Still trading on the trust of readers who often believe that, in choosing the sole surviving broadsheet daily title, they are buying into a paper of record, the Maily Telegraph has, under the less than benign ownership of the Barclay brothers, been conspicuous in its parading of loaded or even mostly untrue stories, and today’s lead on the HS2 project is a fine example of the genre.
“Treasury minister’s battle to scrap HS2” declares the headline, from which it can only be deduced that Andrea Leadsom is fighting even from within the Government against the project, especially when the Tel also says “Andrea Leadsom, the new Treasury minister, urges David Cameron to rethink the HS2 rail project, saying £50 billion investment is poor value for money”.
Moreover, the article then tells that “David Cameron’s new Treasury minister has called for a ‘dramatic rethink’ of the High Speed 2 rail project. Andrea Leadsom has warned that the £50 billion scheme does not represent value for taxpayers’ money. The economic case for the rail line was ‘questionable and rapidly deteriorating’, she said, promising to ‘fight against’ the project”.
On top of that, “Her warnings over the economic justification for the project will be particularly damaging, coming from a Treasury minister widely respected for her economic expertise”, which sounds good, but is nothing more than the Tel gilding their non-existent lily. And, as any fule kno, ministers do not oppose Government policy openly. So would the Tel like to come clean?
“The Telegraph analysed the public statements of six Tory ministers whose constituencies are most severely affected by the scheme ... Mrs Leadsom’s comments ... were published on her constituency website before she became Economic Secretary to the Treasury, and remained there until Friday night when the site appeared to be temporarily unavailable”.
So when the Tel said that Ms Leadsom “urges ... rethink”, that should have read “urged”. Otherwise it’s not true. What the MP has done is to take the accepted anti-HS2 line when on the back benches, which is predictable as the proposed route passes through her constituency. Now she is bound by the collective responsibility of being part of the Government.
Indeed, the Tel has conceded that Ms Leadsom’s spokesman “would not say how she planned to vote on the main Bill on Monday or whether she would even attend the debate. The MP said in a statement that she expected the Bill to pass through the Commons ‘with a large majority’”. So former back bencher accepts collective responsibility is the story, and it isn’t really much of a story at all.
Still, what’s a little falsehood and misinformation to the Tel? No change there, then.