The right-leaning part of our free and fearless press has one target this morning, and for once it isn’t Jeremy Corbyn, but a Tory minister. A holder of one of the great offices of state, no less. Today’s press target is Chancellor Philip Hammond, who has committed the heinous sin of candour. For this, there must be significant punishment.
So it was that the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph told readers “Hammond under fire for no-deal warning”. What had Spreadsheet Phil done to incur the displeasure of the Fourth Estate? Ah well. He had reminded the Treasury Committee that the Treasury (headed by Himself) was of the opinion that a “No deal” Brexit would crash the economy by around 8% and increase borrowing by £80 billion a year.
The Express wasn’t having any of that reality stuff. “Chancellor warns ‘No Deal’ would crash economy just hours after Brexit Secretary calmed fears … WHAT DOES HAMMOND THINK HE’S PLAYING AT? … PHILIP Hammond was firmly rebuked by Downing Street last night after reigniting the Tory feud over Europe” they ranted pointlessly.
And the headless chicken that is the post-Dacre but pre-Greig Daily Mail was yet more incandescent at the Chancellor’s openness. “As Chancellor claims ‘no deal’ Brexit could wipe 10% off national income … EEYORE HAMMOND LAUNCHES PROJECT FEAR (Mk 2) … PHiLIP Hammond was accused of reviving Project Fear last night as he warned that failing to reach a deal with the EU could wipe 10 per cent off Britain’s national income”.
On it went, with the Murdoch Times moaning “Brexit splits in cabinet laid bare by Hammond … Chancellor attacks colleagues’ no-deal optimism”, and the invariably downmarket Sun (relegating the story to the sidebar so it could prioritise the “real news” that a naked man had successfully tackled a burglar) thundering “Hamm ‘doom’ blast at No Deal”. But then came Project Reality - and they were all bust.
What finished the press’ faux outrage was twofold. One, the Treasury opinion that a “no deal” Brexit will crash the economy by 8% and increase borrowing by £80 billion a year is not new news. It was reported by Alberto Nardelli at BuzzFeed News last January, when he told readers “The "no deal" scenario, which would see the UK revert to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, would reduce growth by 8%”.
What’s that, Theresa? Yes, Nothing Has Changed. And, Two, as Beth Rigby at Sky News has told, “Treasury source said Raab was shown letter ahead of publication (via @TomBoadle) & it was agreed that it would be published alongside the impact studies”. That means there is no split, no re-ignition of Project Fear, and indeed no story.
All of which puts the press in what Spike Milligan might have called A Very Difficult Position. They’ve dedicated their front page leads to peddling a real non-story, just because one of the few Tories they don’t like has been moved to make a statement of the bleeding obvious. Still, makes a change from bothering to do journalism.
Anyone might think the Fourth Estate had a problem with reality. I’ll just leave that one there.
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