There were many across the UK who opposed our involvement in the Iraq adventure: I was, and remain, one of them. And one of my greatest subsequent disappointments was to discover that Andrew Gilligan was not only carrying on an anti-Labour campaign – rather than an anti-war one – but also that his actions did not stand up to the scrutiny of the subsequent Hutton enquiry.
As a result of its misplaced trust in Gilligan and his imperfect journalism, the BBC was heavily criticised and has rightly had nothing to do with him since. So nowadays he plies his dubious trade in the bear pit that is Maily Telegraph blogland, from where he has continued his single handed crusade to transfer the blame for his own abysmal standards to Alastair Campbell.
And late yesterday came a superb example of that crusade, in which he actually tries to pin phone hacking on Big Al. Gilligan’s overarching argument is that enquiries – like the one where he came up short – aren’t all that useful, and that they just give the result that the Government of the day wants. Moreover, they don’t always get to “the truth”, or maybe that should read “the truth acceptable to Andrew Gilligan”.
Sadly, Gilligan’s argument is derailed by partisan attacks and the occasional non sequitur: Yates of the Yard resigning is held to have “decapitated” counter terrorism operations – the thought that the Met might appoint a successor does not enter – and Keith Vaz is not acceptable to Gilligan, mainly because he is called Keith Vaz. And we get an Al-Qaeda versus phone hacking false equivalence thrown in.
But Gilligan saves his most damning criticism for Campbell, which has nothing to do with Big Al being in demand for his punditry across a range of broadcasters, while Gilligan is not – perish the thought!
A quote from an MI6 officer is supposed to clinch Gilligan’s crusade against Big Al, but were that true, most of the Fourth Estate would have piled in. The acid test is whether the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre run with that news, and they haven’t. The MI6 statement is not new news. But Gilligan saves his best smear till last.
Discussing the upcoming Leveson enquiry, Gilligan warns that “several anti-hacking campaigners and the lawyer for Milly Dowler’s family protest that there is no mention of officials and special advisers like Andy Coulson and Alastair Campbell”.
Wallop! Big Al hacked Milly exclusive! That’s an Olympic standard smear. Give the clown a medal.
Gilligan is discredited also by his "arms length" relationship with facts in respect of HS2.
In a recent Sunday Telegraph article, Gilligan stated that the fastest journey time today between London and Birmingham is 72 minutes. What he did not say is that this journey time is achieved by just one train each day, in one direction only. Further, he did not say that this train achieves the time of 72 minutes by not stopping anywhere, so that if this fastest time were to be made standard, Birmingham International, and Coventry would have no service to London at all. These other facts are a significant omission, probably deliberate, on his part.
In the same article, Gilligan also claimed that HS1 had made classic services in Kent worse. This doesn't actually stand up to analysis.
I have studied Table 207 (the South Eastern main line through Ashford and Tonbridge to Charing Cross and Cannon St) and Table 212 (the Chatham main line to Cannon St, Victoria and Blackfriars), for the critical commuter sections towards London from Ashford and Chatham respectively, in the morning peak hour.
In no case can I find a station that has lost services, whilst several have gained:
Increase in AM peak hour services, 2011 over 2007
In the case of Table 207, the two HS1 services per hour from Ashford are completely additional to the 2007 case. In Table 212, there is a net gain of one train, as two additional HS1 domestics net off against one fewer Victoria train, which is reasonable as Victoria and St Pancras are equally good terminals to access the West End whilst the key Cannon Street services have been maintained.
Far from trains being slower overall, in Table 207 one is slower by 2 minutes whilst three are faster by up to 4 minutes. In Table 212, there are three trains slower by 3 minutes at worst, but five faster, one by as much as 12 minutes.
The fact that trains are in many cases now faster than in 2007 is explained by diversion of Eurostar trains away from the classic routes, removing a conflict between fast through trains and the slower trains that have to be planned to follow them. In particular, the train that has been accelerated by 12 minutes appears to do so, in the absence of Eurostars, by being able to use the direct route to Victoria via Penge rather than the secondary route via Catford.
So if anyone wants to draw parallels between HS2 and HS1, they could reasonably conclude that, without fast through trains sharing the classic routes:
• intermediate stations, which in the case of the WCML would mean places like Milton Keynes, have gained services;
• trains have generally become faster.
On the latter point, the fastest London Midland train from Milton Keynes to Euston now does the journey in 41 minutes, whilst others making the same stops are between 3 and 5 minutes slower. This results purely from “pathing time” incurred following slow trains when unable to use the Fast line, or through waiting to join the Fast line so as to fit in with the fast through trains that will transfer to HS2.
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