Ever since last month’s General Election showed that the right-leaning part of the press was losing its cutting edge, churning out page after page of abusive knocking copy making all manner of creative allegations about Jeremy Corbyn and the rest of the Labour leadership, that same press has been searching for something, anything to confirm that they were right and something underhand must therefore have been going on.
And today, to no surprise at all, the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail has brought forth its magic bullet, with the screaming front page accusation “PROBE INTO STUDENTS WHO ‘CAST TWO VOTES FOR CORBYN’ … 1,000 complaints force watchdog to act”. But there is only one problem with the claim - the Mail has had to use quote marks, because it cannot stand it up.
This is clear from the body of the supporting article: “Thousands of students may have voted twice to try to put Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street”. And then again, they may not. But do go on. “Tory MPs believe thousands may have taken advantage of this opportunity - lured by Labour's promise to scrap tuition fees and cancel their debts”. Tory MPs “believe”. Maybe some of them “believe” the earth is flat, but it ain’t.
Typical of the “belief” fringe was Tory rent-a-quote MP Peter Bone: “The Electoral Commission and the police need to look at this very seriously … I fear this happened more than people think, not by chance, but by design. I fear that it was organised … There were a number of students on social media boasting that they had voted in more than one place”. Suddenly social media becomes evidential standard proof.
There was also the occasional instance of sour grapes: “Former Tory MP Karl McCartney, who lost his Lincoln seat to Labour last month, said: 'We have screenshots of students on Facebook saying that they voted twice … Potentially, this was a factor in my defeat’”. Ho yus. He was defending a majority of less than 1,500, and lost by more than that. He’ll have to dig out a hell of a lot of double voting to make any difference.
But enough. While the Mail claims “The 2017 election result has been attributed to a record turnout of young people under the age of 34”, many of those were not students, and those who turned out for Labour were not just the under-34s, but the 35 to 45 age group, too. Moreover, the groups who turned out in far greater numbers - those over 55 - still voted by a significant majority for the Tories.
Moreover, as the Guardian has cautioned, the Mail’s headline claim is at the least overblown: “The electoral watchdog is investigating up to 1,000 complaints about people illegally voting twice at the general election on 8 June”. And the Mail has admitted “The watchdog said it lacked evidence of 'widespread abuse’”. Meanwhile, there is, to no surprise, not a mention of the Tories busting the rules in 2015 to effectively buy votes.
Still, this kind of story makes the inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker feel a little less useless, and they won’t feel so bad about trousering their obscene salaries while the homeless doss down in nearby doorways, so that’s all right, then.