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Sunday 7 August 2011

Just In Case Booker Is Making It Up

The Telegraph continues to give houseroom to the increasingly inaccurate ramblings of Christopher Booker, with two rants for the price of one today. Why the paper keeps on giving Booker space, when so many of his assertions can so easily be disproved by a few minutes’ Googling, is one of life’s mysteries, as is the idea that he gets paid for his copy.

First up today is an anti-Government rant: the problems of the UK, Chris tells us, are down to our political class. And the first culprit he identifies – a favourite Telegraph bogeyman – is Pa Broon, and his “hubristic decision in 1998 to double Britain’s public spending in 10 years”. That is interesting, given that in 1998 Labour was sticking to the Tories’ spending plans, as they had committed to do for two years following their election in 1997.

And even if a real terms comparison is abandoned, the numbers for 2008 are not double those of 1998. Nor is the percentage of GDP (37.3 in 1998-9 versus 43.9 in 2008-9). Moreover, Booker’s reference to a decision taken in 1998 can be tested with a little more Googling: this archived HM Treasury News Release from June that year shows that he decided no such thing.

Never mind though, there are other facts brought forward by The Great Man. Like the 1,600 NHS managers earning more than Young Dave. Really? No, not really: even the Super Soaraway Currant Bun claims that number is just 650. Perversely, Booker’s claim that 46 at the BBC are paid more than the PM is way too low: that number was 135 earlier this year.

So does Booker actually bother to do any research, or is he merely an upmarket Littlejohn, identifying his targets and then just making up his numbers to fit the argument? Given the approach of the Telegraph to his other rant, another in the series of attempts to demonise social workers, one has to wonder.

The paper has taken the unusual decision not to allow comments on the piece for legal reasons. Given Booker’s unique achievement in becoming cited by a judge in a family court case (“Mr Booker’s articles contain significant factual errors and omissions”, from para 185), that is not such a surprise.

Just in case he might be about to land the paper in more trouble. Like the six figure legal bill the Telegraph had to pay after Booker and his pal Richard North libelled IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri.

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