The Daily will now be taking a well-earned break, and we’ll be back at some point next week. In the meantime, a Merry Christmas to you all!
Christmas is always like a shorter version of the summer silly season for the media, but the usually more sensible Guardian seems to have gone slightly overboard in its efforts to fight the malaise this year.
First of all was their seven-month infiltration of the BNP. It was interesting, but the relevation that the BNP are racist is hardly the scoop of the year. Perhaps a seven-month infiltration of the Vatican and exposé of Papal Catholicism is scheduled for next year.
The fascists’ techniques for encrypting emails, secret rendez-vous and the like are interesting for those of us who actively fight them on a regular basis but unlikely to be compelling for the average reader. Perhaps the most damning factoid – that the membership list includes an assessment of the racial background of the members – was only mentioned in passing.
And what we really wanted was a big list of all the middle-class members that the BNP had apparently recruited. Instead, only a few particularly noteworthy individuals were thus exposed, though the inclusion of a member of the London Tourist Board who wanted to keep out foreigners was certainly a highlight.
Overall, you couldn’t help but suspect that the investigation had been brought to its conclusion to a deadline, despite not getting quite as much as hoped, in order to fill up pre-Christmas front pages.
Even worse was this weekend’s front page headline “Religion does more harm that good – poll”. This was a poll conducted by the Guardian, again an example of the media trying to generate news rather than report it, in advance of the Christmas lull in order to fill up headline space.
But the poll did not actually ask “Does religion do more harm than good?” The headline was instead a logical and linguistic contortion designed to disguise the fact that the Guardian had asked two different questions – whether religion causes division and tension; and whether it is a force for good. Unsurprisingly, there was a majority for both propositions, but a larger majority on the first. But that does not actually add up to evidence that most people think “religion does more harm than good”.
We don’t want to get in to a debate about religion at The Daily, but we do object to the abuse of polling data in lieu of hard facts. You expect poll manipulation from politicians, but the journos are meant to scrutinise it rather than join in themselves because they can’t be bothered to get any real news.
A note to the Guardian – if we wanted to read made-up stories about polls rather than proper news, we’d buy the Independent.
The biennial battle for the yoof spot on Labour’s NEC is ready to kick off in the New Year, bringing a nostalgic tear to this correspondent’s eye for some of the hilarious antics through which previous elections were stitched up by the powers that be.
This year’s “official” candidate is Stephanie Peacock, whose main claim to fame is her public defence of top-up fees on these grounds: “It’s only fair that if you use a service you should pay towards it.” Let’s hope they don’t let her anywhere near the rest of our public services.
Standing from the moderate wing of the party is young trade union activist Daniel Carden. The Daily hopes he mounts a credible challenge, if just in the hope that there will be some entertaining constitutional contortions by Labour Students’ fixers in their efforts to stop him.
It’s been mentioned elsewhere, but The Daily feels obliged to make an early call on the first of our 2006 annual awards, with Richard Littlejohn’s absolutely extraordinary article on the Suffolk serial killer eviscerating all competition in the “nice guy” category.
For those who have not yet read it, Littlejohn declares that “the deaths of these five women are no great loss. They weren’t going discover a cure for cancer or embark on missionary work in Darfur.” The latter reference turns out to be his chance to make a joke about the missionary position. Tasteful. The last time The Daily checked, Littlejohn’s CV did not include advances in medical science or relief missions in Africa. Should he ever be brutally murdered, we conclude that it would be no great loss either.
Littlejohn dismisses blaming the pimps – apparently the women “were on the streets because they wanted to be.” Confusingly, he immediately declares that they were actually on the streets because “because even the filthiest, most disreputable back-alley “sauna” above a kebab shop wouldn’t give them house room” before finally deciding that they were on the streets because they were addicted to heroin.
All three reasons why the victims were on the streets nonetheless seem to add up in Littlejohn’s mind to a conclusive case that these “disgusting, drug-addled street whores” only had themselves to blame for being murdered, though he also pauses to apportion a slice of guilt to the victims’ families, and as is obligatory in a Mail article, to “gormless Guardianistas” for apparently deifying “celebrity druggies”.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, he doesn’t believe for a moment that people in Ipswich were genuinely upset at all. They only went along with a minute’s silence at a recent Ipswich Town game “for fear of getting their heads kicked in if they didn’t” presumably by the unusually violent Guardian-reading liberals who occupy the terraces of Portman Road on matchdays.
With such a typical display of seasonal cheer, goodwill and forgiveness, it’s no wonder that the Mail have been leading the charge to defend Christmas.
One of Jack Straw’s jobs as Leader of the House is to pitch up and answer questions from Lobby hacks at the afternoon briefing. The Daily’s eye was drawn to this exchange about the meeting of the Trade Union Group of MPs earlier this week:
“It was a fraternal meeting,” he said.
A Lobby correspondent said that he had heard that there had been blood over the walls.
Mr Straw replied, “Yes – it was a fraternal meeting. This is a set position if you are a Labour MP. You spend your life advancing the cause of socialism and as soon as you get close to doing that, you are accused of doing a sell-out by the people who put you there. That is how it works. It goes with the territory. This has been said, by the way, with some levity – ever since I was a teenager and was able to spot a Trot at 50 yards – and with those bastards I am pleased to plead guilty.”
John McTernan is the Director of Political Operations (the post was formerly known as Political Secretary, but McTernan evidently got a more sinister sounding title in lieu of a pay rise one year) at No 10. It has been alleged that he was sent to speak to Hayden Phillips about trade union donations, behind Jack Straw’s back, and with a message deviating considerably from the Party policy unanimously agreed by the NEC and Annual Conference.
Luke Akehurst, like the rest of us, was pretty unhappy about this idea. Unlike the rest of us, however, Luke clearly has a following in high places. McTernan (presumably with a bit of time on his hands in between making the tea) has issued a rapid rebuttal via Luke’s comments section:
Someone in No 10 is reading this and the Guardian report is totally untrue. I can do better than to give an account of what the Prime Minister said to the PLP Parliamentary Committee yesterday afternoon:
The Prime Minister attended the Parliamentary Committee where he was asked about Hayden Phillips Review of Party Funding. The PM made clear that he will do nothing that would break the link.
In the discussion he said that the party has some serious decisions to make about party funding. If the status quo remains then Lord Ashcroft’s money will mean that the Labour Party will be massively outspent in key Labour seats at the next General Election. We need annual spending limits and local spending limits to be introduced if there is to be a level playing field at the next election.
The Tory Party want a cap on donations but they are resisting spending limits. Hayden Phillips needs to recognise that trade union funding is already highly regulated. He is proposing a model where trade unionists opt into paying the levy. That is completely unacceptable to the Labour Party.
It would seem that Blair is listening to the Labour Party after all – or at least to Luke Akehurst, anyway. So if you have a complaint, question or query for those people running the country, post on Luke’s blog; the Downing Street monitoring unit will pick it up and get an answer straight back to you. We’ll have to comment there more often!
John Reid on Sunday sparked another bout of one of the most stupid new traditions that we’ve imported from the US. That’s moral outrage at the “war on Christmas”.
Making headlines in the Sun, Telegraph, Times, Guardian and anyone else who’ll listen, he said: “Like the vast majority of people, I’m sick and tired of this sort of mad political correctness that said you can’t wear a crucifix on British Airways, or you can’t put up decorations for Christmas, or you can’t call Christmas ‘Christmas’.
Today it turns out that Reid’s Christmas cards don’t have a single mention of the word Christmas, saying instead “Season’s greetings”.
Good work John. Repeat ten times, people who shout about ridiculous issues, end up looking ridiculous. Christmas is not going to disappear, and if it’s loosing its meaning, then that’s more to do with rampant consumerism that “political correctness”.
As a lesson to us all, here is the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart responding to right-wing TV presenter Bill O’Reily, who orchestrated last year’s campaign in the US against the “war against Christmas”