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Tuesday 9 June 2015

Burnham Football Smear Fail

Across the right-leaning press, the expectation is still that Andy Burnham is the front runner in the Labour leadership contest, and therefore the one about whom they must publish as much creative knocking copy as possible. This has resulted in the Telegraph - and the Sun, which lifted the story - making a number of allegations about the Leigh MP’s footballing ability, with both titles ending up covered in rather more than confusion.
Asa Bennett, who is described as a Telegraphassistant comment editor”, has penned the original, which is headlined “Andy Burnham says he's not part of the 'metropolitan elite'. So what about this picture then? As nominations for the Labour leadership open, the shadow health secretary is keeping quiet about his history as a New Labour princeling”. And what about this picture? Ah well. That is where Bennett goes wrong.

Andy Burnham wants you to think he's not posh” he tells, making great store of a photo which proves only that Burnham and his pals had enough dosh to hire Penguin Suits for a night out. Like tens of thousands of ordinary folk do to attend weddings, celebrations, graduations, and yet more nights out. Big deal. But Bennett does want readers to know that some of those in the photo went on to land well-paid jobs.

In other words, nothing exceptional for those who, like Burnham, excelled at their state school and went up to Oxbridge - you know, Telegraph people, on merit, not just because they went to the right - independent, of course - school. This is weapons grade tosh. But it is livened up by a story about Burnham the amateur footballer. Here, Blair speechwriter turned Times journalist Philip Collins is quoted at length.
For many years Burnham the centre-forward showed attributes of leadership while appearing, for all the world, to be standing around doing nothing … His plan was to wait by the goal, let the rest of us do all the hard work and then appear from nowhere, stab the ball into the net and take all the glory. It could be a metaphor”. One can almost hear the puerile sniggering emanating from Buckingham Palace Road.
Now the Sun has picked up on this apparent quote, and run with it. But, as Captain Blackadder might have observed, there was only one thing wrong with this idea - it was bollocks. We know this as Collins, who might be expected to know what was actually said, has passed severely adverse comment on the Tel’s hatchet job. “I'm always amazed how some papers pack in so many inaccuracies to a simple non-story” he Tweeted.
And, as the man said, there’s more: “genuinely amazed at how skilful it is. Dates all wrong, people identified who are not there, names written wrong. Useless … The implication throughout is that, at the time, everyone was in a job they held years later. Deliberately misleading”. So another low-grade hatchet job collapses when its star witness disowns it.

Those still not clear as to how far the Telegraph has fallen from its former status as a paper of record need look no further than this. The Tel of old would not have let Asa Bennett through the front door.

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