The Fail on Sunday has fallen foul of its readers yet again, with a headline that begged for ridicule the moment it was released into the community. Here it is:
The worst crisis since when?
The Flail seems to be suffering from selective amnesia. As many commenters – especially on Twitter – have pointed out, the worst crisis since the abdication was probably World War II. Does anybody remember that little scuffle?
But then, what can you expect from the Mail? The abdication involved a Nazi sympathiser (Edward VIII) and at the time, the newspaper was run by a Nazi sympathiser too.
Edward VIII met Hitler – and was one of the few people who were delighted to do so.
And what exactly was this “worst crisis”? It was the threat of a Labour/SNP deal that, according to Labour leader Ed Miliband’s categorical assurances, will not happen.
The good people on Twitter saw through the headline immediately – of course – and set about undermining it with extreme vigour. There followed a series of candidates for ‘worst crisis’ – some in pictures. See for yourself:
There’s no hot dinner, and you’re the one who has to tell Clarkson #WorstCrisisSinceTheAbdication (Ian Fraser).
How about this one?
Left the wean [child] with Nicola Sturgeon #WorstCrisisSinceTheAbdication (LynoSNP2016).
Or this one, from screenwriter, novelist and recent Doctor Who scriptwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce?
Button Moon exposed as cruel hoax! There’s no such place!!! :-0 #WorstCrisisSinceTheAbdication
The Guardian‘s Patrick Wintour made a serious point: “Home Secretary should be entitled to display her ignorance of history but not to question the legitimacy of a free and fair election in UK.”
Let’s give cartoonist Gary Baker the last word – on a serious point: “It’s a good job Theresa May hasn’t got serious things to sort like child abuse claims otherwise her talk of ‘abdication’ would seem puerile.”
Yes indeed. What is happening about the Director of Public Prosecutions and Lord Janner – and why is the Home Secretary wasting everybody’s time on this instead?
Emily Thornberry and the image she tweeted [Image: BBC].
Here’s an alternative view on the resignation of Labour’s now-former shadow attorney general, Emily Thornberry. You’ll recall that she unfortunately tweeted a shot of a house festooned with St George flags, with a white van parked outside, accompanied by an off-colour comment (or at least, one that could be interpreted in such a way). The right-wing media jumped on it and Ed Miliband asked her to resign.
Vox Political took the view that her resignation was in the best interests of the Labour Party, especially as her background did not suggest a person who was particularly well-disposed towards the working classes.
Then Peter Bowman posted the following on the Vox Political Facebook page, and in the interests of fairness it is getting an airing here as well. See what you think of his interpretation:
“I really don’t know where to begin. I am so exasperated with this nation’s press, radio and TV media. Emily Thornberry’s tweet was an error, and as leader of our party, Ed had no choice to do what he did.
“Or should I put it like this: ‘Damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t’?
“The Sun started this Tory-biased media ball rolling. The Sun could say in a similar vein, as it did some years ago, ‘It’s The Sun Wot did It’. As for these Tory-leaning media being representatives of the conscious beliefs of Britain’s working classes, well, that is too funny to even contemplate.
“I just by chance caught a part of an LBC (London Broadcasting Company) radio interview with Conservative MP Michael Fabricant, who also had a twitter incident in his past. He reminded the host, Julia Hartley-Brewer, that Ms Thornberry came from a council house background – therefore how can she be classed as part of the Islington Set by the Tory Press? Thank you Mr Fabricant.
“Even with this, the host asked callers to ring in if they thought that Labour has become the ‘wine and couscous set’.
“On Sky News there is a strand called ‘Stand up and be counted’, in which two opposing young party activists give their opinions against each other. The UKIP rep, though young, was aggressive, rude and did not allow the young Labour rep time to counter his arguments, which were, to say the least, absurd. He suggested that it was Labour who were the racist party and did not understand working class Britain.
“The Labour rep had to remind him that it was Farage who had an Oxford education and was a stock broker – and his new MPs could not be called working class.
“And the Mail on Sunday (November 23, 2014) maps out where Labour’s leadership resides in North London, on top of which, a top Tory is now saying, ‘Shut the doors, Britain is full of immigrants’.
“If anybody despises working class Britain, it’s the Tory leaning press and media.
“This nation, by the way, is made up of immigrants – going back to The Angles, Saxons and Celts; then the Romans, the French and Vikings.
“Ed and Labour have a fight on their hands with all this propaganda weighed against us. We must not fall for these right-wing Tory and UKIP traps. Ed and Labour have to win in 2015.
“If they don’t it will be a Zero Future for all of Britain’s citizens for the next five years – except the Top five per cent, that is – and that is a very frightening prospect, to be sure.”
Charismatic? It seems unlikely that UKIP’s Bill Etheridge could successfully emulate Hitler’s speech delivery, let alone any of his students [Image: Mirror Online].
It is with great disappointment that this blog acknowledges reports of a UKIP member who – we are told – advised prospective party candidates to learn from the speaking style of Adolf Hitler.
Let there be no mistake, though – my disappointment originates not in the fact that Bill Etheridge MEP allegedly made the remarks in the first place, but in the universal disparagement of this as a Bad Thing.
According to the Mail on Sunday (so take this with a pinch of salt), Mr Etheridge told UKIP Youth Conference members in Birmingham: “Look back to the most magnetic and forceful public speaker possibly in history.
“When Hitler gave speeches, and many of the famous ones were at rallies, at the start he walks, back and forth, looked at people – there was a silence, he waited minutes just looking out at people, fixing them with his gaze.”
It is true that I enjoy criticising UKIP and its members’ crazy ideas very much and take as many opportunities as possible to do so.
I also enjoy a good laugh.
The prospect of Kippers strutting about like demented chickens, giving the evil eye to all and sundry, has been welcomed with hilarity at VP Towers – as has the possibility that this behaviour may scare off potential voters before the candidates have uttered a single word.
It seems Mr Etheridge has failed to grasp the fact that this speech style worked for Hitler because – like it or not – he was immensely charismatic and could make it work for him, and his speeches were tailored to reinforce the effect. With the best will in the world, it is hard to imagine Brummie Kippers achieving the same feats of mesmerism.
Notice also that Mr Etheridge did not mention the other notable characteristic of Hitler’s speeches – flatulence.
As above, so below; when Hitler started to speak, slowly and quietly, he would begin delivering short gassy messages from the rear, in similar tempo and at similar volume. As his speech became louder and faster, so did his sphincter.
How surprising that Mr Etheridge omitted to mention this!
Did he not realise it would bring the house down if one of his students, finishing a speech, accompanied his final line of something like “We need breathing-room!” with a 21-bum salute?
Britain’s biggest food bank provider has seen a surge in donations following a Mail on Sunday article criticised the charity for failing to run proper checks on people claiming food parcels, according to The Guardian.
“Before the article there had only been about 250 public donations since the Trussell Trust launched its JustGiving page in late January. But as of late yesterday afternoon, the number of donations had jumped to over 2,000, worth more than £19,000. Several donors cited the Mail article as the reason for making a donation,” the story states.
It continues: “‘The Mail story appalled me. This is the least I can do to apologise for their crime,’ said Anonymous after donating £10.
“Another, Spitting Feathers, said: ‘I am incensed by the disgraceful article. Call this journalism? I don’t. I’m not a Christian and admire the work being done by human beings for their fellow human beings. Thank you.’
“As for the Mail article, the Trust said in a statement – given to the paper ahead of the article – that they disapproved of the methods the paper used to get its story.
“”The Trussell Trust feels that these undercover methods, used by Daily Mail journalists, to enter the premises of our voluntarily run food banks is an unacceptable attempt to tarnish not only the name of the Trussell Trust, but also the valuable efforts of the 30,000 volunteers who selflessly give up their time to provide a valuable service to people in real need.’
“Following the surge in donations, first reported on the BuzzFeed news site, the Trussell Trust tweeted: ‘We’re blown away by the response to the Daily Mail article on Twitter! Over £15,000 raised for Trussell Trust’s Easter appeal #THANKYOU’.”
Who do you bank with? This piece of public opinion was picked up from Twitter [Author: Unknown].
Isn’t it a shame that on of our national Sunday newspapers has chosen to disrupt everybody’s enjoyment of our Easter eggs with a specious attempt to expose abuses of food banks and make operator the Trussell Trust look hypocritical?
Isn’t it also a shame that the Mail on Sunday didn’t make a few inquiries into the procedure for dealing with people who turn up at food banks without having been referred?
The paper’s reporters and editor could have, at least, opened a dictionary and looked up the meaning of the word “charity”.
Unfortunately for reporters Simon Murphy and Sanchez Manning, both situations are – in fact – allowed, because food banks must be flexible in the way they deal with individual cases. They would have known that if they had done their homework – as yr obdt srvt (who’s writing this) did at several meetings on the organisation of food banks here in Powys.
The paper’s investigation claims that there were “inadequate checks on who claims the vouchers, after a reporter obtained three days’ worth of food simply by telling staff at a Citizens Advice Bureau – without any proof – that he was unemployed”.
It turned out that this person had to fill out a form providing his name, address, date of birth, phone number and the reason for his visit before an assessor asked him why he needed food bank vouchers. In contradiction of the introduction to the story, he explained – not simply that he was unemployed, but that he had been out of work for several months and the harsh winter had left him strapped for cash and food. He said his wife had left her job and was not earning and that they had two children. These lies were sufficient to win food bank vouchers.
What the report didn’t say was how the details given by reporter Ross Slater would have been used afterwards. The CAB would have booked him in for a further interview with a debt advisor, to which he would have had to bring documentary evidence of his situation. When he didn’t turn up, he would have been identified as a fraud. The food bank would also have taken his details, to be fed back into the referral system. Job Centre Plus would have picked up on the fact that he isn’t unemployed. From this point on, he would have been identified as a fraud and refused further service.
You see, it is true that food banks run on a voucher system, but that is only a part of the scheme. The questions asked of people who need vouchers are used to ensure that they get the help they need to avoid having to come back – that’s why they’re asked. They also weed out abusers like Mr Slater.
If the paper’s editor had looked in a dictionary, he might have seen charity defined as “voluntary provision of help to people in need, or the help provided” in the first instance. However, reading further, he would have seen “sympathy or tolerance in judging” listed as well. It seems the Mail on Sunday would have no such sympathy and would have deserving cases turned away to starve.
It is telling, also, that the paper had to go to Citizens Advice to get its evidence. Far more food bank vouchers are handed out in the Job Centre Plus, where all a citizen’s circumstances are available to advisors. But not one word is said about the fact that the vast majority of food bank referrals are for people in real need and not newspaper reporters.
The paper also stated: “Staff at one centre gave food parcels to a woman who had visited nine times in just four months, despite that particular centre’s own rules stipulating that individuals should claim no more than three parcels a year.”
It continued: “Individuals experiencing severe financial hardship are able to claim food vouchers but there are no clear criteria on who should be eligible. Once received, the vouchers can be exchanged for three days’ worth of food at an allotted centre.
“The Trussell Trust has a policy that an individual can claim no more than nine handouts in a year, but undercover reporters found this limit varied in different branches.”
No – it is far more likely that it varied according to the circumstances of the person who needed the help. Rigid rules, such as one that limits people to only three visits, mean those who need the most help would be cut off while they still needed assistance. People working in food banks would be aware of who these were, and would be more likely to be tolerant towards them.
Meanwhile, the other support services – Job Centre Plus, Citizens Advice, Social Services and so on – would be working to help them. With some people, it simply takes longer. It should be easy for anyone to think of reasons why this may be the case.
This may also explain the situation in which a worker at a Trussell Trust food bank said people “bounce around” locations to receive more vouchers. The assessment system is a way of monitoring these people and determining whether they need extra help.
It is not true that the criteria are not clear – the paper is misleading with this claim. Food banks, the charities running them, and referring organisations all have to agree on the circumstances in which they permit people to receive parcels. You really can’t just walk in the door and expect to get a free handout. That’s why the questions are asked and forms filled out – they will check up on everybody.
Another claim – that “volunteers revealed that increased awareness of food banks is driving a rise in their use” is unsubstantiated, and is clearly an attempt to support the government’s claim that this is the case. But it is silly. Of course starving people will go to a food bank after they have been told it exists; that doesn’t mean they aren’t starving.
And the paper wrongly said the Trussell Trust had claimed that more than 913,000 people received three days’ emergency food from its banks in 2013-14, compared with 347,000 in the previous financial year. This is a misreading of the way the charity records its work, as the Trussell Trust records visits, not visitors. It would be hard to work out exactly how many people attended because some will have visited just once, others twice, a few for the full three times, and some would have required extra help.
The claim that many visitors were asylum-seekers is silly because food banks were originally set up for foreign people who were seeking asylum in the UK and had no money or means of support.
Of course it would be wrong to say that nobody is trying to abuse the system. There are good people and bad people all over the country, and bad people will try to cheat. Look at Maria Miller, Iain Duncan Smith (Betsygate), George Osborne (and his former paddock), Andrea Leadsom’s tax avoidance, Philip Hammond’s tax avoidance, Charlotte Leslie who took cash to ask Parliamentary questions – to name but a few.
The Trussell Trust has agreed to investigate the newspaper’s allegations – but it is important to remember that these were just a few instances of abuse, and only claimed – by a newspaper that is infamous for the poor quality of its reporting.
Nothing said in the article should be used to undermine the vital work of food banks in helping people to survive, after the Conservative-led Coalition government stole the safety net of social security away from them.
UPDATE: Already the Mail on Sunday is facing a public backlash against its ill-advised piece. A petition on the Change.org website is calling for the reporter who claimed food bank vouchers under false pretences in order to make a political point to be sacked. Vox Political has mixed feelings about this – it targets a person who was sent out to do a job by others who are more directly to blame for the piece, but then he did it of his own free will and this action brings all newspaper reporters into disrepute. Consider carefully.
Cast your mind back to October last year and you may remember the big controversy was the way the Daily Mail shot off its (metaphorical) mouth about Labour leader Ed Miliband’s father in spectacular fashion – and spectacularly shot itself in the foot by doing so.
Yesterday, the Press Complaints Commission released its monthly complaint summary for January 2014. The PCC is dominated by Daily Mail personnel – Paul Dacre, the Mail’s editor, sits on the PressBoF committee that dominates the PCC and also chairs the Editors’ Code Committee. Meanwhile, one of the three directors of the company that owns both the PCC and its planned successor, IPSO, is Peter Wright, editor emeritus at the Mail group – so it should be no surprise that the most interesting part of the report was tucked away at the end.
This was an acknowledgement that the PCC had received no less than 14 complaints from third parties (people not involved in the story) about the Ralph Miliband article, ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’. In its summary, Inforrm’s Blog stated: “We suspect this was one of the most complained-about stories of the last 12 months or so, but of course that’s not really clear from the PCC data.”
Thanks to the number-crunchers at Inforrm, we can see that the Daily Mail incurred 12 breaches of the Editors’ Code – more than double the five incurred by its nearest rival: The Mail on Sunday.
That’s right. Mail Group newspapers dominate the table with 53.1 per cent of the total number of breaches recorded against national newspapers and large regionals.
But it seems Inforrm is right to say the PCC exists “mainly to protect [its] paymasters from censure, keeping the public at arms length with a cynical strategy of ‘complaint’ fatigue’, that means Code breaches are not properly recorded and adjudications are avoided at all costs”. All the complaints against the Mail were said to have been resolved away with sufficient remedial action.
We learn two things from this:
The Press Complaints Commission is worse than useless at policing the UK’s print media.
The reading public is nowhere near as stupid as the Mail‘s bosses would like to think. People of all political persuasions genuinely despised the Mail for its treatment of Mr Miliband. Former Conservative cabinet minister John Moore said: “The Daily Mail is telling lies about a good man who I knew. The people of this country are good and decent too. They do not want the Daily Mail attacking the dead relatives of politicians to make political points.”
The text states: “Don’t be an accomplice. Denounce child abuse.” It doesn’t say “… unless you think it’s being done by a Conservative”.
The British public are not as stupid as some of our so-called ‘leaders’ would like to think.
Despite the best efforts of people like David Mellor, the editors and writers at the Mail on Sunday, and I’ll even include David Cameron (because I find it suspicious how quickly attempts were made to discredit the allegations after his This Morning interview), it seems most people have rejected their claims that child abuse victim Steve Messham is a lone crank.
We believe him. Somebody sexually abused him, and he had reason to believe it was a particular person with Conservative connections.
But the attempt to cover up his case may still succeed, because child abuse is now toxic to the BBC, and other reporters will hesitate to report it for fear they’ll get the same treatment as the Corporation.
Possible abusers from other walks of life and other political parties are still fair game, I notice, leading to the possibility that followers of the news will get an unbalanced view that the other parties are full of abusers and the Conservatives are not. That, I think, is dangerous, especially when it comes to elections.
There is no doubt that the BBC has been seriously harmed by the Newsnight child abuse story – even though it never named any suspects and Mr Messham’s claim that a person with Conservative connections was involved may yet prove accurate. But the most harmful aspect of this is that attention has been diverted away from an investigation into child abuse. And we all know it.
On Twitter, ‘Mrs VB’ pointed out that it was “utterly depressing to see the BBC headlines all about the bloody BBC rather than the widescale abuse of children in the care system.”
Columnist Owen Jones agreed: “Newsnight screwed up, but children who were raped have been forgotten. It is a disgrace.”
It IS a disgrace. But not one that has gone unnoticed. The ‘Comment’ column attached to the Mail on Sunday‘s smear job against Mr Messham showed clearly that the public are not going to put up with this nonsense.
‘Loraine’ wrote: “If I was asked to talk about tiny details of a long time ago, my memory would not be so accurate either. If there was only one victim claiming all kinds of things, then so be it. BUT there isn’t, IS THERE!!! A deeply horrible thing happened to this man when he was a vulnerable child; I’m not at all suprised if there may be residual issues. And your attempt to darken his character by claiming criminal allegations against him, [of] which by the way he was acquitted, as mentioned in this article, beggars belief.”
‘Belinda’ added: “No wonder abuse and rape victims dont come forward – they are all terrified this is what will happen to them; they will be called liars. You should be ashamed, Daily Mail; you are contributing to helping his abusers avoid justice.”
‘Null’ commented: “Stephen Messham has NOTHING to apologise for; it is truly shocking the way this poor man is being vilified and yet again unable to defend himself. He never mentioned Lord McAlpine. Newsnight never mentioned Lord McAlpine. This is a predictable cover up.”
And someone calling themselves ‘p2244a’ summed the situation up ver well: “Journalists need to stop playing with this person’s mind. Heartless cowards who will not listen to anyone who was abused because it is too ‘dirty’ to talk about.
“Mistaken identity of the photo caused the problem when the person, holding the photo for Mr Messham to see, wrongly named the man! Mr Messham thought the person who abused him was DEAD!”
Gerard Elias QC: “Does the name McAlpine mean anything to you.”
Steven Messham: “Yes, sir.”
Elias: “In what context?”
Messham: “I was also abused by him sexually.”
Sir Ronald Waterhouse: “Is the person you referred to alive or dead?”
Messham: “I believe he is dead.”
This article also suggests that the ‘David Rose’ who co-wrote the Mail on Sunday smear piece is a former MI5 agent. The plot thickens…
It adds: “The Waterhouse report contains Steven Messham’s statement to the police. In it, Steven testified that his abuser ‘had several cars and a chauffeur.’
“The abusers would wait for Steven Messham at the bottom of a lane near Bryn Estyn children’s home when Steven had a late pass from the home. Messham was then abused in the car in a lay-by, and at the Crest Hotel in Wrexham.
“Local Welsh councillor Keith Gregory has testified that boys from Bryn Estyn would be taken to the homes of two McAlpine family members in the area – Gerwyn Hall and Marchwiel Hall, both a few miles from Wrexham town centre. Gerwyn Hall was occupied by Jimmie McAlpine, who died in 1991. Marchwiel Hall was the home of Jimmie’s sister.
“Jimmie McAlpine’s ID fits to the letter, with his chauffeurs, his massive car collection, the house where he lived, the hotel he frequented, and the golf club membership he shared at the time with the two leaders at Bryn Estyn, both of whom went to jail on multiple charges of buggery.”
So there you are. It is possible that Mr Messham was abused by a now-deceased member of the McAlpine family. I feel comfortable in suggesting this as it is impossible to libel the dead (note the current attack on Cyril Smith).
So why have we been told that he is a crank? That his allegations are the false ramblings of an unhinged mind? That (by implication) there are no paedophiles among the Conservatives and that the party does not need to be investigated?
Sonia Poulton, writing in the Express, tells us she has compiled a list of 132 “utterly shameless” Establishment child abusers, including MPs, lords and local councillors, and that “a similar list” exists for police officers.
“I don’t believe these lists are complete,” she writes. “This is not conjecture or media gossip but people, primarily men, who have been prosecuted for child sex offences throughout the UK.
“Many of these abusers still represent constituents and are ‘serving the public’. At the very least we should know who they are, where they are and if their public decisions are influenced by the greater good or their own twisted perversions.”
Meanwhile, attempts are being made to tranquillise us by making us think that child abuse investigations are still taking place and getting results – so we hear that a former primary school headmaster has been jailed for 15 years after he was convicted of raping and indecently assaulting an under-age girl. Malcolm Ford, 66, committed the offences more than 20 years ago, Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard.
Fair enough, but he was not a politician.
And there have been allegations against the late Liberal MP, Cyril Smith. Like Jimmy Savile (and the member of the McAlpine family that Mr Messham accused), he is dead, so it is safe to make the claim publicly.
Fair enough, but he was not a Conservative.
The situation with Mr Messham reminds me of one I underwent with the police a few years ago. I made an allegation and backed it up by quoting the relevant section of the relevant law. The response I got back quoted a completely different section of the same legislation in order to reject what I was saying. Despite my protestations, they stuck to their (erroneous) guns and I was eventually told I would need to seek a judicial review if I wanted to take it any further. I don’t have any money, so that was the end of that.
Here we have a man who made an allegation against another man (now dead) – but opportunists have twisted it to make it seem he was referring to a living man who is (as far as we know) innocent, in order to discredit the claim and the man who made it. And they refuse to countenance any argument other than their own.
The attack on the BBC was just a side-effect which they will, no doubt, believe was very lucky. Look at how badly people like Jeremy Hunt wanted to strengthen Sky – and Rupert Murdoch’s bid to own it – and weaken the Corporation in the past.
Far more serious is the attack on the credibility of anybody making claims that they suffered sex attacks as a child, especially if their claim implicates members of – you guessed it – the Conservative Party.
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