The Reverend Alex Russell of St Mark’s Church, in the New Forest village of Pennington, is key to relaying the story of ticket clerk Ian Faletto and his sacking by South West Trains (SWT). My understanding is that the Rev. Russell phoned BBC Radio Solent with the story after discovering Faletto’s dismissal.
I’m also reliably informed that the good Reverend, just to make sure, also called local MP Desmond Swayne, who in turn has raised the sacking in the Commons and written to Brian Souter, boss of SWT’s parent company Stagecoach. The story was then faithfully recorded by the Southampton Daily Echo. The whole affair has even been likened to the film The Railway Children.
And it was from the local news agency that the story, already being presented as “health and safety madness”, was sold to the nationals, who were mainly falling over one another to buy. Once the BBC had it, nobody else could afford to be left behind. Moreover, the “elf’n’safety” carrot was just too tempting for the Daily Mail to resist.
So that local agency ticked off a better than average day, but for SWT, events had reached a velocity such that they were unable to keep up. At first the company kept schtum, but I am informed that there was then a briefing to journalists where, although the confidentiality angle was stressed, it was also emphasised that there was more to it than a litter pick.
Hence the Mail and Telegraph not being automatically joined by everyone else. The way in which some commenters are turning nasty – it’s not difficult to find those baying for SWT managers’ names and addresses to be made public – may also give some hacks reason to back off.
That may not have been what Alex Russell had in mind when she made her phone calls and organised her petition, or what Ian Faletto had in mind on the Sunday morning when he went on to the track at Lymington Pier station, but this story has acquired a momentum of its own, and is largely no longer their property. They are the innocents abroad in all of this.
Those who have made the story their own property know very well what they are doing: the hacks who have shamelessly paraded Ian Faletto in his top hat as some kind of freak show, ignored SWT’s call for caution, and otherwise acted in a way that benefits their trade to the exclusion of all others.And at the end of this particular day, the sad result will be that Ian Faletto ends up with little or nothing, while the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre continues to enjoy the benefit of a remuneration package worth a million and a half a year, with his odious churnalist Richard Littlejohn trousering almost a million. They are the winners: to the victors go the spoils.