[Update at end of post]
One saving grace of the Daily Mail’s unfunny and tedious churnalist Richard Littlejohn is his crude and unsubtle approach – so much so that it becomes very easy to unpick his arguments. Today’s column is an excellent example, as Dick demonises the disabled, repeating the myth that they are “given a free car on the taxpayer”, when they are not.
Littlejohn turns for his research to the Mail On Sunday, which is not a good idea if you want accuracy, but a very good one if you can’t be arsed getting your facts straight and need to churn out knocking copy to order for the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre. He concludes that Motability, the scheme under which the disabled can buy cars, “costs British taxpayers ... £1.5 billion a year”.
Disabled, guv? Nah, it's just make-believe, innit?
In fact, it was the Daily Mail, under the by-line of “Daily Mail Reporter” (meaning that nobody would own up to the hatchet job), which alleged in June “BMWs for thousands” under a “£1.4 billion taxpayer funded scheme”. Dick just rounded up the numbers for effect. The £1.4 billion figure was calculated from the annualised mobility allowances of Motability participants – paid out, car or no car.
The only direct payment made to Motability from the DWP is £17 million (2009-10 figure) under the Specialised Vehicle Scheme. Motability participants only get the BMW (which Littlejohn claims they get for free) if they stump up the extra cost themselves – so it isn’t free. The scheme delivers its value through economies of scale which enable it to secure significant discounts on list prices.
To summarise: Motability takes an existing allowance for the disabled and uses it, together with its power to extract the best deals from the motor trade, to allow the less mobile to buy or lease new model cars. It’s a good deal all round and the scheme is self financing. Dicky Windbag’s attack is a typically vicious attack on disabled people.
And it doesn’t stop there: “Even naughty schoolboys with the make-believe disease ‘Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder’ are classified as disabled” mocks Dick, before stating with fraudulent ease that “More than 3,000 families with children allegedly suffering with ADHD are swanning around in a new vehicle courtesy of the British taxpayer, no questions asked”.
This assertion has been debunked by FullFact HERE.
You see – it’s a “free car” (which it isn’t), then a “make-believe disease” (not according to the NICE guidelines, it isn’t [.pdf]), and they’re all “swanning around” – with You The Hard Working Taxpayer footing the bill. Actually, what it really is, is a crude and gratuitous attack on yet another group of people unable to defend themselves. No change there, then.
[UPDATE October 14: Littlejohn has returned to the subject today, and has characteristically declined to withdraw or apologise. Rather, he has opted to dig himself in a little further, by making more allegations against Motability that he cannot stand up, but will no doubt defend by recourse to the "Littlejohn Defence", which holds that it's a comment column and should not be taken as factual journalism, something which Dick has not done for many years, if ever.
So readers are told that Motability cars are "handed out ... no questions asked" (wrong), followed by "ballroom dancers who turn up in Motability cars" (inventive and suitably malicious), "an estate in South London where most people are unemployed yet manage to swan around in brand-new Nissan Qashqais, courtesy of the taxpayer" (nice bit of demonisation Dicky - why don't you just call for the local mob to beat up the nearest cripple?) and the biscuit taking "Motability cars being used as minicabs".
Dick, you're a dick. Say sorry and stick to picking on rich chavs who live in Florida. Like you]