The ability of the Mail to be highly selective with its facts, and to slip in the odd whopper when the hacks think no-one is looking, is well known. So is the paper’s visceral dislike of the Liberal Democrats, with Corporal Clegg getting it in the neck whenever the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre can work in a negative reference to him.
Low flying Mail hack duly identified
Yesterday, these strands converged as Matt Chorley penned a highly inventive hatchet job on Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander. Here, the Mail’s all-too-susceptible readers were fed the line that Alexander had been indulging in “pork barrel” politics: his constituency had been benefiting disproportionally. He had been “accused” of “funnelling millions to shore up votes”.
A number of exhibits were paraded before the readers, and I admit sufficient knowledge of two of them to know that Chorley is talking out of the back of his neck. Let us start with the CairnGorm Mountain Railway, which, it is claimed, has been exempted from the Climate Change Levy. It is also claimed that it is the only tourist railway to be so exempted.
Bang to rights? Er, not quite: the Climate Change Levy is all about consumers of electricity, and very few tourist railways (think all those narrow gauge ones in Wales, or the Bluebell Railway) use electric traction. Of those that do – heritage tramways and cliff lifts, for instance – you would be equally hard pressed to find one that bought its electricity from a renewable source (hydro-electric, for instance).
So there is a very good reason why the CairnGorm Mountain Railway is the only one of its kind, but as others do deals with green energy suppliers, there will be more to come. Then the Mail homes in on the Caledonian Sleeper, the overnight train service connecting London’s Euston terminus with cities and towns north of the border. £50 million found for refurbishment, and it “terminates in Inverness”.
This is a magnificent slice of fact selection. There are two Caledonian Sleeper trains, the Lowland Sleeper, which serves Glasgow and Edinburgh – neither of which are remotely near Inverness – and the Highland Sleeper. The latter divides into three portions, one of which serves Aberdeen (not near Inverness), while the second serves Fort William (also not near Inverness).
The third portion of the Highland Sleeper serves Inverness, as well as stations that are not in Alexander’s constituency. So a 20% accuracy rating for the Mail there. Perhaps Dacre’s attack doggies believe he sits for a number of other constituencies in Scotland, as well as some in London (the Highland Sleeper also serves Crewe, and he definitely isn’t the MP here).
Still, it convinces the average Mail reader, so that’s all right, then.