As one Daily Mail hack told Nick Davies, “Dacre kills with headlines”. And no better example of this has been the reputational trashing of schoolboy Rory Weal, who has committed the sin of speaking at the Labour Party conference. Weal had enjoyed a privileged upbringing before the double whammy of his father going bust and then his parents going their separate ways.
And this was what he relayed to the conference, that suddenly he and his family had nothing, and became dependent on the welfare safety net. But he then told how he perceived the Government to be moving to rein back welfare, and after a short break – long enough, one might note, for a private investigator to dig up some dirt and a few phone numbers – the Daily Mail was off and running.
Today’s headline was predictable: “The child star of the Labour conference and the truth behind his ‘life of poverty’” it thundered, apparently free of irony when pitching the word “truth” in the Daily Mail. Note the use of “life of poverty”, which the Mail invented: Weal did not make any such statement or claim. And the paper managed to get hold of at least one family member for a quote. I wonder how.
The Mail infers that Weal misled the Labour party about his background: this, too, is invention, although it fits the headline. And in further reinforcement of the editorial line has come a rant incredible in its sheer incoherence from “Mad” Melanie Phillips, telling “The Labour mantra of hate finds a new star”, echoing a favourite talking point (left equals hate) of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).
Mel does as the iron law of Dacreland dictates: she trashes Weal’s arguments, invents circumstances other than those the young man describes, and even tries to blame the previous (Labour) Government for his father getting his houses repossessed! No, really! This orgy of attribute transfer hackery – calling someone else “hateful”, then being hateful herself – has been well debunked by Angry Mob.
The frothing has even spread to the Maily Telegraph, where former Catholic Herald editor Cristina Odone tells “I really don’t want to knock young talent” before embarking on a characteristically nasty and distinctly un-Christian rant, asserting “most school leavers today ... can barely write or do a sum” (I think she’s talking about mathematics there). The UK’s adult literacy rate is 99%. Go figure.
Even the blogosphere has been roped in: the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, who styles himself Guido Fawkes, has whined about Weal, mainly along the lines of “he’s got an iPad” (so 16 year olds who support the wrong party are clearly forbidden birthday presents). And Staines has found some “school chums”. Well, one “chum”.
All of which begs the question: why are they so keen to trash the name of a 16 year old kid? What a bunch of sad losers (no change there, then).