart, the media wing of Trump’s administration.’

A recent United Nations report singled out the UK’s media as being “uniquely aggressive in its campaigns against refugees and migrants,” and last week it was revealed that the highest spike in racist and religious hate crimes ever recorded took place after the EU referendum.  Recent campaign groups like Stop Funding Hate have been putting pressure on brands with strong ethical guidelines that advertise in newspapers like the Daily Mail, arguing that, “customers are becoming increasingly aware that by shopping with brands who advertise in divisive newspapers, they are inadvertently funding their own demonisation, or that of their family, friends and neighbours.”

In November 2016 the toy company Lego announced it was ending its promotional dealswith the Daily Mail over its coverage of migration and refugees. More recently 935 companies have withdrawn advertising from the far-right website Breitbart following a public backlash and the work of the Sleeping Giants campaign and SumOfUs, resulting in a 90% drop of adverts on the site. Across the UK activists have been hiding mini-leafletsinside Marks & Spencer products that draw the links between the anti-migrant hysteria being fuelled by the Daily Mail and M&S products