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Monday 6 June 2011

Mail Sits In Absent Judgment

Yesterday morning on Nicky Campbell’s The Big Questions, the debate was about whether the press was “out of control”. There were some tasty exchanges, not least between former Daily Star freelancer Rich Peppiatt and the great Cliffus Maximus. And Alastair Campbell passed seriously adverse judgment on the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre.

Fast forward to the afternoon, and Big Al was at Burnley’s Turf Moor ground (the TV debate had been recorded the previous weekend) participating in a Soccer 6 charity tournament. There was an exchange of tackles between him and boy band singer Tom Parker of The Wanted. Some pushing and shoving ensued. All, however, was well at the end of the contest. But there were at least two photographers present.

And that, together with the determination of the Mail to have its chequebook open first, meant that Dacre’s finest were on the case almost before the tournament ended. But the idea that even the best resourced newspaper in the UK would have sent a hack to a charity kick-about in north-west England on a Sunday afternoon is not credible. What to do?

Ah well. There was no need for the Daily Mail to be there: they had the photos, and after sequencing them, could provide their own narrative. But what of the “onlooker” quoted at length in the piece? What indeed: “onlooker” does not mean the person providing the quotes was at Turf Moor. A hack looking at the photos could be called an “onlooker”. I’ll go further: a hack looking at the photos was the “onlooker”.

How can I be so certain? All that is needed is a scan of the comments: “Tom looked like a bit of a live wire when it came to playing football ... there was quite a scuffle with firsts [sic] flying and words exchanged ... some of the other lads stepped in but they looked pretty embarrassed at what was happening”. Football terrace banter? Don’t make me laugh. And one report owns up to the charade, telling “Pictures from the event appear to show ... Campbell shove the young player”.

And the assertion by the Mail that Parker “was later carried off the pitch with a broken leg” is characteristically dishonest: their own piece qualifies this to “a suspected broken leg”, and there was no break. Moreover, Parker suffered the suspected injury in a later game where Campbell was not on the pitch.

But the Mail got their version of events out there first – the Maily Telegraph has lazily churned over the Mail copy in its own “report” – and their objective, to smear Campbell and start a hate campaign against him by fans of The Wanted, has been met.

Don’t diss Dacre – the vindictive bully of Grubstreet will come looking for you.

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