Not for the first time recently, our free and fearless press has been caught not doing the job that it claims to do - bringing us the news. Perhaps this is because the news it has been caught not bringing us is the kind of news many newspapers would rather we did not see - because this news is bad for those wanting Britain to leave the EU.
So it has been left to the oft-derided New Media, in the shape of BuzzFeed News, to open the latest Brexit worm can, while the press - and, to their shame, all the broadcasters - were caught wrong footed. And the news was not good.
“The government's new analysis of the impact of Brexit says the UK would be worse off outside the European Union under every scenario modelled, BuzzFeed News can reveal … The assessment, which is titled ‘EU Exit Analysis - Cross Whitehall Briefing’ and dated January 2018, looked at three of the most plausible Brexit scenarios based on existing EU arrangements”. Up to date analysis. And there was more.
“Under a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU, UK growth would be 5% lower over the next 15 years compared to current forecasts, according to the analysis … The ‘no deal’ scenario, which would see the UK revert to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, would reduce growth by 8% over that period. The softest Brexit option of continued single-market access through membership of the European Economic Area would, in the longer term, still lower growth by 2%”. Slam. Dunk. Bad. News.
But it was not all bad news for the press, especially the Brexit supporting part of it. In good time for tomorrow’s editions, out came serial liar Iain Duncan Cough to sniff “I think we should take this with a pinch of salt”. Jacob Rees Mogg declared the findings to be “highly speculative”, although neither of these less than august beings had bothered to check the reports and find out what analysis had gone into them.
The point, after all, was to rebut any news that was not to their liking. And what the press will be majoring on tomorrow was hinted at by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, who carped “Also worth noting that none of the models forecast - Norway, Canada or no deal - are currently being sought by the government”. Very good, O Great Guido. The problem with this argument is that what exactly the Government is seeking has not yet been revealed. So it cannot be modelled.
But we do know now what the Sun, Mail, Express and Telegraph will be telling their readers tomorrow: take it with a pinch of salt, they got it wrong before, we’re going to get a really special deal so it doesn’t matter, nothing to see here, look at all these wonderful talking heads we lined up who say exactly what our editors and proprietors want to hear.
There will be no mention that they were scooped by BuzzFeed. Or that the last time that happened - with the Trump Russia dossier - they rubbished the site, only for it to be revealed that BuzzFeed was right, and the boo boys were wrong.
The Brexit backing press just waved goodbye to thousands more readers. And their response will be as before - rearrange the deckchairs and pretend it’s not happening.