As I discussed on Sunday, a housing provider in Wakefield has a rule that bans the display of personal items in company vans. This in itself is not sufficient to get the cheaper end of the Fourth Estate worked up into a righteous froth. But add in a practising Christian, who has attached a cross to the dashboard of his van, and the whole weight of tabloid indignation comes crashing down.
Electrician Colin Atkinson had refused to remove the cross from his dashboard. He then went to the Daily Mail, whose hacks have today ratcheted up the rhetoric by calling Atkinson’s employer WDH “anti-Christian”, although the rule in question has been confirmed in a statement by the company not to discriminate on religious, or any other, grounds.
WDH has now moved Atkinson to another depot: his taking the story to the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre’s hacks will not have helped his cause. It certainly hasn’t helped the standard of journalism on display, as witness “In January Mr Atkinson was reported for continuing to display the cross in his van” and “was yesterday thrown out of his workplace ... for displaying a cross to mark Easter”.
And neither has the standard of talking head improved: today’s piece brings Mail favourite Philip Davies, nominally Tory and MP for Shipley, who commented “You have to wonder if [he] had displayed a symbol from another religion whether he would have been disciplined”, to which the answer – see WDH statement – is yes. And the last time I looked, the Shipley constituency did not include Wakefield.
Moreover, despite the talk of “anti-Christian” behaviour, the Mail hacks seem to have ignored the part of WDH policy that supports the wearing of religious symbols, and that there is a difference between what can be done with company vans, and what employees can wear, so Colin Atkinson could wear a Christian symbol to work if he wished.
Also, in case nobody has noticed in the welter of knocking copy aimed at WDH, no formal disciplinary proceedings have been taken against Atkinson. In fact, the company has gone on record saying it wants to sort this particular problem without so doing.[Just in case anyone wondered about our friends at the Express, they got the original story a day after the Mail. Not that Richard Desmond’s finest copy their stuff from the previous day’s copies of rival papers, of course]