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Monday 16 April 2012

Andrew Gilligan – Pants On Fire

The Maily Telegraph’s so-called “London Editor” Andrew Gilligan, when not sock-puppeting in an effort to support his real self while running down those who have the temerity to call him out for his dodgy journalism, has been maintaining a barrage of knocking copy against Labour London Mayoral challenger Ken Livingstone, especially on the subject of bus and tube fares.

Still game on to get in here

To this end, he posted on March 27 “Ken Livingstone: six new lies in a single afternoon”, demonstrating that talent for subtlety and understatement which he happens not to possess at all. Following a prompt from a Zelo Street regular, I’ve been looking at two of these so-called “lies”, only to find out that they are anything but, which suggests that Gilligan is the one with his trousers alight.

First off is Livingstone’s claim on the Freedom Pass – that he brought it in. This is the concession for older Londoners that gives them free travel on public transport. Gilligan tries to get readers to “look over there” by talking initially about free bus travel, then about the extension to the Tube in 1977. But then he lets slip the words that back up Livingstone:

Livingstone’s GLC abolished the afternoon peak restriction and the 20p flat fare on the Tube in 1981/2”. So free travel for older Londoners – completely free, with no payment for Tube journeys – was indeed introduced on Livingstone’s watch. That the scheme was rebranded as the Freedom Pass later is hardly relevant: Ken brought it in, in the form we now understand as the Freedom Pass.

Keep an eye on the red and blue lines

So that’s one “lie” that isn’t. The second is a little less straightforward, and refers to real terms fare levels for bus and Tube. Gilligan accuses Livingstone of asserting that these fell, while they allegedly did not. But checking the data (you can see the spreadsheet HERE, and it’s Figure 8.6) shows that, at Livingstone’s last budget, which was 2008-9, the former Mayor is right again.

Yes, the budget came before Bozza took charge, and it shows bus fares relative to 1999-2000 levels (the last budget before Livingstone was first elected), at less than 77% in real terms. For Tube fares, the numbers are much closer, but the 2008-9 mark is in real terms about 98% of that before the elected Mayoralty. So once again, Gilligan is in need of a fire extinguisher.

One should expect nothing different from Andrew Gilligan, the hack who thinks that Coventry to Wolverhampton is 40 miles (it’s around 26), that a train travelling at over 200mph will meet mysterious forces and derail (it won’t), and that York has abandoned the bendy bus (it hasn’t). He is a practitioner of truly shameless and disgraceful journalism.

Yet the Telegraph keeps him in paycheques. And that’s not good enough.

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